There is frankness and there is discretion. Often the two are seen to be in contradiction. Discretion is misinterpreted as tact, even as disingenuity. But frankness is not always an absolute virtue. There are occasions when it needs to be tempered with discretion because of the context or the position of the person making the utterances. Ratan Tata’s recent statements about the state of the Indian economy and the plight of the Indian political leadership were in substance and in spirit flawless. But should Mr Tata have made them at all, or, made them with the level of forthrightness he deployed? The doubt arises because of who Mr Tata is. He, it goes without saying, is not just another industrialist. He was till very recently the head of India’s most distinguished and therefore most important company. The family to which he belongs has made an enormous contribution to Indian public life. Mr Tata, even in his retirement, remains the torchbearer of this tradition. He is the éminence grise of the business and industrial community. What he says is always noted and his statements invariably influence opinion and sentiments. When Mr Tata says that India has lost the confidence of the world, the result is a further loss of confidence — which only serves to push India further into what appears today to be a bottomless pit.
Having said this, what needs to be emphasized is the soundness of Mr Tata’s analysis and evaluation of the prevailing situation. Indeed, The Telegraph completely endorses Mr Tata’s position. What is being argued is that there is a difference between Mr Tata saying something and someone else, including The Telegraph, saying the same thing. Mr Tata’s utterances can alter, for good or for worse, the investment climate in India. Investment, as John Maynard Keynes famously said, is an act of faith; in other words, it is a statement of confidence. Today’s India, thanks to its incompetent and indecisive political leadership and the overall economic situation, inspires no confidence among investors, who are putting their faith elsewhere. Mr Tata’s statement only confirms and strengthens their decision not to invest in India. Thus the downward spiral continues. Mr Tata’s views are correct and honest but they were perhaps better articulated in-camera than on camera. There are times when discretion is the better part of frankness. The country looks forward, as it has in the past, to Mr Tata for a boost in morale rather than a deflation of it.