India: An Unlikely Democracy

Today, India turns 71. On August 15, 1947 the UK officially turned over its colonial holding in British India and brought into existence the two separate countries of India and Pakistan. Just five years later, in 1952, voters across the newly-born nation of India cast ballots in its first ever election. Some 176 million citizens, 85 percent of whom could neither read nor write, were eligible to participate in the vote.


Since then, India’s democracy has withstood the test of time. It’s in many ways an unlikely story.

The sprawling nation of more 1.3 billion people is riven by divisions of language, class, and religion. The constitution recognizes 22 separate major languages that are spoken by at least one million people. A majority Hindu nation, India also boasts the world’s second largest Muslim population, outstripped only by Indonesia. The vestiges of the hierarchical caste system, long since outlawed, continue to limit people’s educational, career, and life prospects.

Despite these hurdles, the country has experienced seven decades of almost uninterrupted democratic rule. Today, around 5 percent of Indians live in extreme poverty, down from a high of 60 percent just four decades ago. The administration of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made important strides in expanding access to electricity, healthcare, and sanitation.

There is plenty of work left to do. The share of income accruing to the top 1 percent, a broad measure of inequality, is the highest since tax collection began in 1922. Many find worrisome current Modi’s push to move India away from its secular roots toward a new brand of democracy based around identification with its Hindu cultural and religious history. The government’s recent threat to strip 4 million people, many of whom are migrants from the predominantly Muslim Bangladesh, of their citizenship demonstrates the danger.

Despite these challenges, at a moment when democracy is increasingly in question and under threat around the world, India’s largely successful effort over the past seven decades to reconcile the competing identities and passions of over 15 percent of the world’s population is a staggering accomplishment.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

What do people think is driving the stock market's recent record high gains?


Well, there's really no precise answer, but analysts point to several factors. So, number one is strong third quarter earnings. Companies have reported stronger than expected results so far this season. The second is the jobs market. You saw the October jobs numbers exceed economists' expectations. And the third is the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates three times this year. That lowers borrowing costs for consumers and businesses and encourages them to spend more.

More Show less

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 220 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least 19 Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

More Show less

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreements over sharing the cost of maintaining military readiness have caused friction between the alliance's members in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.