Modi in Davos; Wilkins in India

From The Practice January/February 2018
Highlighting key stories about the profession you may have missed

Modi in Davos

On Tuesday, January 23, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a widely publicized and reported-on keynote address at the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. This big moment on the world stage offers the latest glimpse at both how far India has come as an economic power and the role it sees for itself in the years ahead.

In his speech, Modi promotes his country as an attractive business destination, touting resolutions to previous policy and regulatory barriers facing international business and investors, recent upgrades to physical infrastructure, and a more inclusive economic development agenda that will ensure a rising tide for all Indians. He summed up his pitch to international business by saying India was “removing the red tape and laying out the red carpet.”

In doing so, the Indian prime minister also spoke out in defense of globalization and against movements by some countries toward more protectionist and isolationist rhetoric and policies. “Forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalization,” Modi said. “Their intention is not only to avoid globalization, but they also want to reverse its natural flow.”

As The New York Times reports, however, Modi’s address omitted recent moves by his government that seem to contradict his globalization mantra. Last month, for instance, India imposed stiff tariffs on many high-tech imports, in line with how the country’s government has attempted to restrict imports as a means of generating more domestic manufacturing. Mark Wu, a professor at Harvard Law School and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on International Trade and Investment, suggests that this message may be sending mixed signals. “While the prime minister articulated all the right messages on globalization at Davos, his government remains firmly committed to a strategy of leveraging its market size to drive industrial policies to spur greater high-tech manufacturing in India,” Wu told The New York Times. “This is bound to cause greater friction ahead.” (For more of Wu’s analysis regarding international trade battles, see “Turning the Tables.”)

This tension between national development and globalization fits with the larger narrative of India that recent research depicts: a rising power moving to meet its aspirations, but with some inconsistencies still unresolved. As Modi noted, however, India has a solid foundation upon which to build. “It is a matter of satisfaction for us that the largest democracy on earth is also the fastest-growing major economy, and the most diverse society is also a very decisive polity,” he said. “Thus, the one-sixth of the global community which lives in India and which is a very diverse society has a common vision for a shared future. This is our real strength. We are trying to harness it and strengthen it further.”

David B. Wilkins on the Indian Legal Profession with Menaka Doshi

David B. Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and faculty director of the Center on the Legal Profession, recently sat down with BloombergQuint’s Menaka Doshi to discuss the Indian legal profession in the age of globalization. The interview covered a wide range of topics:

  • Similarities and differences among Indian, U.S., and U.K. legal professions
  • Development of an “Indian corporate legal hemisphere”
  • The multifaceted role of lawyers in Indian society
  • The corporate sector and the courts
  • Liberalization of the Indian legal market
  • Technology’s effects on the profession and law firms of the future

Want to know more?

As part of the official release of The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization: The Rise of the Corporate Legal Sector and Its Impact on Lawyers and Society (Cambridge University Press), the Center on the Legal Profession held substantive conferences in Delhi and Mumbai. For more on the content of those events, see the following: