B S Raghavan

India as an equipoise to China

B.S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on November 01, 2011

In my previous column (“What explains China's hypnotic spell?”, Business Line, October 30) I had outlined some of the factors that had made China the cynosure of the world. China's colourful canvas is studded with dramatic achievements, no doubt, but from this it would be wrong to conclude that it has acquired an unchallengeable, eternal dominance over other countries and their economies, or that it holds all the aces in the political, strategic, military or diplomatic domains.

Labouring under this facile assumption will vitiate the policies and attitudes of especially those countries which are in its immediate neighbourhood. It is, therefore, necessary to put this matter in the correct perspective.

At one time, the US was at the pinnacle of power and prosperity, and it seemed like it would last forever. But already there is a plethora of writings detailing evidence of the decadence and decay towards which that country is heading.

As a paper published in September puts it bluntly: “The American economy is in the doldrums, the American political system is dysfunctional and paralysed, and a series of elective, far away foreign wars is ruining the country.”

There is, indeed, a cyclical phenomenon, as propounded by Arnold Toynbee, of the rise and fall of nations and empires. One of the first signs of a downslide in the turning wheel of fortune has been clearly identified as widespread corruption permeating institutions and sectors.

The result of that corruption, as highlighted by the same paper, is the emergence of “a sub-standard class of politicians to administer (the country's) affairs who are not the servants of the common good, but who rather serve happily the narrow money interests that finance them. The US corporate elite, for the most part, has abandoned all loyalty to its country…” and become a sinister symbol of senseless greed.

STRONG CREDENTIALS

China is not yet in a similar situation. Its growth momentum and rising trajectory are yet to peak, and, maybe, they will last well past the middle of the century, before the slowdown sets in. Of course, almost every observer of the Chinese scene talks of the conspicuous prevalence of corruption among government officials, ideologues and apparatchik, and a noticeable degree of consumerism and love of luxury. But it will be some time before their effect takes its toll on governance and polity.

Hence, China will necessarily continue to figure in the power calculus of the international political, economic and military order in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, India and Russia are also making impressive advances on the strength of their core competencies and competitive advantages.

China will, sooner or later, have to confront the prospect of their catching up with it. They will then begin exerting their countervailing pull by not only displaying their increased assertiveness as its equal but even taking it on if it oversteps the red line to acquire any hegemonic status and deny their legitimate space to other players in the world order, in general, and the Asian region, in particular.

India has very strong credentials to be such an equipoise to China. It should, therefore, prepare itself from now on to play a catalytic role aimed at strengthening relations and furthering mutuality of interests in a spirit of understanding and accommodation.

This it should do, not by resorting to any overt attempts to undercut, contain or checkmate China, either by itself or on behalf of any other power, by allowing itself to be manipulated to that end. Nor should India assume the mantle of a rival meddling with, if not setting at naught, China's forward policy in respect of projects, investments or aid. It should reinvent itself as a credible force, capable of doing its own thing with supreme self-confidence.

Such a policy may even encourage China to adopt a constructive approach to issues and claims that have become embroiled in clashes of national egos. From then on, both countries may even proceed to forge a common plank for the launching of a United States of Asia, thereby calling a New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.

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Published on November 01, 2011
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