China far ahead of India in all aspects
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Critical differences between India and China have been minimised by those making long-term projections, in the process ignoring the fact that power equations between the two are extremely lopsided in favour of China, according to a US analyst.
In recent testimony before the House Committee on International Relations, Dr Francine R Frankel, director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed out that China’s GDP growth in the last 20 years had averaged 9.4 percent, compared with India’s record six percent. However, the Indian growth has relied disproportionately on IT-based services. India’s per capita income in 2003 was less than half that of China - $1,100 as against $530.
She questions India’s “claim to destiny” as a great power, considering that it has never been unified as a single state even during periods of great empires. However, the idea of India’s global role has met disappointment in the last 50 years because of a number of factors. The creation of Pakistan robbed India of its geo-strategic position. During the Cold War, the US being suspicious of India’s non-aligned policy, found in Pakistan an ally. The 1954 US-Pakistan treaty was seen in New Delhi as a US attempt to build up Pakistan and build down India. The 1962 war with China ended with a humiliating Indian defeat; it also established Chinese control over Aksai Chin. The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 by India, aided by the Soviet Union, was viewed in Beijing as a strategy to encircle China. The “all weather friendship” between China and Pakistan is a major factor in the persisting lack of trust characterising India’s attitude towards China, even while other aspects of the relationship have improved.
Dr Frankel said the emergence of India as a de facto nuclear weapons state has greatly enhanced the confidence of policymakers in New Delhi who want India to play a bigger role in the world. India’s global competitiveness in some sectors has provided a critical psychological boost to the country. A more confident India has been willing to engage the US on equal terms and to insist on this equality in bilateral relations. While both the US and India have tried to avoid the perception that their closer bilateral relations are not anti-China, they continue to view China with suspicion. Compared with China, India is in a much weaker economic position. She maintains that both Washington and New Delhi are still assessing the latest agreement between China and Pakistan to start joint production of a new fighter aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force with a supply of 150 aircraft to begin in 2007. This could change the strategic balance between India and Pakistan.
She argued that Indian and American interests overlap in a number of areas, including Afghanistan where India is engaged in training skilled workers and has given Kabul $500 million in aid. Pakistan is also trying to regain its influence in the country. The question is whether the US will extend its rationale for support to Pakistan in routing out terrorists to side with Pakistani demands and pressure India to hold back from projecting its influence into Afghanistan. “The worst case for India is that the US will withdraw its troops and make a clean exit after elections,” she adds. In Iraq, where India and the US have had differences, now New Delhi looks forward to a Shia-dominated regime. Given its large number of Shias, India does not want to see Sunnis, who are dominant in Pakistan, to capture power in Iraq. If the US fails in Iraq, it will unleash a fundamentalist wave in the region which India fears. There is also divergence between India and the US on Iran on the question of the gas pipeline. New Delhi sees Washington’s opposition to the project as interference in its affairs. Overall, India sees the US as an Asian power whose presence in the region is to New Delhi’s benefit.
Dr Frankel told the committee that cooperation in civilian nuclear energy and space between the US and India has been interpreted as a de factor recognition of India as a nuclear power. In India, despite dissenting voices, the most dramatic change from the past is the wide spectrum of support the alliance with the US enjoys. She said, “The goal for India is not an alliance against China, but an opportunity, with US assistance, to sustain an eight percent economic growth over one or two decades so that India can resolve its poverty and unemployment problems and be truly independent,” she stated.