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October 2012

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The Northern Neighbour
by Jacqueline Deal, Stephen Rosen and Shivaji Sondhi
Reviewed by Michael W. Cotter

A warning to readers: the average Westerner, overloaded with information on Afghanistan and Pakistan, might think this article, from an Indian newspaper, is about those countries. Reject that notion and put yourself into an Indian mindset. Pakistan and Afghanistan are but gnat bites. THE northern neighbor for an Indian is China. And that’s the focus of this interesting mid-September article, the first of three to be published in the Indian Express, one of India’s premier English-language newspapers.

The article highlights why China presents India with a problem. The authors note that “three decades of systematically higher economic growth” have raised China from GDP parity with India to a national output four times larger. To China’s natural resource advantages the authors suggest it also enjoys greater access to the global financial system and has invested significantly more in military modernization. They also argue that China’s growth has global impact as well, its goal being a China unconstrained by what the paper calls “unilateral U.S. power.”

The implication for India, the writers maintain, flows from their view that China’s geopolitical interests are fundamentally opposed to India’s, in support of which they cite bilateral border issues, Pakistan, China’s “drive for Asian hegemony,” and ideological incompatibility. Finally, they note developments that India may have to contend with over the next two decades if current trends go unchallenged: demands to stop political activity in Tibet; pressure for a new border settlement on China’s terms; expanded Chinese military presence outside China (e.g., in Pakistan); and the “Finlandisation” of India.

Missing from the article is any explanation for why India has lagged China in growth over last 30 years. That apparently won’t be the focus of the next installment, which the authors state will “look deeper behind these projections and find grounds for optimism.”

Interestingly, the three authors of the article include two Americans—Deal is CEO of a Washington-based defense consultancy and Rosen is a national security specialist at Harvard—and an Indian-born professor of condensed-matter physics at Princeton. Since there can’t be any shortage of Indian commentators on China, one has to assume the authors either volunteered the article or were sought out to provide an international flavor.bluestar

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