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Chinese “Blue Book” optimistic on Indian future May 27, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , trackback

Daniel Barnes

The first Chinese “blue book” on the state of India has expressed concern over a government in ‘serious crisis’, but also believes India will emerge stronger after conquering its current obstacles.

Background

Chinese think tanks release “blue books” every year on numerous issues; the books have tacit backing by the Chinese government, even if they do not fully represent its views. The “blue book” on India runs to over 300 pages and was compiled by Yunnan University, which hosts one of China’s biggest South Asia programmes.

Comment

According to a brief summary of the report, posted on the website of the Social Sciences Academic Press of China, it argues ‘that since the implementation of a comprehensive economic reform in 1991, India’s economic development has made remarkable achievements’. It points to substantial economic growth, which shows the ‘comprehensive economic strength’ behind India’s ‘incredible’ rise. It also argues that ‘contradictions under the high-growth aura are covered up’, citing issues such as ‘poverty, uneven development, irrational industrial structure, the fiscal deficit (which remains high) and many other problems’. It estimates that by 2030, the Indian population will exceed that of China and forecasts that India is facing serious developmental challenges. Despite this, it concludes that ‘many difficulties can make a country prosperous.’

The report asserts that Indian foreign policy has focused on improving relations in South Asia. This involves pushing for peace with Pakistan and developing strategic relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal; all countries with which China has deepened its economic and political ties in recent times. It also views the US “pivot” to Asia and its strengthening of regional alliances, as influencing an acceleration in India’s “Look East” policy, which has meant warming defence cooperation between India and the US, Japan, Vietnam and Australia. This is viewed by many Chinese analysts as a nascent strategy to contain Chinese power, but the report stops short of suggesting that India will become part of a US-led front against China. The report has been carefully crafted to avoid expressing displeasure over border issues, such as Arunachal Pradesh, and the presence of the Dalai Lama in India, achieving this by avoiding detailed analysis of these problems.

Rising Indian military strength is also discussed and this is perceived as being partially directed at China. The report argues that India’s defence policy has shifted from a singular focus on Pakistan, to a dual focus on both Pakistan and China, which includes the possibility of a limited two-front war. It notes that India has expanded both the military forces on its border with China and its naval power towards the East. The prime causes of concern result from large increases in the numbers of Indian troops at the borders with new weapons and equipment, as well as India’s expanding blue water navy. It highlights the Indian Navy’s Eastern Naval Command and its bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as examples of India’s eastern maritime focus. Despite this readjustment, the report argues that India continues to view Pakistan as the ‘real threat’. More generally, it notes that India’s economic growth has funded an increased defence budget, which has allowed it to become the greatest importer of international arms, according to current SIPRI data.

Concerning India’s internal issues, the report argues that New Delhi is currently facing its worst governmental crisis, despite ‘remarkable achievements’ since the 1991 reforms. This is due to internal issues, such as the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency and frequent corruption scandals. It discusses the state of the Bharatiya Janata Party and other political parties in India, as well as the widespread discontent and agitations against its government. It notes that the congress-led United Progressive Alliance is facing its most serious crisis since taking power in 2009, as divisions within the UPA and public anger at the economic situation have damaged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, according to a parliamentary standing committee on finance. State-owned banks are writing off these bad debts, some of which are alleged to have been granted under political and corporate influence, while actions initiated by the finance ministry have failed to arrest the trend. Such corruption scandals are particularly corrosive on public trust and are highlighted as a significant problem by the Chinese report.

Despite the problems and concerns listed above, China is optimistic about India’s progress. The official Chinese view appears to be one that values a peaceful, ‘anti-hysterical’ attitude towards India’s rise. In turn, this bodes well for an increasingly fruitful bilateral relationship.

Daniel Barnes is a Research Assistant in the Indian Ocean Research Programme at Future Directions International.

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 22 May 2013.

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