Thursday, May 30, 2024

A question China must ask self: Why Pakistan and not India? 

It’s time China rethinks India Question. 

So far, the reasons below, aren’t good enough: 

  • India is with the United States in QUAD which along with Japan and Australia, not to say the two other key members of Western bloc, United Kingdom and France, are on an overdrive in South China Sea which is the lifeline for Middle Kingdom. 
  • It helps China to keep India as a regional power, hyphenated with Pakistan, and very much a secondary power in Asia where China rules. 
  • India is held highly by the Global South for its principled conduct in world arena, not to say its Lines of Credit to these nations where China has invested long and deep enough to dislike any competitor;
  • The border dispute does bring scowl on the visage of Beijing; it also doesn’t like that India stakes claim on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) which provides them through access to Arabian Sea, not to say thousands of square miles of “gifted” land which puts wheels under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Thus, China opposes India’s membership bid in Nuclear Suppliers Group; prevents action against terrorists which Pakistan harbour; and stands with Islamabad on Kashmir. 

That’s the reason why the trade between China and India is in the middling range —indeed, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand etc, for their size and numbers, carry a far meatier punch than New Delhi in doing business with Beijing. 

That’s a bit surprising, isn’t it, for India today needs huge bandwidth in highways, ports, power stations, railroads etc which China builds better than anyone else in the world. 

There is a reason why China is acknowledged as the “factory of the world.”

How has China surged ahead of India in the last two decades? 

One, it has world’s highest investment rates. 

It allowed them to bring about an infrastructure revolution—new cities, high-speed rails, airports, ports etc—and beef up its manufacturing muscle which is envy to the world. 

If investment accounts for 30% and manufacturing 20% in India’s GDP, China in comparison has 50% and 30% share of investment and manufacturing in its GDP. 

If the intention is to keep India rungs below in pecking order, it could hurt China as I reason below: 

China’s population would peak to 1.5 billion and then shrink to 1.3 billion by mid-century. India’s population, in contrast, would surge to 1.7 billion by 2050. 

China would lose one-fifth of its people because it has an ageing population. By 2050, one-third of its people would be above 65 years in age. 

India in contrast would’ve added 400 million more to its stock of people. Better still, its working age people would still be extremely sizeable at the turn of the century. 

China would need more hands. Of course there is Pakistan and Afghanistan, full of young people, as is Muslim Asia—West and Central Asia—where it could find all the hands it needs. 

The trouble is, both Pakistan and Afghanistan have extremely poor literacy rate, as is the case with Muslim Asia which isn’t the case with India. 

In contrast to Pakistan where only 55% of men and 40% of women could read—probably lower than this official possibly fudged data—India has 72% of its men and 65% of its women who are literate. 

Afghanistan, again a nation with enormous working-age population, only has 30% of its women (and 50% of men)  literate. 

If China was to look up to Japan and South Korea, or even Taiwan for working hands, the situation is no less alarming. 

Japan is already in the midst of a demography crisis—only 20 million of its citizens would be working age at the end of this century. 

South Korea would have only 6.8 million people; Taiwan only 3.8 million people towards the close of this century.

There is another compelling issue of investing its huge savings in India for China. 

So far, much of China’s savings have gone to the United States which frankly is fraught with risk, not to speak of dollar and its’ shaky future.

China also uses its BRI to funnel much of its investment abroad but quite a few of these nations have dubious political stability or economic fundamentals. 

Like Pakistan. 

Yet China favours Pakistan,  a nation where none of the 29 prime ministers in its entire history have completed their full terms. 

There is this economic corridor worth $62 billion which China has set aside for Pakistan; its top bomber jets such as J 10 and J 17 regularly offer muscle to Pakistan’s military might—indeed it’s worth remembering that if our arch enemy is today a nuclear power, it’s because China aided them in their ambitious quest at the turn of the century. 

And then you have India which has conducted elections without fail since its independence, its political structure is stable, economy growing and a demography which is making the world queue up and bet its money on India. 

Let’s also look at the leaping fires of Islamic jihadi groups which India and China, and also Russia, have at their doors, exacerbated by the US policy of nurturing them on their borders. 

In leaving Afghanistan in a huff, the United States practically have left a hub in the making for Islamic terrorism where its brethren of Central and West Asia would converge and cause endless troubles. 

China has around 40 million Muslims, or 3% of its population. India has 17% of its people who are Muslims and Russia somewhere around 30% who profess Islam. 

That is quite a sizeable number for the terror groups to inject with their destructive doctrine and play havoc in all these nations, that is India, China and Russia. 

India has impressed immensely even its worst detractors in how they have stood up against the might of United States on the Ukraine conflict. 

It has chosen to be independent, and not provoke Beijing, like rest of the members of QUAD, or even AUKUS, never miss a chance to do. 

India has all the reasons to be wary of China yet it has refused to join US war-games against its bigger neighbour. 

It’s also a formidable pillar in the emerging architecture of a New World Order being cobbled together by the members of BRICS and SCO which presently is also a dream for China and Russia. 

It’s a future which promises to free the world from the yoke of imperialism and colonialism which frankly never left us in the last 500 years. 

So for China to hedge most of its bets on Pakistan, and turn its back on India, doesn’t look a sound strategy. 

India has startled the world with its growth in Modi’s last eight years and there is little to doubt it won’t be similarly impressive in next decade. 

India would grow, with or without China, and it’s for the latter to seize the moment to reshape mutual future. 

It would also, as I said, set humanity free. 

No risk is big enough to take in such a noble pursuit. 

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