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Growth Perspectives on South Asia


I.P. Khosla

RESHAPING TOMORROW: IS SOUTH ASIA READY FOR THE BIG LEAP?
Edited by Ejaz Ghani
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 10 OCTOBER 2012

Two kinds of debate are dominant in discussions about South Asia's future: one largely political; the other, at least on the surface, largely economic. The first insists on regional cooperation for the inter-state political harmony that is considered to be a precondition not only for economic growth, but for the region to play a role on the world stage commensurate with its size and population. The positive argument has long been assumed by India's foreign policy planners: that poor neighbourhood relations mean lost growth opportunities: the most natural markets for our expanding production are there; resources like gas and oil and an abundant hydroelectric power potential are there; and, to mention one more example, the development of our northeastern regions would be facilitated by open ended cooperation from Bangladesh. This also, which is the negative argument, delays India's arrival at the high table of the world's great powers; if neighbourhood disputes are allowed to come onto the agenda there, the effect would at the least be debilitating insofar as our ambitions to be recognized as a great power and to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council are concerned. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is one of the milder exponents of the positive argument, often saying, as he did at the seventeenth SAARC summit in the Maldives in November 2011, that all the SAARC countries should benefit from the comparative advantage that their natural resource endowments and young populations give them. On the other hand there are those who assert that India can go it alone, we are big enough to matter no matter how good or bad our regional relations. This debate is not really much older than the SAARC Declaration of December, 1985, and it did not really get started till the late 1990s, when India's rapid growth rates, especially compared to the neighbours, suggested to several commentators that it may be better to go forward alone, even that the nature of our relations in the region were not really relevant to our global ambitions, a line of thought encouraged by the US leadership; typically, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said in Chennai, July 2011, that India's leadership will help shape the future of the Asia Pacific; no qualifications here, as was so often the case in the past about the need to solve India Pakistan issues. Even our neighbours seemed to accept this and relations with several of ...


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