December 30, 2006

India as Anglosphere Swing State

In an essay published in the Weekly Standard, Daniel Twining writes as follows about the emergence of India:

India's economic growth may be more sustainable than China's. Domestic consumption accounts for nearly two-thirds of India's GDP but only 42 percent of China's, making India's growth "better balanced" than that of China's export-dependent economy, according to Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach. India's combination of private-sector dynamism and state incompetence means that "India is rising despite the state," in the words of economist Gurcharan Das. It is "an organic success from below" rather than one directed by government planners, and is therefore "more likely to endure."

Conventional wisdom that Indian democracy constrains economic growth, and is inferior to the ruthless efficiency of China's authoritarian development model, is wrong. India's curse--like China's until quite recently--has been an overweening state that squeezes out private investment and creates massive opportunities for corruption. "India's problem isn't too much democracy, it's too much socialism," says Prannoy Roy, the founder of India's NDTV.

This is rapidly changing as economic reform transforms India's economic landscape, fueling a vast domestic consumer market and providing a launching pad for Indian companies like Infosys, recently listed on the NASDAQ-100. More fundamentally, its democratic political foundation gives India a long-term comparative advantage by rendering less likely the kind of revolutionary unrest that has regularly knocked China's growth off course throughout that country's long history.

Infused with the missionary spirit and the ideology of the Open Door, Americans have long held a fascination with the prospect of changing China in our own image. Yet authoritarian China's rise and growing nationalism raise questions about when and whether China will embrace political liberalism.

India may be a better template against which to judge the appeal of democratic values on Asian soil--and a surer partner in managing security challenges, from Chinese power to global terrorism, whose threat lies in their lack of democratic control. A durable Indo-American partnership of values promises higher dividends than a century of failed attempts to forge an enduring Sino-American alliance in Asia.

The United States is strangely popular in India. Polling regularly shows Indians to be among the most pro-American people anywhere--sometimes registering warmer sentiments towards the United States than Americans themselves do. But this is not so strange: India and America are the world's biggest and oldest democracies. Both are multiethnic, continental empires with strong cultural-religious identities. Each inherited the rule of law from Britain. Indian and American foreign policies appear equally animated by a self-regarding exceptionalism and a habit of moralizing in international affairs.

Both India and America are revisionist powers intent on peacefully recasting the contemporary international order and ensuring themselves a prominent place in it. America's rise to world power in the 19th and 20th centuries is, in some respects, a model for India's own ambitions. As Indian analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta told the New York Times, Indians have "great admiration for U.S. power" and want their country to "replicate" it, not oppose it. How many of America's European allies share such sentiments?

The CIA has labeled India the key "swing state" in international politics. It predicts that India will emerge by 2015 as the fourth most important power in the international system. Goldman Sachs predicts that, by 2040, the largest economies on earth will be China, the United States, India, and Japan. A strategic partnership of values among the last three, naturally encompassing the European Union, may defy predictions of a coming "Chinese century"--and set a standard of democratic cooperation and prosperity China itself might ultimately embrace on its own path to greatness.

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at December 30, 2006 09:53 PM
Comments

I'm not sure the EU would submit to being a junior partner in the Anglosphere, forces within the EU would prefer to cuddle up to Chinese economic strength and call it "Soft power". Technology flow, or the lack of it, from Russia and Europe to China will be significant.

Posted by: Zymandia at January 1, 2007 07:07 AM

Interestingly enough, while I was still living in India - so at least 4 years ago, now - I remember seeing an article in the Times of India on the increasing warmth of relations between Washington and New Delhi, in which it described "the historical influence of the Anglo-Saxons" on Indian political discourse as a major reason why Indians are more comfortable with American world leadership than most peoples. That's the closest reference I ever saw in an Indian newspaper to an actual cultural effect of the Raj.

I would echo what the post says about India's more democratic and free model of society being more conducive to economic growth in the long term - the expectation that one will be treated fairly and have redress to impartial justice if not, and that one will be able to hold property securely and not be carted off to be politically re-educated on a collective farm in Hunan, etc., are all good for growth.

But I would add the geopolitically obvious fact that India is of necessity going to be the big winner in whatever senario the 21st Century brings to Asia. Any rivalry in the Pacific, be it US/China, Japan/China, even Australia/Indonesia or Singapore/Malaysia, will mean both sides competing for India's good-will and support. This can already be seen in the US and PRC positions, and will only grow more marked as the years go by.

Posted by: Ed at January 2, 2007 09:09 AM

I believe both India and China are rationalist states which we can deal with perfectly happily. Both want more power than they currently have, but in neither case is that problematic in geopolitical terms, as they border each other and therefore provide a countervailing force to the others ambitions. It is irrationalist forces, as represented by Islamism, which I believe will be more problematic.

Posted by: Andrew Lale at January 6, 2007 11:58 AM

Have people read any of the articles on Strategypage.com about China's armed forces? Not only does China have a very long way to being a significant military power, its economic strength is constantly undermined by its political and legal structural problems, ie. it has a husk of a political dispensation, and a very dubious legal system that does not protect property rights. Until China fixes those structural problems, it is unlikely to become a superpower of any kind.

Posted by: Andrew Lale at January 6, 2007 12:03 PM

As imperfect as India's democracy may be, India is light-years ahead of China in letting its own citizens rule themselves.

The British influence on India's government, economy, legal system, and acceptance of citizen thought have prepared India to become a major player in this century.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at January 13, 2007 10:01 PM

From what I've seen, Indians and Americans seem to get along quite well on a personal level. Perhaps it's the lack of colonial baggage between us, but it's also a surprising amount of common culture. They seem a good fit here, even telling the same jokes. I know I'm not the only one to notice this – there have been some Indian-American marriages among my colleagues and a lot of dating. One of the best software guys I know came here from Chennai and became an avid snowboarder not long after his first experience with snow.

Posted by: Mitch at January 15, 2007 03:33 PM

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