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PM advisor's book creates big buzz

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Last updated on: June 29, 2006 15:48 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's media advisor and spokesperson Sanjaya Baru's new book is creating a buzz and  is certainly going to be liked by his boss. 

The 52-year-old's latest book Strategic Consequences of India's Economic Performance has got unusually laudatory advance reviews by none other than Fareed Zakaria, editor, Newsweek International and the author of some fabulous books including The Future of Freedom

The list of reviewers of Baru's latest book might even amaze his detractors in the Prime Minister's Office. 

Besides, Zakaria, those who have recommended Baru's new book are N R Narayana Murthy, chairman and chief mentor, Infosys, Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, Columbia University, Martin Feldstein, George F Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University and president and CEO, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Y Venugopal Reddy, governor, Reserve Bank of India, Bimal Jalan, member of Parliament and former governor, Reserve Bank of India, Sunil Khilnani, author of the highly recommended The Idea of India and Ashley Tellis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC. 

The publisher's note says that Baru's book analyses shifts in global power in the post–Cold War era, that the study targets the ongoing evolution of India's economics and geopolitics. It debates new economic policies, the emergence of a confident professional middle-class, rapid progress toward an open society, and the future of nuclear power. The bold book contains essays that confirms India's rise as a free-market democracy.

Critics may ask whether being the PM's media advisor helped in getting rave reviews. But, as we know, these distinguished people will not lend their names easily.

Baru's 500-page book, prized at Rs 795 in India and a whopping $59.95 (about Rs 2,780) overseas and published by the Academic Foundation, is actually a compilation of Baru's columns, articles and papers written in last few years.

Baru, refused to talk about his book till it was released but with a touch of sarcasm he said, "For many in New Delhi my life began only when I became PM's media advisor."

While talking about Baru's past and his talent, Zakaria says, "Sanjaya Baru is one of the bright lights of modern India. Before most others in journalism, academia or politics, he was able to see the immense opportunities for India created by globalisation and a new international atmosphere."

He says that in this fine collection of essays, Baru analyses these issues, which lie at the crossroads of economics, politics and public policy. "Free of old thinking and tired cliches, Baru writes clearly and convincingly," he writes

Professor Bhagwati says, "No one who wishes to follow India... can afford to ignore this splendid collection. Buy, read, profit, and enjoy."

It must be added that Baru has written two books -- The Political Economy of Indian Sugar: State Intervention and Structural Change and IT and the e-economy: The ballast for India-US relations. (East-West Center working papers) -- before embarking on the third one.

Baru's early life was in Andhra Pradesh. After earning MPhil and PhD in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, he flirted with the Left parties!

Baru was quite close to some of the top leaders of the Left parties. But he found them hypocritical and soon, he turned to his native place to teach economics at the University of Hyderabad.

After a decade of experience in teaching, he turned to journalism in 1990 and joined The Economic Times as associate editor and has since not looked back.

No surprise that when Dr Singh was finance minister, Baru became close to him. When Dr Singh, as finance minister resigned over the stock exchange scam from the then prime minister Narsimha Rao's cabinet, Baru got credit for breaking that story.

During the Vajpayee government, Dr Singh, then a Rajya Sabha member and a member of the Congress Working Committee, wrote many columns for The Financial Express when Baru was the editor.

Baru has also served on India's National Security Advisory Board during 1998-2001.

More than anything else Dr Singh's economic vision and ideology binds Baru to him and maybe, that's why Baru's latest book which discusses the strategic importance of India's economic growth has got rare reviews.

"Timely and unique... No one could have done a better job of exploring this relatively uncharted territory than Dr Baru," said Bimal Jalan, who knows Dr Singh and Baru well.

"Sanjaya Baru is a vital voice in our public argument -- shrewd, well informed, and with the strategist's knack of seeing the implications of choices several moves in advance. Anyone interested in India's global role must read this book," says author Sunil Khilnani.

The only surprise is that smart and savvy Baru has got everybody to talk about him but his mentor Dr Singh. Dr Singh is not even releasing his protégé's book, Baru's strategic guru and columnist K Subrahamanyam, who has written the foreword of the book, will release the book.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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