Milan Vaishnav

Director and Senior Fellow
South Asia Program
Vaishnav’s 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.


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




Milan Vaishnav is a senior fellow and director of 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 When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (Yale University Press and HarperCollins India, 2017), which was awarded the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation book prize for the best non-fiction book on contemporary India published in 2017. He is also co-editor (with Devesh Kapur) of Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India (Oxford University Press, 2018) and (with Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Devesh Kapur) of Rethinking Public Institutions in India (Oxford University Press, 2017). His work has been published in scholarly journals such as Asian Survey, Governance, India Review, India Policy Forum, Studies in Indian Politics, and PS: Political Science and Politics. 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 is an adjunct professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and has previously taught at Columbia and George Washington Universities. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

  • October 6, 2021
    'There is growing concern in US about democracy in India'

    There are three pillars of concern: The expansion of Hindu majoritarianism, the concentration of executive power and decay of independent institutions, and curbs on free expression and dissent.

  • Op-Ed Toronto Star October 1, 2021
    Indo-Canadians tend to vote Liberal. But will they continue to do so?

    . As the size of the diaspora increases, so will the number of young, Canadian-born Indians who are eligible to vote — increasing popular support for the NDP. At the same time, the sharp increase in recent Indian immigration will boost the numbers of naturalized citizens, who are more likely to support the Liberal party.

  • Op-Ed Hindustant Times August 7, 2021
    Are Voters Delivering More Decisive Mandates?

    Contrary to received wisdom, Indian elections have largely been getting less decisive over time, although the effect is generally not statistically significant.

  • Op-Ed NPR June 29, 2021
    India is the World’s Biggest Vaccine Maker. Yet Only 4% Of Indians Are Vaccinated

    As the India emerges from the world’s biggest and deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, scientists and policy makers say vaccinations will be key to India’s safety, confidence and economic recovery. Small business owners like Gala agree.

  • Op-Ed Washington Post June 10, 2021
    Discrimination Against Indian Americans Happens More Than You Might Think

    While the United States has a long history of bigotry against immigrants of color, the growing hostility toward people of Asian origin in the wake of the devastating coronavirus pandemic casts a new spotlight on the discrimination many Asian immigrant populations experience in the United States.

  • Op-Ed Hindustan Times June 9, 2021
    For the Diaspora, Ties That Bind — and Divide

    One of the most heartening aspects of India’s heartbreaking struggle with the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the outpouring of support from the Indian diaspora.

  • Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey
    Paper June 9, 2021
    Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey

    As the profile of the Indian American community has grown, so too has its economic, political, and social influence. But how Indian Americans choose to deploy this influence remains an open question.

  • Op-Ed Perspectives on Politics March 22, 2021
    Rethinking the Study of Electoral Politics in the Developing World: Reflections on the Indian Case

    In the study of electoral politics and political behavior in the developing world, India is often considered to be an exemplar of the centrality of contingency in distributive politics, the role of ethnicity in shaping political behavior, and the organizational weakness of political parties.

  • Op-Ed Hindustan Times March 7, 2021
    For Reforms, Create a Coalition of the Willing

    On contentious matters of economic policy, the Narendra Modi government has demonstrated a penchant for pursuing a shock-and-awe approach.

  • Op-Ed Hindustan Times February 9, 2021
    On India, a Fracture in The Diaspora

    People of Indian origin constitute one of the largest diasporas in the world, residing in at least 200 countries. The stock of Indian migrants has almost tripled over the past three decades, from 6.6 million in 1990 to 17.9 million in 2020.

  • Hindu March 2, 2021
    How Indian Americans View India: a Survey

    Expert on South Asia discusses the results of a survey on how Indian Americans view India.

  • Patna to Pennsylvania Avenue
    Election Month November 14, 2020
    Patna to Pennsylvania Avenue

    We just witnessed the conclusion of two key elections –the United States Presidential race and Bihar State Assembly Elections closer to home. The results in both elections will have huge repercussions for India. The incoming U.S. President has wide discretion in setting the tone of foreign policy.

