Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Dragon's in the Forest

Anyone who still thinks India’s main rival is Pakistan has not entered the 21st century.

Back in the older days, I remember we would be filled with pride upon reading flattering statistics such as the number of soldiers in the Indian Army vis-a-vis the Pakistani Army. But something changed since then. Pakistan stagnated, India inched ahead while China simply pressed the fast forward button.

It was not long ago that India’s defence was superior to China’s. Now even such a thought is considered laughable. This article will make the case that India’s real competition will now come from China and not Pakistan.

In 1947, India and Pakistan were partitioned amidst much civil upheaval and riots. As is normal after any break up, feelings of jealousy and competitiveness arose. The two countries (Pakistan more so than India) made each other the centre of their development goals. So money began pumping in in trying to outdo each other. But while we were still infatuated with our Western neighbour, something was taking place quite discreetly on our eastern borders. A nation was busy reviving itself and clocking massive double digit growth. Having neglected that amidst the heavy illusion of false pride with respect to Pakistan, the result is that today, India is an ENTIRE generation behind China.

Today, China is building infrastructure that is surpassing America’s. Already the world’s fastest train has come up, covering the distance between Beijing and Shanghai in 2 hours 45 minutes (compared to which India’s fastest train the New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi express would take about 7 hours 10 minutes in covering the same distance!) A friend of mine, who has recently come from China, summed up the attitude differences very nicely, saying “In India we like to make comparisons with China, In China they like to make comparisons with America”

And this is the scary part. That China is not even bothered about us, taking us to be no more than a regional itch in the back. A mention of India is still hyphenated with Pakistan.

So what should India really be doing? My view is that we must stick to our democratic principles while finding a way out. Because we cannot and should not become a dictatorship, to take on China, we need to summon all our energy and determination to kick-start the democratic engine so that it delivers promptly and properly rather than laggardly and lethargically as is the case now. For that the government must be capable of taking tough decisions. Already the government was in two minds about the rollback of petrol prices. If the govt. is not even strong enough to stand by its own decisions then competing with the headstrong leadership of the Communist Party of China can remain a pipe-dream.

China’s decision making prowess is something that takes even the Americans by awe. But this does not directly imply that a democracy cannot function at high levels of efficiency. Case in point: America’s response to the launch of Sputnik by the erstwhile Soviet Union. That lesson of history, more than anything else shows that if democratic countries can pull up their socks and work in a single direction, they too can become unbeatable.

In the end I am reminded of a quote from Gurcharan Das that I hope will be the guiding light in our attitude towards our neighbours, “If Pakistan pulls us down into an abyss of terrorism and identity politics, China will lift us up, I think, firing our ambition for better roads, schools and health centres” The best example that describes India’s state versus that of China is the endless ruckus over our preparations for the Commonwealth Games and the smooth steamrolling by China at putting up Beijing 2008.

If Sardar Vallabbhai Patel were alive today, he’d be quick to comment, “Well folks the dragon has entered the forest and it’s about time the tiger got prepared.”


  1. Wow man.....what a wonderful post.With no doubt I can say that tis was your best post so far.Every thing from the title to the concluding statement was simply superb.Really buddy,you deserve a hats-off for this one......Thanks for the wonderful post and keep going.

  2. Thanks Pradan for your kind words of encouragement!

  3. You are right! We've been wasting too much of time and energy around Pakistan! I hear Situation is very fragile around India China border!And I hope our government is prepared for what might come our way!

  4. Thank you Janaki for the nod! Like you I can only hope our government knows the true magnitude of what can hit us!

  5. yes shreyans you are right.China is far ahead as far as modren materialistic growth is concerned But you should not forget that India is a democratic country and it is our great strength while China is ruled by communist.they do not have freedom to express their views.
    To a certain extent you can supress people and grow but it will not last forever. one day it will blast and creates many parts of China

  6. Your comparison between India and China is outright invalid, or simply useless. Any scope of comparison and any possibility of competition had ended a long time ago. But alas, India and Indians constantly remain in denial. What renders your article even more invalid is the fact that Forbes, in its list of the world's most powerful people has given 2nd place to Mr. Hu Jintao (which clearly is a statement that says that America acknowledges China as the world's next superpower), whereas the Indian Prime Minister His Excellency Honorable Doctor Manmohan Singh has been ranked at 36....!!... Somehow it seems to me that Indians remain in a state of perpetual satisfaction by reason of the fact that they had 'once' been in dominance in prehistoric times.

  7. Dear Anonymous,

    I agree with you. Infact your arguments have only validated my article thus rendering it even more useful.

    You said:

    "Somehow it seems to me that Indians remain in a state of perpetual satisfaction by reason of the fact that they had 'once' been in dominance in prehistoric times."

    Don't you think I am trying to convey to Indians the very same thing? And thus how can this article be 'useless' when you too agree that Indians are not aware of the reality?

