India Insight

Has India squandered its English advantage?

When the British were finally expelled from India in 1947, driven out of a country scarred by decades of imperialist rule, they left at least one parting gift: a linguistic legacy that has formed a crucial ingredient in the country’s economic miracle.

English proficiency is hailed as an invaluable foundation in India’s rise to the top of the world’s information technology and knowledge outsourcing industries, fuelling the country’s rapid growth with billions of dollars of business every year and streams of overseas investments into global IT centres such as Bangalore.

Nine-year-old Chinese pupil, Sun Minyi, listens to his teacher during a special English class at Chongming county, north of Shanghai July 12, 2002. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

But, as Asian rival China surpasses India’s English proficiency rates for the first time, that advantage over other developing economies looks to have been squandered.

China was ranked one place above India in Education First’s 2011 English Proficiency Index, released last month, the first time India has been beaten by its neighbour and fellow BRIC economy in the international rankings of foreign countries English-speaking abilities.

“It appears that China is poised to surpass India in the number of English speakers in the coming years, if it has not already done so,” the report said.

Is India really the world’s fifth most powerful country?

India is the world’s fifth most powerful country, according to a New Delhi-authored national security document, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, as Indian analysts placed the emerging nation above major European powers.

Outranking traditional global powers such as the UK, France and Germany, India’s ballooning population, defense capabilities and economic clout were cited as reasons for its position behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in India’s National Security Annual Review 2010, which will be officially released by the country’s foreign ministry next week.

Its statistical foundations in terms of population numbers and GDP aside — in terms of purchasing power parity, it should be noted — India’s experience of wielding power on the global stage of late, boosted by its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, has been less encouraging.

Shunning UK aid would show India’s rising confidence

Choosing to jump on its own terms than face the ignominy of waiting to be pushed, India may have politely but firmly asked the UK not to send any more aid from next year in a sign of the country’s increasing self-confidence on the global stage.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Indian President Pratibha Patil attend their meeting at the presidential palace in New Delhi July 29, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur

Citing whispers in London’s corridors of power that suggest the country’s Department for International Development (DFID) was preparing to radically reduce the cash sent to India, the Indian Express reported on Wednesday that Nirupama Rao, India’s Foreign Secretary, had asked the Finance Secretary “not to avail any further DFID assistance with effect from 1st April 2011.”

A DFID spokesperson told Reuters: “All DFID’s country programmes are currently under review to ensure our aid helps the poorest people in the poorest countries. No decision on future funding to India has been made and we are in close dialogue with the Government of India.” The Ministry for External Affairs were not available for comment.

Europe-bound passengers stranded at Delhi airport

Europe-bound passengers were still stranded at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport on Tuesday, five days after European airports were cut off from the rest of the world by a huge volcanic ash cloud. Some of the affected travellers spoke to Reuters at the airport about their desperate efforts to get home.

Polish tourist Joanna was travelling from Sri Lanka to Poland.

Paolo Ficara, an Italian, has returned to India after a visit to Nepal and Bhutan.

Tomasso Berreti, also an Italian, was supposed to fly back to Italy three days ago.

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