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India's history is replete with examples of how the country was bled dry, not just by colonial rulers but also by their collaborators. What was interesting was the reaction of the country's former Finance Minister, Manmohan Singh. Singh is considered to be the main architect of an economic liberalisation programme aimed at realising India's global ambitions. I had gone to interview him just before the Union Budget for 1997-98 was to be presented in late-February. I asked him to react to the apprehensions expressed by captains of Indian industry that they would be swamped by foreign and multinational corporations. His rejoinder was razor sharp.

Manmohan Singh: "For fifty years, the captains of Indian industry have had their way. The people of India did not have their way. The consumers of India did not have their way. Now, they are saying..... because we got two billion dollars of foreign capital, these people have started saying that the foreigners are exploiting them. That is all nonsense. I think these people believe they alone have the right to exploit the people of India as my friend Meghnad Desai put it yesterday, I think, so beautifully."

Well, Manmohan Singh should know. For almost thirty of independent India's fifty years, Manmohan Singh in his various incarnations was an integral part of the country economic policy-making set-up. And he has dealt with the new commercial captains who had taken over from where the East India Company had left off. The tycoons had another viewpoint. And that was expressed by one of India's industrial captains. Rahul Bajaj heads Bajaj Auto, one of the world's largest scooter manufacturers. When I interviewed him, I referred to Singh's opinion that Indian industry has been protected and pampered for too long and the time had come to face competition. Bajaj threw the ball back to the court of Manmohan Singh.

Rahul Bajaj: "I hold genuinely Manmohan, who is a friend in high regard. But Manmohan, if I may say so with all due respect, was part of the government which created this socialism, created this protectionist situation, created a shortage economy and enabled, forced and compelled Indian industry to become inefficient. There was in 1991 (the situation is no different now) not a single company truly internationally competitive, leave alone a global player."