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Bilateral Relationships

Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea

By Swaran Singh
Rajdhani Art Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 205, price not stated.


The publication of this slim volume comes at a most appropriate moment of time when the eyes of the world are focused on the dynamic economic growth of India and China, and a Great Debate is underway on the burgeoning economic engagement between them and on their changing political strategic relationship. With it, the author has entered and hopes to influence this debate.   China, as is well known, preceded India on this path by a decade and more, embarking on its reform and modernization project as early as 1978. By the turn of the century, the dynamism of the Chinese economy and its high growth rate that averaged 10% per annum impressed the world. It was anticipated that China could well become the world’s second largest economy by the year 2020. Some commentators even envisaged the new century as the Chinese century. India, however, was still not in the picture. As reforms of its constraining politico- economic system got underway, the questions that troubled most Indians were why India was not able to achieve what China had, how it could get to where China already was, and would China be willing to see India develop its innate potential. This last grew out of the negative image of China in the public mind and lingering suspicions that persisted because of the unresolved territorial and other issues. But the new tendency to admire the Chinese ‘miracle’ or model, is described by the author as an ‘excessive focus’ on China’s successes and ‘as an example to follow’, that needs some correction.   This, however, points to the central issue in the Great Debate namely, is the bilateral India China relationship today commanded by politics or by economics? Or, in the author’s words, is it moving from being ‘suspicion driven’ to one that is ‘economy driven”? As far back as 1988 Deng Xiaoping mooted the idea of an Asian rather than a Chinese century to Rajiv Gandhi, and sought to dampen Indian fears by suggesting that economic cooperation could be mutually advantageous. Then, as India began to take necessary steps towards the reform of its cumbersome license raj, and as its growth rates climbed to 8% , this development was accompanied by a qualitative improvement in the strained relationship. The process was fast forwarded and put on a new track in 2003. Agreements reached during the visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee, were designed to release the log jam of ...

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