What is the one idea or thought that motivated you to become an economist?
I did my PhD in economics almost by default, having got a scholarship that seemed too exciting to turn down. But I got my first taste of the potential of ideas and research when I was working at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Geneva. I did some research on intellectual property, which the Indian government and the then commerce minister P Chidambaram found useful and used in their negotiations with trading partners.
What is the one idea you would like to introduce to the discipline of economics?
I think the discipline is getting overly specialised and technical. I would like to see greater respectability conferred on economists who dare to forego technical wizardry and address bigger issues with broader perspectives.
In your talk, you spoke of the possibility of China becoming the overwhelming power by 2020 or so, soaring above the US in a G1 world. How probable is this scenario, on a scale of one to 10?
Seven or eight.
India cannot seriously take on China until it becomes a manufacturing power. Is this now a lost cause?
I think low-skill manufacturing is almost a lost cause. And that is a real pity. But in terms of taking on China, the important thing is to grow rapidly while also providing essential services for as broad a cross-section of society as possible. As Vijay Kelkar says, the best foreign policy is 10 percent growth!
Ashok Malik is Contributing Editor, Tehelka.