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NEW GLOBAL INDIAN

Asian Century: Cautious Optimism

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With the American economy still stuttering and eurozone is in deep fiscal distress, the centre of gravity of global power and business is shifting eastward towards Asia. Here, there is, in varying degrees, growth and prospect of more growth. More importantly, there is hope, something which is in short supply, in many parts of the rest of the world.

Ten years ago, the three largest economies -- the US, the EU and Japan --- accounted for two-thirds of the global economy. Today, it is less than half. By 2020, China will be the largest economy, says an IMF study. By 2030, India and China will be a larger economy together than the US and the EU combined. Now, for the first time, Asia-Pacific has more billionaires than Europe.

However, interestingly, economy is not the only index of power today. Any nation that claims a stake for future generations must strike a balance between the demands of development and the power of technology keeping in mind the people's welfare and the nature. This is where the key to global power of tomorrow lies.

For example, scams and scandals have become synonymous with those in power in India over the last two years. Indian needed a redeemer and it happened in the shape of a diminutive Gandhian called Anna Hazare. He was the Citizen Rearmed who shook the nation. And he pitted the power of hunger against the hunger for power. The difference between Indian and China is that an Anna could not have happened there. China, the fastest growing large economy of the world, still evokes as much admiration as fear. It inspires as well as intimidates. China's bigger struggle is within, and this determines its uneasy relationship with the rest of the world.

The difference between Indian and China is that an Anna could not have happened there. China, the fastest growing large economy of the world, still evokes as much admiration as fear. It inspires as well as intimidates.

Another significant aspect of the Asian reality today is that there is war, peace, and the large space in between, called the 'fog of war'. After the First and Second World Wars, and then the Cold War, Asia is now the theatre of the fourth war -- the War on terror. If a war starts with Iran now, the entire region --- from the Nile to the Ganges -- will be up in flames. Asia is also developing into the world's 'nuclear crescent': from Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea and all the way Russia.

The road towards an Asian century is strewn with daunting policy, institutional and governance challenges. Effective measures to combat corruption remain central, thanks to the failure of good governance, of transparency, and of accountability means growing cynicism towards democratic rule. Also, in our times, many essential freedoms are in danger of defeat in many Asian states. Often the threat to freedom of speech is the violence of the intolerant, and that need not be from the State alone. Need for electoral, administrative, judicial reforms et al is an essential aspect of Indian and many other Asian democracies.

Also, Asian Capitalism needs to have a different face. In the wake of the virtual collapse of the American banking system and the crisis in Europe, the need to re-invent Capitalism, ensuring corporate social responsibility, putting people and planet before greed, and ensuring inclusive growth and affirmative action, have all become essential aspects of Asian Capitalism.

And all of this will need a game-changing role of technology. Today, technology is moving ideas and cultures across borders and World Wide Web is bringing people in Asia closer together, and has contributed to the Arab Spring as well. The Web revolution depends on putting people at the centre, especially in rural areas. Stressing the importance of community initiatives, one can prove how Indian farmers are succeeding to reverse the price drop of agricultural produce in some markets. At least, the beginning of immense possibilities is done. E-commerce in India has hit $6 billion mark, and is on cruise control as compared to West Asia and China.

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