‘Boycott Chinese imports’ is the social media obsession this Diwali season. Recently SAARC and BRICS summits were making headlines both in regular media as well as social media. People are giving way too much importance to these groups than it deserves. One does not have to be an economist or geo-political strategist to figure that out, sometimes common sense is enough!
While one should be a good neighbor, help each other out, yet we must ‘think globally and act locally’! In the era of globalization trade, security and prosperity do not have geographical boundaries. The boundaries are built in the mind, in setting high goals and strategy accordingly. India must change its strategy to work with nations where it is most effective to position itself as a real world-power. India is no super-power yet, it has the potential!
On one hand China virtually has banned Islam in their own country and yet supportive to Jihadists made in Pakistan. Why they would not heed to the demand to ban terrorists like UN-designated terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Masood Azhar? Is he only an ISI creation or China is also complicit? It has also been actively blocking India’s entry into NSG. So, nice neighborly words on cut with China, ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ has failed and will fail again. India has to think that it has to deal with these matters on her own, with as much or as little help of others. China naturally wants to have larger influence in entire Asia and the world. India must set its goal high enough to first protect its own interests, contest China’s interests and then advance its own and work only with countries which are going to help India gaining strength and overcome weaknesses. It is clear today, what we call Pakistan’s proxy war on India is in reality China’s proxy war – both in geo-politics and economic front!
India must get out of the SAARC mind-set – yet do everything possible to have best trade and political relations with countries that reciprocate. India has to think even beyond BRICS and G20 – and work with compatible nations. And it should not only consider economy and military power – but potential for business and other benefits such as eliminating poverty and illiteracy.
India has to undo many wrong steps taken in the past as a ‘good neighbor’. In politics, especially in competition, one should be sympathetic to humanitarian matters, but if one has to survive and succeed, you have to play it right. In the 1950s India had a good opportunity to isolate China by working with the US. Prime Minister Nehru helped China against India’s best interests to become a member of the Permanent UN Security Council and not bargaining for its own first. India had little appetite to contest China’s entry to the WTO. Now just biting the nail is not going to do any good, India has to think and act differently.
Is China obliged to think about prosperity and security of the Indian citizens? They will only do as much as needed to serve their own business and geo-political interests. There is an old Indian saying ‘veer bhogya vasundhara’ – only a brave heart deserves to enjoy the world. Why India must not follow that?
Trade is at the heart of both SAARC and BRICS. Good news is that in 2015-16, India’s overall trade deficit fell 14 per cent to $118.35 billion from the previous year. But when it comes to China it is not a pretty graph!
The bilateral trade between China and India stood at $70.73 billion in 2015-16, down from $72.34 billion in the previous fiscal. India’s trade deficit with China has swelled to $52.68 billion in 2015-16, from $48.48 billion in the previous fiscal.
And talking about SAARC trade matters? India’s bilateral trade with Pakistan is around $2.53 billion in 2015-16. Total Export from India to Pakistan is $1.84 Billion. Pakistan accounts for around 0.5%of India’s trade and about 3% of Pakistan’s total foreign trade.
Mostly due to unfortunate lack of leadership during the first 50 years after India’s independence – India has the world’s largest share of poor and illiterate people. Fortunately, in terms of economic and military power India is within world’s top 5 or 6 – perhaps due to sheer number of people, and a long civilizational existence. However the language of politics and media in India and abroad has always been hyphenated as Indo-Pak. The two nations are not at all comparable in any measures. India needs to think and aim high and position itself to be compared with world’s top nations. This realization is yet to fully sink in many of India’s leaders’ and bureaucrats’ minds.
How would India become truly a global power?
India does not seem to be in a position beat China in terms of GDP in the near future.
According to the ‘Statistics Times’ current GDP of China and India are 11.4 and 2.3 Trillion dollars and the 2021 projection is 17.8 and 3.7 T respectively.
India is not in a position to beat China in terms of military power hands down since its assets and spending Vis a Vis India has major gaps.
So, what India should be focusing on instead of making big news after every small incident affecting India and Indians?
India has upper hand over China in several areas which deserves more focus and utilization.
- People Power: In terms of working age population, India is one of the youngest nations. India has no choice but to educate them, provide skills training and create several million entrepreneurs. By 2020, the median age in India will be 29. The population in the 15-34 age groups is expected to rise to 464 million by 2021. This is much higher than the top 10 ‘youngest’ countries which belong to Africa and their combined current population is 236 million. By 2050 Africa will have largest population as compared to other continents. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia’s population is young as well. But India has certain advantages over these countries when it comes to infrastructure and global connectivity. One must remember that India has a window of short few decades before it falls in to the ‘aged nation’ category. But today, in terms of man power, India has great challenge and opportunity at the same time to serve India’s domestic needs as well as the need of the aging world.
- Science, Technology & innovation: India has a brain-power which is capable of innovation of the highest level. Only change is needed is to focus on creating a culture and right environment for innovation tied to entrepreneurship. If opportunities are right, brain-drain can be controlled and many living abroad will have a chance to return.
- Soft Power: Bollywood, Yoga, Ayurveda are already playing great role automatically – it now should be part of a game plan and to be executed accordingly. Also, India is perceived as a more acceptable nation in terms of global peace and human rights compared to several other competitors.
- Diaspora Power: Indian diaspora around the globe has huge potential to contribute in advancing Indian interests in India and the world. This is so far a greatly untapped area. Thousands of Indian technology experts, scientists and businesses can collaborate both ways. Many can return to India granted they get the right opportunity. Many are available to help from where they are. But is India ready to use their talents?
While India needs to work hard on multiple fronts such as security, healthcare, energy etc., India must give priority to following three biggest challenge areas and can turn each into opportunities: Education, Agriculture and Manufacturing.