Milan Vaishnav

South Asia Program
Vaishnav’s primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption, ethnic politics, governance and state capacity, election finance, and distributive politics.


PhD, Political Science, Columbia University
MA, MPhil, Political Science, Columbia University
BA, International Relations, University of Pennsylvania 




Milan Vaishnav is an associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior.

He is the author of a forthcoming book on crime, corruption, and democracy in India and co-editor of the book Short of the Goal: U.S. Policy and Poorly Performing States (Center for Global Development, 2006). His work has also been published in scholarly journals such as India Review, India Policy Forum, and Latin American Research Review. He is a regular contributor to several Indian publications.

Previously, he worked at the Center for Global Development, where he served as a postdoctoral research fellow, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He has taught at Columbia, Georgetown, and George Washington Universities. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

  • Bertelsmann Foundation November 24, 2015
    Modi’s Reform Agenda: Change You Can Believe In?

    Given the array of external and internal constraints on the government, further enhanced by recent election defeats, the Modi government is unlikely to deviate from its gradualist path toward reform.

  • Op-Ed Foreign Affairs November 11, 2015
    How the BJP Lost Bihar

    How did the BJP lose Bihar? The easiest explanation is this: the Grand Alliance pulled a BJP on the BJP.

  • Op-Ed BBC November 9, 2015
    How Narendra Modi’s Bihar Defeat Will Hit Reforms Agenda

    In the short run, the Bihar loss damages Modi’s prestige, complicates politics, and makes parliament more of an obstacle. Its broader impact, however, should not be overstated over the longer term.

  • Article September 30, 2015
    Battle for Bihar

    The 2015 election in the Indian state of Bihar is a major test for the Modi government. The results will have ramifications far beyond Bihar’s borders.

  • India Review September 21, 2015
    Does Good Economics Make Good Politics? Evidence from Indian States

    The Indian voter weights economic performance more heavily now than in the past.

  • Tackling Corruption in India
    Op-Ed Live Mint September 16, 2015
    Tackling Corruption in India

    India stands to gain immensely from combining effective, inexpensive and logistically simple solutions with the more arduous task of strengthening important institutions and State capabilities.

  • India Policy Forum September 1, 2015
    Corruption in India: Bridging Research Evidence and Policy Options

    The most important thing for combating corruption is not the law on paper but the implementation of the law; the binding constraint, as always, is the government’s desire and ability to punish corrupt officials and politicians.

  • Rahul Gandhi
    Op-Ed Rediff July 20, 2015
    Where Are the Jobs Going to Come From?

    Everyone in government knows that the Indian bureaucracy circa 2015 is not equipped to handle the challenges of India's democracy, economy, and society circa 2015—yet it continues to tinker at the margins.

  • Indian Voters
    Global Integrity, Sunlight Foundation, and The Electoral Integrity Project July 16, 2015
    Checkbook Elections: Political Finance in Comparative Perspective

    In India, the state’s strong involvement in the economy, together with costly elections, has incentivized shadowy links between business, the criminal underworld, and politicians, exacerbating corrupt practices.

  • Op-Ed Rediff July 15, 2015
    Modi Is Taking a Big Risk

    Given the enormity of the domestic challenges India faces and the newness of the government, voters seem inclined to give Modi some room to run. But this won’t last forever.

  • Bloomberg TV India September 23, 2015
    Exclusive: Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue

    On the eve of Modi’s second visit to the United States, what are the outcomes of the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and what is the status of the bilateral relationship?

  • Indian PM Narendra Modi
    Bloomberg TV India May 22, 2015
    Global Think Tanks on Modi’s One Year

    Rather than taking action, Modi has been much more inclined to announce new reforms, and he has been surprisingly politically risk averse.

  • Narendra Modi
    Monocle May 2, 2015
    Modi: One Year On

    Narendra Modi’s number one priority is the economy. But while he deserves some credit for improving India’s macroeconomic performance, he has been slow to enact bold reforms that could improve the business climate and the functioning of government.

