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Sunday, 30 August 2009

China and India

China's think tanks are different. Unlike US think tanks that are ostensibly independent of government, and a few really are, in China they are tied to the State Council or the Communist Party of China, which itself is the country's leading think tank in terms of effectiveness. They are different too because they are run by genuine intellectuals and scholars, unlike ours, which are packed with retired bureaucrats, generals and air marshals and journalists who couldn't really make it because most are government funded. Which is not to say that good papers do not sometimes come out of them or they are not used by governments for work that needs to seem non-governmental, like the Track II diplomacy with India. But they have little or no impact on government policy. Chinese think tanks have to be taken seriously, especially when they go public, for they definitely reflect government's thinking, and few more so than the China Institute of Strategic Studies. Thus the BBC News report earlier this month that the China Institute of Strategic Studies had come out with a study penned by someone with the pseudonym of 'Zhan Lue', which apparently means 'Strategy', that India should be broken into 30 independent states, made people sit up. We who had grown so used to the perennial claptrap that America would fragment Pakistan never thought that China would talk of fragmenting India. Obviously it put a cat of tiger proportions amongst India's pigeons. The Indian foreign ministry dismissed Zhan's report as "the work of an individual that did not reflect the official Chinese position." The question arises that if this is all that it was, why did the Indian government even have to take notice of it and thus bring it to world attention? The inevitable conclusion is that the report is serious and has to be taken seriously. Zhan suggests that a fragmented India would lead to prosperity in the region and would be in China's interest. The latter is stating the obvious; the former merits consideration because a country as large as India run on an alien political system cannot relieve the poverty of so many people, as China has done and continues to do with its homegrown system. (The same holds true of Pakistan, by the way). Despite 62 years of endless elections that pass for 'democracy', 76 percent or more of India's people remain desperately poor, earning $2 per day or less. (The figure is a couple of points lower in Pakistan, which is equally disgraceful).

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