Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lee Kuan Yew on 'India's Peaceful Rise' and its implications

Among the email newsletters I receive regularly is one that deals with India’s foreign and domestic policy. The organizer is retired marketing consultant Ram Narayanan, who has been described by the pro India Sapra Foundation as an 'indefatigable proponent of strengthened ties between the U.S. and India.' (See the link:

Narayanan reproduced a column, previously published in a Forbes weekly newsletter, by one of the Asian political leaders I most respect, Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. See:

Prime Minister Lee’s pragmatic, hard headed approach to development and disciplined leadership were instrumental in transforming Singapore from an impoverished, vulnerable post-imperial enclave to a respected world class entrepot state and economic power. Lee’s contrasting of China and India is one that I have made myself, using the contrasting images of a giant wheat or rice field and a deciduous forest as a metaphor. His article provides food for thought on which there is much to reflect. The article follows:

Even though the economy’s annual growth rate has been 8% to 9% for the last five years, India’s peaceful rise hasn’t led to unease over the country’s future. Instead, Americans, Japanese and western Europeans are keen to invest in India, ride on its growth and help develop another heavyweight country.

I recently had the opportunity to visit New Delhi twice. In November JPMorgan Chase (nyse: JPM - news - people ) brought its international advisory board, its European board and its principal officers from many parts of the world to the city for a two-day meeting. And earlier this month Citigroup (nyse: C - news - people ) invited me to speak along with the bank’s top leaders at an Asia-Pacific Business Leaders’ Summit there. Two of the largest U.S. banks consider India to be a growth story and are eager to service American and Indian companies. I did not detect any anxiety over India becoming a problem to the present world order.

Why has China’s peaceful rise, however, raised apprehensions? Is it because India is a democracy in which numerous political forces are constantly at work, making for an internal system of checks and balances? Most probably, yes--especially as India’s governments have tended to be made up of large coalitions of 10 to 20 parties.

One example of India’s "checks and balances" at work was the suspension of its talks on a U.S. nuclear power deal. Although this deal is manifestly in India’s interests, 60 communist MPs--part of the Congress Party-led coalition government--opposed the deal. Subsequently, the Communists allowed negotiations to resume, reserving their position on the outcome. India’s development will, from time to time, run into domestic obstruction.

Contrast this with the singleness of purpose in policy and its execution displayed by China’s Communist government.

India’s navy has an aircraft-carrier force; its air force has the latest Sukhoi and MiG aircraft; its army is among the best trained and equipped in Asia. India can project power across its borders farther and better than China can, yet there is no fear that India has aggressive intentions.

Could this be because India is surrounded by states in turmoil? Pakistan is in crisis; a bad outcome there will increase the terrorist threat to India. As Pervez Musharraf is now an elected civilian president, he won’t have the same command over the army he has had as army chief. And any other elected president will have even less sway over the military. Nepal is a deeply divided and troubled country. Sri Lanka is embroiled in an unending civil war, with the Tamil Tigers carrying out endless suicide bombings. India obviously has preoccupations enough to keep its focus fixed on its border regions.

Different Impact

Suppose China were also a democracy with multiple parties and political power bases? Would a multiparty China with a yearly economic growth rate of 9% to 12% be viewed with the same equanimity as India is? Such a China would probably continue to make big strides on the economic, social and military fronts, with more sophisticated capabilities on the ground and sea and in the air and space, and would eventually become a peer competitor, if not an adversary, of the U.S.

The speed of China’s change and the thoroughness, energy and drive with which the Chinese have built up their infrastructure and pursued their goals spring from their culture, one that is shared by the Koreans, Japanese and Vietnamese, who adopted the Chinese written script and absorbed Confucian culture. The Chinese are determined to catch up with the U.S., the EU and Japan. Fast-forward 20 to 30 years and the world will have to accommodate a more technologically advanced and economically more sophisticated China, whether under a single- or multiparty system.

India does not pose such a challenge--and won’t until it gets its social infrastructure up to First World standards and further liberalizes its economy. Indeed, the U.S., the EU and Japan root for India because they want a better-balanced world, in which India approximates China’s weight.

The Indian elite also speak, write and publish in English. They hold a wide range of diverse views--and to the degree that Amartya Sen, a Nobel winner in economics, entitled one of his books The Argumentative Indian. Few Chinese, on the other hand, speak--let alone write in--English, and what they publish in Chinese doesn’t always disclose their innermost thoughts.

What if India were well ahead of China? Would Americans and Europeans be rooting for China? I doubt it. They still have a phobia of the "yellow peril," one reinforced by memories of the outrages of the Cultural Revolution and the massacres in Tiananmen Square, not to mention their strong feelings against Chinese government censorship. China will have to live with these hang-ups. To reinforce the idea that theirs will be a peaceful path going forward, the Chinese have rephrased the term "peaceful rise" to "peaceful development." Greater openness and transparency in Chinese society would also help.

Singapore and Southeast Asia (Asean), sandwiched between these two behemoths, need China and India to achieve a balanced relationship, one that allows both to grow and prosper, pulling up the rest of Asia--East, Southeast and South--with them.


Blogger not natural...its artificial said...

I have to say.that was a thorough analysis of the Indo-cheeni...swot.
I have to tell you. I always try to take lesson out of a blunder. I always rise up out of a suppression. That is the way the whole of India has transformed into an absolutely modernized and globalized Country in the World. India is ready for Globalization in its true sense.
India has gone to the US to earn foreign exchange from the Nikes and Best has also allowed a Verizon a Reebok to earn its stake from out of here.
We dont need to have a US Military to have a base to achieve that.
As i mentioned before, Indians were rich and ruling, gotten looted...poor and ruled, it is coming back is an embracing revolution. I would owe the most to the emotionally streamlined Indian mentality, that has the rights and the wrongs always talked about by the Parental community. Indians have the experience always supporting them...We dont just get kicked out of the house at 17. We neither kick our parents out at 60.
We have a bondage..we have a duty...we have the courage to face any situations that arise in performing our reciprocating...that has made us more adaptable to the rest of the world...and thanks to the cultural thrust of the West...we were ruled for centuries...we did learn from that too..we are constant learners...constant improvers...may be a CMM is actually more practised in India than the country of Origin.
I am not sure about your title...the implications of the peaceful rise of have the answer in your is a peaceful has only peaceful implications...just now i blogged about why indians are not contributing to the world like a fellow american or a european...
why india stopped its inventions...may be it is time that india is IN..for INventions too...its time...for the India to become the Ultimate in this world...which doesnt want to rule the world...rather create a world of you rightly said..India's peaceful is rising...though not the Land of Rising Sun....India rises like the Sun. Sun for your information is our supreme God....God bless the World...a way the Indian will think...India loves peace...India loves the world...India never ruled the world though it was one of the oldest was always defending and never on the offense...that shows the World is safe in the hands of the Peacefully rising India...because India and the Indians feel the World is a great place to live...India will start to contribute to the world peace soon...We never want to rule...we never want to dictate...
We are not made that way. May be that is one reason why India is the world's REAL greatest Democracy in God's creations.

8:42 PM  
Blogger mona said...

So, you have started, please don’t stop. Its great to read from you and one can also learn a lot from your thoughts, what i have always liked about you is, you make people think. Your writing is different and appealing. Keep this going...a humble request!!

3:52 AM  

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