India

By Victor Mallet

Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister, has relaunched his country’s controversial claims to some of the world’s greatest scientific achievements with his suggestion that ancient India was adept at genetics and plastic surgery, including the grafting of the elephant’s head onto the god Ganesh.

His remarks – ironically made at the opening of a high-tech hospital in Mumbai – have revived a political debate about the growing influence of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the Organisation of National Volunteers) over the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.

Hindu fundamentalists are delighted by Mr Modi’s words, left-wingers are appalled or mocking and many foreigners are simply bemused that India’s real cultural, scientific and medical achievements are being overshadowed by simplistic references to the mythological past. Read more

Gideon Rachman

I suspect that many people’s first reactions to the news that Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize will have been similar to mine: joy that Malala had got the award, but slight puzzlement that it has been given to her jointly with Kailash Satyarthi, a much less-famous Indian campaigner. Read more

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  • Gideon Rachman thinks Narendra Modi is the jolt that India needs, but in his risposte Edward Luce argues that the risk is not worth taking.
  • China is poised to pass the US as the world’s leading economic power this year. This moment has come sooner than expected: FT economics editor Chris Giles explains the working out.
  • David Gardner thinks Bashar al-Assad is more vulnerable than he looks.
  • The recent freeze in east-west relations has revived interest in Moscow’s Cold War museum.

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• Putin is proving his skills as Russia’s great propagandist, with his use of Soviet-era symbolism alarming those fearful for the country’s democracy.

• The Ukraine stand-off offers Beijing a broader role on the global stage.

• The FT’s series on the Fragile Middle continues, with a look at how India‘s petty entrepreneurs face an uncertain future.

• About to take over a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce? Look no further the Vatican under Pope Francis for a case-study in how it should be done.

• As forests of empty new housing towers fill the horizon in Chinese cities, yet more state sanctioned construction would amount to yin zhen zhi ke – “drinking poison to quench one’s thirst”.

Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker accused of fraud and one of the Kazakh president’s main political opponents, says the UK is being manipulated by a kleptocratic dictator after London decided to revoke his asylum status. Read more

  • An efficiency push in Spain may mean the end of siestas and midnight dinners.
  • A crucial pillar of India’s democratic edifice – the right to free expression – is being rapidly eroded, with ominous implications.
  • German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt is in talk with six claimants seeking artworks stolen from their families by the Nazis.
  • North Korea could be using some ominous-looking chest packs to threaten radiological war.
  • Immigration in Scotland: the issue worries Scots less than other Britons, but that could change

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • The USA can no longer rely on Egypt as a bulwark of stability in the Middle East, as jihadists return to the country to fight the military authorities.
  • Oligarchs in eastern Ukraine are abandoning President Yanukovich’s regime.
  • Iranian hardliners blocked the broadcast of a live interview with President Rouhani, exposing the political battle developing in the Islamic Republic.
  • Critics question whether Narendra Modi can do for India what he has done for Gujarat if he wins the upcoming general election.
  • Hugh Roberts in the London Review of Books questions the orthodox view of Hosni Mubarak’s deposition as a revolution.

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Gideon Rachman

In the press conference announcing he will retire next year, Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, predicted that “history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media”. That is the kind of thing that disappointed and embittered politicians often say. But, in Singh’s case, I think it is undoubtedly true. In fact, Singh is likely to go down as a man who, more than any other politician, helped to transform modern India. Read more

♦ In Turkey, Gulenists have burnt their bridges with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, while Mr Erdogan makes no bones about his desire to purge the bureacracy of his former allies. It is, according to one of Turkey’s old secular elite, “like Alien vs Predator.
♦ Edward Luce points out that the Indian politicians expressing outrage over the strip search of diplomat Devyani Khobragade are suffering from a hypocrisy problem: “So far, no Indian leader has expressed a scintilla of concern about the rights of the Indian domestic servant whom Ms Khobragade had allegedly mistreated.”
♦ Ben Bernanke announced the taper, but minimised market discomfort.
♦ David Pilling considers which events shook Asia in 2013.
♦ James Carroll, a former priest, looks back at the first year of a radical pope.
♦ B.R. Myers, an expert on north Korea, explains exactly what happened to Kim Jong Un’s uncle and why Kim doesn’t look smart taking his wife around with him. Read more

♦ The success of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party at India’s recent state elections is a sign that voters are determined to reshape the political order.
♦ Oligarchs hold the key to Viktor Yanukovich‘s grip on power in Ukraine.
♦ The west is losing faith in its own future, says the FT’s Gideon Rachman.
♦ American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life to conduct surveillance, fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly. Read more