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Economic powerhouse

Described by his peers as the most creative international trade theorist of his generation, Jagdish Bhagwati is a leader in the fight for free trade.

The Mumbai-born Columbia University professor and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations has published or edited over 50 volumes, some with sharp insights and contributions by another distinguished economist -- his wife Padma Desai. His book In Defense of Globalization, published four years ago, attracted worldwide interest and acclaim.
His elder brother Justice P N Bhagwati was a Chief Justice of India's Supreme Court. His niece Pallavi Shroff heads one of India's largest law firms.
Photo: Paresh Gandhi

Earlier, he questioned the many ways in which the free economy has been pushed through by governments and business leaders, in The Wind of the Hundred Days: How Washington Mismanaged Economization. The highly controversial book assigned the bulk of the blame for the East Asian financial and economic crisis of the 1990s to the Clinton administration's hasty push for financial liberalization in the region.

The kind of respect Bhagwati elicits has been shown time and again, through all manner of prizes and honorary degrees, including awards from the governments of India (Padma Vibhushan) and Japan (Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star).

His books are acknowledged by a great many for their influence on affecting economic reform. India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has acknowledged that nation's debt to Bhagwati's foresights and influence. He was an advisor to Dr Singh when the latter was India's finance minister.

His influence is also felt in the editorial pages of influential publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. He has debated the leading critics of globalization today, including Ralph Nader and Naomi Klein, and lectured in defense of globalization on numerous campuses and at public appearances worldwide.

The professor attended Cambridge University where he graduated in 1956 and continued to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oxford, returning to India in 1961 as Professor of Economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, and then Professor of International Trade at the Delhi School of Economics. He returned to MIT in 1968, leaving it 12 years later as the Ford International Professor of Economics to join Columbia.