India: The Kerala Model

In few places has coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims been more sorely tested as in India, yet few post-colonial nations can claim a more unlikely success. Kerala is an exceptionally diverse southern state: 32 million inhabitants, 56 percent Hindu, 25 percent Muslim, 19 percent Christian, plus a scattering of other faiths, which formerly included an ancient Jewish community dating to the fall of the Second Temple.

Kerala is one of India's poorest states, with an average annual per capita income reckoned at $350, one-seventieth the U.S. average. Yet remarkably, its U.N. Quality of Life Index in 1989 was 82 percent (compared to America's 95 percent), and its male life expectancy was 70 (elsewhere in India, 58; in America, 72). The state is renowned for its outstanding colleges, its adult literacy (99 percent), excellent medical care, low birth rate, and for twice electing, and then twice voting out of office, Marxist-led coalition governments.

This reporting is part of Shareen Brysac and Karl E. Meyer's research for a book examining multicultural successes around the world entitled Pax Ethnica, which is now available from Public Affairs Books.

Kerala: Multiple Improbabilities

Kerala is one of India's most impoverished states, yet it also excels in adult literacy and life expectancy. What is most exceptional, however, is its multiculturalism and religious coexistence.

Kerala’s Models

Any bleak assessments suggesting a collapse of Kerala's Model overlook the greatest asset this multicultural state possesses: its people. Here are four examples—the catalyst of Kerala's achievements.

Kerala and The Gulf Stream

The economy of consuming-but-not-producing in Kerala results in a brain drain, as its educated population migrates abroad—especially the Persian Gulf, sparking numerous profound social issues.

Kerala: God's Own Country

Much has been written about Kerala's achievements, but the Indian state is also a victim of its own success, facing economic challenges ranging from the lack of jobs to declining cooperatives.

Pax Ethnica Reviewed by Washington Post

Former Ambassador-at-Large David Scheffer praises the book "Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds," by Pulitzer Center grantees Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac.