Milan Vaishnav

Senior Associate
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 a senior 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.

  • Oxford University Press May 16, 2016
    Checkbook Elections?: India

    Despite the vibrancy of its democracy, India has struggled mightily to regulate political finance in ways that would both contain the costs of elections and curb impropriety in their funding.

  • Op-Ed Foreign Affairs March 8, 2016
    Modinomics at Two

    Despite winning the first single-party majority in India in three decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not effectively used the bully pulpit to champion reformist economic policies.

  • Op-Ed Indian Express December 30, 2015
    PM’s Known Unknowns

    For a government whose claim to fame was governance delivered straight from the top, the view from the summit is unexpectedly cloudy.

  • 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.

  • Bloomberg TV India March 11, 2016
    Scaling Down Expectations From Government

    The opportune moment for Modi to create major political and economic change may have already passed.

  • 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.

  • May 4, 2016 Washington, DC
    A New Normal in Indian Politics?

    A quarter century ago, Indian National Congress dominance in New Delhi began to give way to two distinct political forces—the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and a wide-ranging collection of regional political parties.

  • April 11, 2016 Washington, DC
    Can India Ever Become a Great Power?

    While India’s rise is undeniable, its trajectory within the global order remains unclear. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for India to become a leading power represents a change in how the country’s top political leadership conceives of its role in international politics

  • April 7, 2016 Washington, DC
    A Vision for the U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership

    In advance of the sixth annual U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership dialogue, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs Nathan Sheets discussed the importance of the United States’ economic partnership with India.

  • April 4, 2016 Washington, DC
    The Roots of the Sri Lankan War

    For over a quarter century, Sri Lanka endured a harrowing civil war pitting government forces against the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. How did the Sri Lankan civil war begin and what are its lasting impacts?

  • December 9, 2015 Virtual
    Assessing the Progress and Promise of Economic Reform in India

    To discuss the Indian government’s economic progress to date and its vision for the future, join us for a special Google Hangout featuring Jayant Sinha, India’s union minister of state for finance and Lok Sabha member of Parliament.

  • November 18, 2015 Washington, DC
    India’s Maritime Diplomacy

    As India expands its maritime capabilities, new questions have arisen as to whether it has a coherent maritime strategy or the institutional foundations necessary to secure India’s equities, particularly in an increasingly contested Indian Ocean region.

  • 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.


Areas of Expertise

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