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February - March 2006
India, China and the United states
The Worldwatch Institute in its recent report ‘The State of the World 2006’ has sent shivers down the spine of some western countries. The figures given, alarming to some, are welcome acknowledgement of the fast development of the two most populous countries, the inheritors of two ancient civilisations which were continuously bled by the colonial powers in the 19th century. The Report of the Worldwatch Institute predicts that if the economies of China and India continue to grow at their current rate, the world will not be able to produce enough oil to meet demand by 2050, when consumption will have grown from the current 85 million barrels a day to 200 million barrels a day – a target that will fast deplete all the sources of oil. Today China consumes almost 35% of world’s raw materials (copper, zinc, rubber, cotton, wheat, rice tin, raw wool, oil seeds) 26% of the world’s steel and almost 8.2% of its oil.
India and China, the two fast-developing economies, nevertheless, have a backlog of centuries of poverty, ignorance and social deprivation to eradicate in as short a time as possible in order to generate a faster economic growth. It is a fallacy to presume that cheap energy sources bring fast economic development. It is the efficient utilisation of energy sources for economic development that brings prosperity; and with prosperity, the desire for peaceful coexistence.
It will be erroneous of the US and European powers to presume that India and China, by their fast economic development, are somehow on a collision course with the currently rich powers. The policy-makers in the United States ought not to fall in this trap of colonial and cold war thinking, which, unfortunately, is still in fashion in the portals of European research institutions and western media.
In recent years, The United States, under Bill Clinton and George Bush presidency, has taken a bold step in breaking the old cold war narrow strategic partnerships of military treaties. The strategic partnership with India in civil nuclear co-operation, fight against terrorism and promoting democratic institutions within the Indian sub-continent (Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan), are in no way against China and her fast economic growth.
Both India and China have a vast land area and a very large population. Both are struggling to reduce their population growth. China’s drastic measures of limiting the population growth by legal diktat of one child per family have created its own social problems. In India, population control is voluntary and very ineffective in the poorer section of the population. This is one of the main causes of rural poverty. Fairer distribution of wealth within the country is as important, if not more so, as the fast economic development Here, China and India have chosen different ways of bringing social justice and welfare to the masses. China’s monolithic and command economy, at present, is showing faster progress than that of India. There are less bureaucratic hurdles, and corruption is controlled with heavy hand of the State. Unfortunately, such a system is least conducive to free speech, human rights, rule of law and pluralistic, multi-cultural society.
India, on the other hand, has chosen a democratic system, rule of law and guarantee of equal human rights for all its citizens. Undoubtedly, such a system encourages nepotism, corruption and slow movement of the machinery of law and justice. If India has to run apace with China in economic development, it has to find ways to eradicate corruption, social injustice and bureaucratic inefficiency. In the long run, which of the systems will bring stable prosperity, only time will tell. At the moment, the experiment going on in the two countries on such a gigantic scale will decide the future of Asia and the World.
If tomorrow (and that tomorrow is not very far away), India and China almost equally developed economically, can cooperate in sharing their prosperity with other countries of Africa and Asia, the world will be a safer place to live. Neither the United States nor Europe has to fear these two new economically developed giants who would be their partners in sharing with them their newly acquired prosperity. In the meantime, the world’s present energy sources may seem to deplete faster; but the natural resources of the world will continue growing. The human ingenuity of over two billion people, now unshackled from ignorance and poverty, will find new sources of energy in this ever-expanding Universe.