Which South Asian country is more important for China’s future?
By Mu Chunshan
Among China’s relations with Asian neighbors, its ties with the countries in South Asia are generally considered to be the weakest. Now, with Sino-Japan tensions over the East China Sea and conflict with many Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea, the role of South Asian countries has become more prominent. South Asia is now a focus in China’s regional strategy, as shown by President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to the area.
When it comes to South Asia, people think of India and Pakistan first. China has an “all weather friendship” with Pakistan but an ambivalent, often testy relationship with India. But the future is sometimes different from both the past and the present. Moving forward, which country is more important for China? Even without a clear answer, just puzzling through this question can help make many issues clear.
In fact, we only to need to answer two questions to know whether India or Pakistan is more important for China. First, which one is a major power? Second, which one can better help China realize its interests?
Which is the major power, India or Pakistan? The answer is relatively simple — India. When it comes to international influence, India is part of BRICS and the G20 and is a leader of the developing world through the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement. India is well poised to become a major power in the world arena.
The answer is even more obvious from the economic perspective. According to the World Bank, India’s GDP in 2013 was roughly $1.9 trillion. By contrast, Pakistan’s GDP was only $236 billion, only about 12 percent of India’s. In 2013, India was the 10th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP.
India’s economy is just beginning to boom; its growth rate in 2013 was 4.5 percent. Experts believe that India today is like China in the mid-1980s, poised for rapid economic growth. Despite many difficulties, there is no reason for India’s economic growth to come to a halt. By contrast, Pakistan has not enjoyed the same type of economic growth in the past decade. Of course, at 1.2 billion, India’s population is far greater than Pakistan’s, but even when looking at per capita GDP India outranks Pakistan. The gap between two countries will probably widen in the future, placing Pakistan at even more of a disadvantage when compared with India.