  • Narendra Modi
    Diplomat January 30, 2015
    What You Need to Know About Obama's Trip to India

    President Barack Obama’s historic trip to India to serve as chief guest in the Republic Day parade has the potential to be a major turning point in India-U.S. relations.

  • Bloomberg TV India January 27, 2015
    U.S. Sees India as a Strategic Partner in APAC Region

    After a power packed long weekend for both President Obama and Prime Minister Modi, what does each country take back from this visit?

  • Indian Naval Vessel
    CNBC September 30, 2014
    India-U.S. Can Work Towards Improving Defense Tech

    Despite the hype, the Modi-Obama meet may not show results in the short term. There may be an opportunity for the two countries to cooperate on defense technology, though.

  • New Hampshire Public Radio June 2, 2014
    All Eyes On India, And Its New Prime Minister

    India is going to need to create a lot of jobs, and create a lot of economic growth, to satisfy its domestic needs.

  • Bloomberg TV May 19, 2014
    Modi’s Strategy For India’s Economy

    While Modi has a lot of good instincts when it comes to the economy, India is in a dire economic situation and Modi faces a difficult task.

  • Diplomat April 16, 2014
    India’s 2014 General Election: A Primer

    Economic growth, jobs and development, and inflation and corruption are three of the key issues concerning Indian voters as they go to the polls to vote in the general election.

  • Monocle’s Foreign Desk April 5, 2014
    The Foreign Desk: India’s Elections

    What matters to India’s 800 million voters and how will these desires manifest in the 2014 parliamentary elections?

  • November 5, 2015 Washington, DC
    Creating a New Medina: The Quest for Pakistan

    Contrary to the received wisdom, Pakistan was not simply a vague idea that serendipitously emerged as a nation-state, but was broadly conceived as a sovereign Islamic state—a new Medina.

  • October 21, 2015 Washington, DC
    Does India’s Congress Party Have a Future?

    In the 2014 general election, the Indian National Congress party suffered its worst electoral defeat on record. This decline has raised questions about whether India’s “grand old party” can recapture its past glories.

  • October 8, 2015 Washington, DC
    The Pakistan Paradox: Who Rules the Country Today?

    Nearly seven decades after the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan faces a daunting series of existential challenges ranging from ethnic strife to Islamism and terrorism.

  • Q&A on Indian Politics
    July 1, 2015
    Q&A on Indian Politics

    Milan Vaishnav participated in an online Q&A to discuss Indian politics in depth.

  • June 23, 2015 Washington, DC
    Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition

    At their formation in 1947, India and Pakistan had more in common with each other, and shared more economic and cultural links than any other two nations on earth. Partition created not just a physical boundary, but also a psychological border between these two states.

  • April 29, 2015 Washington, DC
    Urbanization in India: Challenges and Opportunities for Growth

    Urban areas are integral to India’s growth and development, accounting for well over half of the country’s GDP and representing an ever-growing percentage of its population.

  • April 28, 2015 Washington, DC
    Indian Economy: Reforms and Growth Prospects

    The liberalizing Indian economic reforms of the 1990s and early 2000s led to a significant shift in the growth rate and poverty reduction in India. But India has paid a heavy price for abandoning that path in 2004.

  • February 24, 2015 Washington, DC
    The Military and Indian Democracy Since Independence

    Unlike in neighboring Pakistan, India’s army has not intervened in politics and the country has successfully preserved its democracy.

  • October 22, 2014 Washington, DC
    Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism

    The entangled threat of crime, corruption, and terrorism remain important security challenges in the twenty-first century.

  • October 17, 2014 Washington, DC
    Modi’s Transformative Moment?

    The first 100 days of a new government can be tumultuous as power shifts hands and leaders make dramatic decisions. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thus far proceeded in a more nuanced fashion, making an assessment of his first four months in office more complicated.


India Decides 2014

Areas of Expertise

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