Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament, writer, and non-mincer of words, was recently in Australia to attend the Melbourne Writers Festival 2017. Joining a discussion on world politics (above), he was, inevitably, asked the old question about the “intangible values that India gained during the British rule in India”.

Tharoor’s instant repartee: “This is like asking the widow of the American president, apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

He had a few things to tell the questioner. “Over 200 years of exploitation, depredation and loot and destruction reduced India to a poster child for Third World poverty,” he began, layering his response with statistics to prove that Britain did India no good. “When the British left India in 1947, 90% of the population was living below the poverty line, literacy rate was below 17%, and life expectancy was 27.”

Tharoor went on about how the colonial masters plundered India’s resources. “In the name of free trade, the British came in and destroyed the free trade that made India the leading exporter of textiles,” he thundered.

“There is simply no comparison between the accomplishments of India rising from the ashes that the British left us in and what was done in the 200 years before,” Tharoor concluded.

You can watch the entire panel discussion here: