Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Jul 12, 2003
For a real Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai relation
Anil K. Kanungo
WILL it be Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai in the 21st century? Though the answer is a no, practical wisdom suggests that it could be possible.The hope of becoming Bhai Bhai looks feasible as the 21st Century fosters a sense of political rapproachment, interdependence, economic ties, cooperation and collaborative attitude. This century, no doubt, is distinctly different from the mid-20th century when Jawaharlal Nehru, made this historic and most quintessential brotherhood statement. Much water has since then flowed down the rivers Ganga and the Yangtze, the attainment of brotherhood is yet a distant cry.
The concept of Bhai Bhai never matured because of a series of incessant problems between the two countries border disputes, confrontationist attitude and looking at each other with suspicion and mistrust. But the fresh initiative taken by both speaks of a different language bury the past and look into the future with open mind. This intention is clear even in the body language of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mr Vajpayee's visit to China made a historic beginning when he signed the joint declaration with its leaders. The high-sounding declaration looks promising as it essentially focuses on two crucial issues trade and border disputes the prime movers in establishing the relationship of Bhai-Bhai.
In an interdependent world, especially in this new millennium, trade and trade relations between and among the countries hold the key to success holistically, that is to provide both, economic and political stability to a country. In little over a decade, China, with its meticulous planning, sequencing of reforms, building of world-class infrastructure and projecting immense sense of political stability, has managed to stun the world with its economic success. It has established a hassle-free economic climate by which it has been able to attract foreign direct investment of $60 billion compared to India's $4-billion, raising its annual export earnings to seven times India's and keeping its foreign exchange reserves at $160-billion, more than double India's. All these statistics should not and must not dishearten India for not being able to achieve such a feat; the idea is to emulate the successful Chinese model for doing better.
There are many areas where both the countries can come together to foster a spirit of cooperation and collaboration for achieving significant results. India has inherent and developed strengths in areas such as institutional framework for macro-management of finances, services, including computer software, and pharmaceutical research and production.
China has already acquired exceptional skills in infrastructural development, manufacturing, including computer hardware, and export capabilities. Both the countries can work synergistically in all these areas. Especially in the field of IT, India, with its world renowned software skills, and China, with its vastly developed and advanced hardware sector, can become a formidable force in the world. With the combined population of the two countries being one-third of the total world population, developing and augmenting bilateral trade significantly between the two countries by itself can set the future standards for globalisation. A unique area of cooperation and collaboration would be to link India's ambitious river-linking project with China. India can look at China's river projects taming of the mighty Yangtze with state-of-the-art technology; diverting water from Yangtze up the North to India which can alleviate drought in muchof India. This is feasible as China is no longer a country of a Great Wall. This is a real test for forging Bhai Bhai relationship.
With the opening up of trade and commerce between the two countries, Indian companies Ranbaxy Laboratories, Aurobindo Pharma, Lupin Laboratories, DCM Shriram and many others have established operations in China. Likewise, Chinese companies Huawei and Haier Technologies have also set up their operation bases in India. To promote trade between the two, there is need to know each other's language, culture, habits and habitats and these will be developed only when more and more scientific and cultural collaborations and exchange of students between universities and research institutions take place.
The world today is also witnessing proliferation of regional trading arrangements (RTAs). Geographical proximity, cultural similarities and economic needs are encouraging certain countries to go for such an arrangement (NAFTA, the EU) by which they would be able to exploit each others' potentialities.
Even in the field of alternative medicine, both the countries enjoy a strong tradition. India, with its Ayurveda, and China, with its acupuncture, many of the dreadful diseases. Recently, acupuncture and the alternative medicine system of China provided some vital clues to the cure and eradication of SARS, the epidemic that rocked the entire South-East Asian region.
Lastly, the solution to the border dispute will pay rich dividends to both the countries as they will benefit from this trade route. Recognising the Nathu-la Pass in Sikkim as a border pass between the two countries ends, the long-standing dispute in the border dispute. China's implicit recognition of Sikkim as an inalienable part of India has provided further authenticity to this border pass.
These co-operative and collaborative measures, if pursued in the right spirit by the two countries, can forge Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai relationship in the 21st Century. A lot depends on the two countries' leadership, how they would like to steer the roadmap for themselves, keeping in mind that Bhai Bhai or brotherhood relationship from a real pragmatic point of view is a necessity for this region's peace and prosperity. The bottomline is: Common interests of both the countries far outweigh their differences in this interdependent world.
(The author is on the faculty of India Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi.)
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