  8. 'Useless' are comparisons and the hope that stems from you still thinking that there's still a possibility of competition. I don't disagree with the facts (in fact, I can't help but agree with you more) but it (the article) seems to give us hope, which I've totally lost. We should've been 'aware of the reality' a long time ago. Although the tiger must get prepared, there's little it can do for, according to me, the dragon's surely going to eat the tiger..... And besides, the tiger population is going down.
    Also, I think we're more of an elephant.

    Keep writing.

    P.S. I am not unpatriotic.

  9. Anonymous said:

    "Although the tiger must get prepared, there's little it can do for, according to me, the dragon's surely going to eat the tiger..... And besides, the tiger population is going down.
    Also, I think we're more of an elephant."

    Hehe! Can't miss the humor in your cynisism. I wonder who you are. I have this hunch that I know exactly who you are Mr. Anonymous (or is it Mrs :D)

    Very Warmly,
    Shreyans Jain

  10. Mr./Mrs Anonymous
    Keeping the present statistics in mind, and assuming the present conditions to prevail(which most probably will), India's GDP would surpass USA's by a decent amount. Of course, China's GDP would be ahead of both US and India. This is however, after India being smaller than both countries, and having attained independance recently.
    Besides, if the theory that China is a bubble waiting to explode into economic shatters, is true, then don't you think India might cover up the difference. Which i'm guessing it will, considering it is stretching its strict communist regime to the elastic limit.( can't help it,i'm doing engineering)

    Secondly, China too achieved this brilliant economy and infrastructure through rapid strides, I fail to see why India is not capable to do something similiar/even better.
    So i strongly suggest the validity of Shreyans' post, for without comparision,there shall be no competition, without which there shall be no driving force in our economy.

  11. We can laugh and cry on as many statistics and comparisons as we want Mr. Sushant. Now let us take pride in the fact that India's GDP is greater than that of Switzerland.

  12. Hi everyone
    I just stumbled upon this blog by chance and just can't stop appreciating the writer's ability to articulate the thought so crisply.
    My congratulations to Mr. Jain who writes this blog.
    The reason I am butting in at this point , is because I cannot help myself pointing out dark side of this ' fascinating development story' of China.

    I was in china in 2004 with a group of people tracking the old silk route. We spent around 22 days and visited various passes from western china to eastern part of china tracking the old Buddhist sites as well as old trade route to new and modern china ending in Beijing and Shanghai.

    As someone mentioned in the post it is true Chinese don't compare themselves to Indians but obsessed with everything American. Economy, infrastructure, technology you name it and they want to do better than Americans. They have been told they are the next superpower of the world and they beleive it. So India /ans don't figure in there scheme.

    It is equally true the cities like Beijing and Shanghai are truly futuristic cities as far as architecture and infrastructure is concerned.And Mumbai literally looks like slum town of the world.

    Having said that let me point out some facts which will never appear in the economic journals or statistical data is the gross violation of human rights at the cost of this fantastic development story. China never lets out any information to the world and tell only what they want you to see or rather how they would like to be seen by the world. But real picture is something else.

    A. there is no freedom of speech. People are shit scarred of speaking their mind. In fact they are always scarred that some one is watching over them. So they have stopped thinking.( btw through out our trip a government photographer followed us taking our pictures just to keep a tab on our activity in China) Over a period China will have a majority of unintelligent people capable of only taking orders( Probably government wants exactly that)

    B. China has horribly polluted itself at maddening speed just because of their obsession for development. Most of their river waters are polluted and when you enter Beijing or Shanghai you are covered in smog at any time of the day. This will lead to major heath issues in future.
    This rapid and uncontrolled mining will also lead to major natural disaster.

    C. Some of the rural parts of china is worst than India. So the development is not inclusive.

    D. some of the western province of China like Urumqi is volcano waiting to erupt.( In fact there were some riots last year) Primarily a Muslim population waiting to separate from china. Government is currently suppressing the movement by sheer force and might. But this issue is definitely going to bother them in future.

    In short China exists in different eras.The development story is not equitable one. And no development story can be a success story unless they have a sound political process behind it.

    So at the end of the day if we are talking about development like China than let me stick my neck out and say it is better to be an poor Indian than rich Chinese. At least I have a voice and hope. Even if our economy looks and behaves like a bumbling elephant at least it has human face.

    In my view, each country has its own unique economic/ political problems of growth.And we have to find our own solutions to it instead of looking at China or some other country.Finally we can not forget that all stories are human stories so we cannot ignore its people at the cost of " speedy growth".

    That is it.
    Once again Mr. Jain carry on the good work.

    PS. I am not a communist/Maoist who is against any development projects of government:)

  13. Thank you Anonymous for such kind words of appreciation!

  14. Apparently, there are now two Anonymouses.