The real competition with India

Dr. Manzur Ejaz

WASHINGTON DIARY: The real competition with India

Dr Manzur Ejaz

Courtesy: Wichaar January 13th, 2010

If Pakistani military/civilian leaders and the media should have reacted to any Indian statement, it should have been to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement that his country’s economy will grow at nine to ten percent annually. Making noises against Indian army chief General Deepak Kapoor’s announcement of India’s military doctrine of fighting on two fronts simultaneously is futile. He was mimicking Pentagon-style statements for domestic consumption, specifically for those who believe that India has become a US-like global power and should act like it.

I was curious about how the Chinese leadership reacted to General Kapoor’s doctrine statement. No surprise, the Chinese did not take it as a threat or interpret it as the Indians’ intention to attack. The Chinese has always been working on such a multi-war doctrine because of possible wars with the Soviet Union, India and the US or its regional proxies (Taiwan and Japan). Therefore, for them, developing such doctrines may not be anything special, but General Kapoor’s statement may have been taken as unnecessary bragging for domestic consumption.

Unlike India and its rising middle class chauvinists, the Chinese government and people remain silent about their mammoth growth. They want to become an economic power without alarming the world about their enhanced status. On the contrary, elements in the Indian government and a large section of the rising middle classes have started making chauvinistic noises. They have started believing that India has already become a world power with US-like imperialist interests. Therefore, they preach that the Indian army should go into Afghanistan and other troubled spots of the world. General Kapoor was trying to quench the thirst of these elements.

Indians and Pakistanis are in the habit of making mountains out of molehills and fighting wars of words. Pakistani leaders’ statements and media hype about General Kapoor’s statement is typical. Maybe they were also reacting for the benefit of the domestic audience rather than being really upset. It should have been taken as a routine or foolish statement because Pakistan may also have a similar doctrine of fighting on two fronts, on its eastern and western borders. In fact, it would be criminal if the Pakistani army has not developed such a doctrine. But we Pakistanis and Indians are more into belittling and casting each other as villains rather than addressing the realities.

After India tested its nuclear bomb, a Pakistani economist working for the IMF — staunchly opposed to the nuclear race and military domination — complained that his Indian colleagues are looking down upon Pakistani-origin counterparts as very inferior. When Pakistan exploded its nuclear device he was happy because his Indian-origin colleagues had become normal. This kind of ugly sentimental rivalry between Indians and Pakistanis is extremely destructive and works as a blinder even for high level analysts.

Nowadays the Indian chauvinists are full of themselves. They seriously believe that India has become a superpower while Pakistan, stuck with religious extremism, is on the brink of collapsing/disintegrating. Unlike the Chinese, including common persons and political scientists that I met during my visit to China, India has a rising number of half-literate specialists bragging about India’s new enhanced status. They may have a reason to do so, but overdoing is certainly bad for national mental health.

Of course India has registered an impressive macroeconomic growth and has enhanced its standing on the international level but it is still far from being a world power. As compared to its smaller neighbours India was always a regional power and nothing has changed with Indian accelerated growth. But if world powers mean the US, European Union (EU), Japan, China or even South Korea, India is still way behind. Doing better than Pakistan is no measure to elevate India to world power status. Besides, looking at the data — I have been to most of these countries — I do not see India walking or talking like advanced societies. As a matter of fact, the ground reality of north India is no different than Pakistan’s if one looks at the condition of common citizens.

I have widely travelled in all of the north Indian states, from Punjab to Rajasthan, and observed that the condition of the common people is no different from those in Pakistani Punjab or large parts of Sindh. Travelling through Rajasthan recently, I was impressed with the roads and tourism infrastructure. However, all along the roads from Jaipur to Jaisalmer and Bikaner, what I saw were the goats and camels grazing in the desert. I have seen the Pakistani area adjoining Rajasthan, the Tharparkar desert, and I saw a similar set up sans tourism infrastructure. However, as one comes closer to UP, the messy conditions, bad roads, impoverished population, congestion and pollution are worse than most of Pakistani Punjab where more than 60 percent Pakistanis live.

But India has a chance to improve the condition of the common man if it keeps growing and can bring some equity of wealth distribution into the economic system. On the contrary, Pakistan’s economy is regressing due to religious extremism, bad governance and shortfall in key resources. Therefore, Pakistan should be more worried about Indian economic growth than General Kapoor’s statement. Furthermore, it should not contemplate sabotaging Indian growth but deal with its problems and pick up the pieces in order to compete with India in the economic sphere. Pakistan can do it and it should.

The writer can be reached at


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