Friday, May 21, 2010

CICA -China India Common Agenda

Recently, the silver jubilee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held in Thimpu. It was a sad affair and the other countries rightly accused India and Pakistan for turning the multinational organization into a boxing match where all the suspense is about a handshake between the leaders of the two. While SAARC achieves to emulate the EU or ASEAN model, it is very different from the two. The major difference being the difference in the size of partners at present and also in the future. Though such differences do not come in the way cooperation but the contemporary misunderstandings and misgivings between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh make it much more difficult for SAARC to take off. But, if SAARC is viewed as a truly multi national organization then it can come handy in disguising economic cooperation between not so friendly nations as a regional agreement.

Yet it is not sure how much yields India can expect from such an organization given the present situation and scale of economies in the SAARC region. Better opportunities are just in the neighborhood and India needs to turn its eyes to the north. India and China have been historically very similar and at the present nick of time they almost complement each other. All that is needed from India is what it has been asking from the smaller SAARC nations. India needs to shed its apprehensions about China and give the wonderfully developing nation an economic bear hug. That shall not only help India lift its millions out of poverty but also it ll be the best strategic move made by India to defend it self against China. Warmth between the two nations can have huge benefits. For starters, the Indian defense budget which is more than 1 lakh crores can come down to less paranoid levels. India and China have been at the receiving end of much of the unfair demands made on green house gas emission cuts. They have successfully fended off efforts in Copenhagen to shift the burden of the developed Nations on them. Much more can be done in the international arena if the two combine. The major challenge for both the nations is the cost of innovation that is needed to drive the economy and also solve the common challenges both developing nations face. India and China can come together to form a China India Common Agenda (CICA) to look into problems plaguing the third world, which either do not find much attention in the west or their solutions are sold at ridiculously high prices. There are a number of areas where not just India and China but also the whole third world can benefit. Major investment is needed to find cheap solutions for water availability and purification, alternative forms of energy, smarter but yet cheap seeds for food and the list can go on.

Obvious would be the benefits of having an integrated market of the largest number of consumers in the world and of eliminating wasteful competition between the two nations for energy and other resources. The talent pool in the two nations also complement each other. The large number of English speakers in India can teach English to China. The Chinese expertize in manufacturing can come handy for the Indian industry and the Indian expertise in IT and management can find use in China. India still has half the number of poor people in the world. If we wish to bring those people out of poverty in their lifetime, we need to think beyond the local den of SAARC and find virtue in shunning envy and befriending China. Nothing is better than to have a strong friend in the neighborhood and helping him getting stronger. The pervasive nature of economic activity and the benefits of trust would translate into major gains for us. We both are two travelers, traveling to the same destination and facing the same problems, doesn't it make sense to help each other on the way?

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