  • Bangalore International Centre October 20, 2020
    Indian Americans in U.S. Politics

    Experts discuss how Indian Americans might vote in the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Elections, political views across the community, and what issues matter most to them.

  • Scroll.In October 14, 2020
    ‘U.S.-India Ties Aren’t as Important’

    The Indian-American community has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight as a politically influential community, partly due to Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’s Indian heritage.

  • Vox March 12, 2020
    Delhi’s Deadly Riots

    Delhi has become the seed of unease and tension as violence and riots have broke out between the Hindus and Muslims.

  • WBUR February 24, 2020
    What's Behind President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi's Relationship

    President Trump addressed an estimated crowd of 100,000 in a cricket stadium in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a polarizing figure who has been criticized for his treatment of the country's Muslim minority.

  • Takeaway January 28, 2020
    What Exactly Is the Relationship Between India’s Prime Minister Modi and President Trump?

    With growing diaspora activism against the Indian government and a push for U.S. action against India’s discriminatory citizenship law, the relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump is once again in the spotlight.

  • Hindustan Times January 19, 2020
    India Under Modi 2.0

    Eight months since Narendra Modi took over for the second time, India is at the crossroads. The government has used its legislative majority to push legislations integral to its core ideological beliefs. But this has also prompted an opposition from a section of citizens.

  • NPR’s All Things Considered December 20, 2019
    Why Protests Have Been Raging For Days In India

    The Citizenship Amendment Act provides expedited Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who originate from one of three neighboring countries. The bill provides a pathway to citizenship for a wide variety of religious groups, except for Muslims.

  • Print October 25, 2019
    On Demand Slowdown in India and Economy’s Twin Balance Sheet Problem

    A conversation about the consumption slowdown, misleading economic indicators, and flawed bank lending that have led to the current state of Indian economy.

  • Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey
    June 9, 2021 Live Online
    Social Realities of Indian Americans: Findings From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey

    As the number of Indian Americans in the United States has swelled north of 4 million, the community’s diversity has also grown and yet there is surprisingly little systematic data on the everyday social realities of Indian Americans.

  • Grand Tamasha Live
    May 19, 2020 Live Online
    Grand Tamasha Live

    A discussion of India’s battle to contain the novel coronavirus, the Modi government’s latest economic package, and the pandemic’s foreign policy fall-out.

  • How India’s Poor Navigate the State
    February 12, 2020 Washington, DC
    How India’s Poor Navigate the State

    Political scientists Adam Auerbach and Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner shed light on one of the most enduring puzzles concerning India’s development: why the poor, who constitute a sizeable share of the electorate, continue to receive low quality public services.

  • The Pundits Are Wrong: Why Ideology Matters in Indian Politics
    November 28, 2018 Washington, DC
    The Pundits Are Wrong: Why Ideology Matters in Indian Politics

    While politics in Western liberal democracies revolves around a left-right spectrum, Indian politics is often characterized as non-ideological.

  • November 7, 2018 Washington, DC
    India Connected: How the Smartphone Is Transforming the World’s Largest Democracy

    In 2000, just 20 million Indians had access to the internet. By 2020, the country’s online community is projected to exceed 700 million and more than a billion Indians are expected to be online by 2025.

  • October 31, 2018 Washington, DC
    Financing India’s Elections

    As India gears up for next year’s general election, there is genuine uncertainty about the eventual outcome of the country’s gargantuan polls. Yet there is widespread consensus on one thing: the 2019 election will be one of the world’s most expensive on record.

  • September 13, 2018 Washington, DC 中文
    India Today: A Conversation With Indian MPs

    As the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi approaches the end of its term, India is preparing for nationwide general elections in the spring of 2019.

  • May 8, 2018 Washington, DC
    Countdown Begins to India’s 2019 General Election

    In May 2018, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will mark two important milestones.

  • April 25, 2018 Washington, DC
    How India Became Democratic

    In the spring of 2019, hundreds of millions of Indians will cast their ballots in the country’s seventeenth general election.

  • February 28, 2018 Online Event
    Online Event: A Universal Basic Income for India?

    The idea of a universal basic income has gained renewed attention amid growing concerns about technological unemployment in advanced economies.


Areas of Expertise

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