Seen from India's ivory tower
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Seen from India's ivory tower

The key to the gate of heaven, runs a Buddhist proverb, is also the key which could open the gate of hell. Buddha wasn't specifically talking about capital account convertibility when he made this statement. But he could have been.

The country that fostered Buddha was also one of the few in Asia that didn't succumb to the fashion for convertibility. India was a cautious reformer and has escaped a mauling. Its economy will register not just positive but decent growth this year. Long labelled a laggard of reform, India now finds its moderate approach held up as a model for the opinion-formers in Washington as they scratch around for a new economic paradigm to replace the now-discredited pseudo-capitalism of the Asian economies.

With this in mind Euromoney decided on a re-examination of India. Taking in several cities - including the financial capital, the political capital and even a day in the spiritual capital - we met 50 of the most obviously influential people in India, and some less obviously so. Doors were opened by our travelling companion, Ajeya Singh, head of Lehman Brothers in India.

What emerges is a yearning for an economic third way somewhere between laissez-faire capitalism and the planned economy. This manifests itself in opposition to most Anglo-Saxon notions of sensible economic management rather than looking for workable alternatives. India's elite put independence first, sound policies second. They see clearly the mistakes made in Asia and elsewhere in the emerging markets but are less willing to square up to the shortcomings in their own system.

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