London: The Indian economy is doing a lot better than the rest of the world, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Friday and expressed confidence that the growth rate would return to 7 or 8 percent in a few years.
"We are quite confident of getting back to 7 or 8 percent growth in a few years," Khurshid said, addressing an audience of academics, students and UK-based Indian entrepreneurs for the first-ever India Day at Oxford University.
"It is important to bear in mind that we are still doing a lot better than the rest of the world and one of the main reasons we hit this low range of 5 percent after almost eight or nine years of 8 percent is because of Europe, which slowed down so much that we couldn't really export and therefore we had to rely entirely on our own domestic consumption," he said at the event organised by the Network 18 Group.
"We had to control runaway inflation and have been forced to cut back with interest rates etc, causing major slack as far as the manufacturing sector is concerned. But we expect this is something we will tide over in the next year or maybe two years and then it will be back to business as usual.
"The fundamentals of the Indian economy are strong and go far beyond the usual analysis patterns," he added.
In reference to the theme of the event, 'India ? A political economy for the 21st Century', the senior Congress MP described India as a "softly-softly" nation.
"Sometimes it is said that maybe India is not assertive enough. But a softly-softly approach leads to the desired change, without upheavals. We do not assert ourselves by intruding, dictating or imposing. It is an approach that has worked for us in the region (South Asia) and globally," said the minister, himself a former Oxford University graduate and lecturer in law at Trinity College.
"To some extent India's engagement with the world is also dictated by its culture. An important part of our foreign policy is that development partnerships come first. China is much more business-like; an ATM cash-in and leave. India has a longer haul approach," he added.
Khurshid was joined at the seminar at one of Britain's leading university towns by leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, who is currently in Britain on holiday.
"I may be critical of the government but I am first and foremost a proud Indian and parliamentary democracy is the only suitable scenario for India," the senior BJP leader said.
"I don't think our democracy is in any crisis but there are challenges, the biggest being the threat of violence from tribal areas and the quality of politicians in India. Corruption and the ugly conduct of our politicians has turned India into a cynical nation. But the Indian electorate is very good at teaching politicians a lesson," he added.
The India Day event, the first of what is planned as a biannual series, was opened by Lord Chris Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and also marked the launch of the Pran Nath Bahl Memorial Scholarship ? granted to an Indian graduate studying Masters in Contemporary India at the university.
It has been set up in memory of the father of Raghav Bahl, founder and editor of the Network 18 Group.
"This scholarship is another step towards strengthening the strong relations between India and the UK. There are currently 336 Indian students studying at Oxford but twice as many Chinese. I would like to see us address this vigorously and increase the number of Indian students studying at this historic university," Lord Patten said.