Glimpses of key events in India in author Ravi Velloor's book

At the launch of his book Rising India: Fresh Hope, New Fears, author Ravi Velloor said he had two wishes when he set out to write the book. He wished Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong would launch it and that former foreign minister George Yeo would write the foreword to the book.

Both his wishes came true, he told the audience at the National Library's The Pod on April 21. The book looks at India's journey in recent years, the position it now enjoys and the challenges ahead.

ESM Goh, at the start of his address, said he normally does not officiate at book launches.

"I do so only when I see a larger purpose. The rise of India is a strong reason for me to do so."

Mr Goh said he too had a wish, which we will come to later.

He said Mr Velloor had covered his visits to India and is a keen observer of events and a good narrator. The former Singapore prime minister, who is credited with sparking a mild India fever during his time as PM, said the book artfully captures the key political changes in India and conveys the country's growing optimism. But he added that India had seen its fortunes come and go and that there were missed opportunities.

"So as an old friend of India, I thought I should offer two suggestions," said ESM Goh. He suggested that India should look beyond Make in India and become a global manufacturer by enacting strong economic reforms. He also suggested liberalising India's aviation sector and adding air connectivity.

"Air connectivity is infrastructure in the sky. As India grows, I see India becoming a major destination in its own right as well as a global aviation hub for air travellers."

Mr Velloor credits Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez with conceiving the idea and encouraging him to write the 384-page book which is priced at $34.90 (including GST).

At the launch, Mr Velloor, 58, said that each chapter of the book is self-contained. "I wrote it for a reader who has a general interest in India and is keen to know a bit more about it."

When asked about the book's subtitle, he told tabla!: "One big fear I have for India is that its minorities have started to feel thoroughly insecure. I wish PM Modi, who is said to be such a big admirer of the Singapore model, would closely study how we carefully and continually nurture race relations on this island. I feel minority unrest could well be a major national security challenge for this government.

"The other big national security challenge is going to be job creation. Every month that passes, it takes thousands of dollars more of investment to create a single job because of the march of automation and robotisation. With 600 million people under the age of 25, India will need to put job creation into mission mode and find rapid solutions."

He feels that the book may come in for criticism from both Congress supporters and Hindu hardliners in India.

"I suspect the Congress supporters will see this as a pro-Modi book while the Hindutva die-hards will call this an anti-Modi book. All I can say is that I gave praise where I thought appropriate while not hesitating to point out the drawbacks and flaws of key personalities. I hope I succeeded in taking readers behind the scenes to get a close glimpse of some of the key events of our time."

The book drew praise from Mr Yeo, who in his long foreword to the book wrote: "Each chapter cuts a different slice into the complex reality which is India. Like a CT scan, the slices combine to give the reader a composite sense of the unfolding Indian drama.

Importantly for Asia, it also looks closely at the strategic sweet spot India has found itself in, wooed by every major power. India is too big to be ignored.''

So what is ESM Goh's wish?

Concluding his speech he said: "Ravi, I hope you will write a sequel to India Rising. An apt title would be India Flying."

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