Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Review: SUPERPOWER? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise

Author: Raghav Bahl
Publisher: Penguin Group
MyRating: 4.5/5

China’s growth story has always been the fuel of discussion for opposition parties in India and for everyone who chooses to criticize India’s way of growth. Undoubtedly, China’s hare is far away than Indian tortoise when we compare the gigantic Chinese GDP with India’s GDP. But comparing two countries on the basis of only one parameter i.e. economic fundamentals is not quite apt when we are comparing these contenders for the next superpower. The emergence of these two potential neighboring superpowers came out from the ironic different paths of history explains Raghav Bahl, the author of this book; “SUPER POWER? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise

Raghav Bahl is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Network 18. He was hailed as the Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum and selected by Ernest & Young as Entrepreneur of the year for Business Transformation in 2007. The book starts with the notion of doubt that prevailed long among the western countries about the survival of India as the world’s largest democracy. But with the existence of universal adult franchise (It is the right of all adult citizens to vote without any discrimination), equal fundamental rights, a daringly free press, a genuinely autonomous judiciary, a bustling entertainment and information society, a strong English-speaking middle class, a high quality technological and education infrastructure and the culture of liberal thoughts; the west could not discount the contender-ship of India, like China, as a future super power.

The book is comparing India and China on five parameters which are explained in five parts of the book; the race begins, geo-politics, entrepreneurs, consumers and English speakers, urbanization and infrastructure and social infrastructure. In the epilogue section, the author bets fifty-fifty on India and China stating the reasons for not underestimating India’s potential of growth and overestimating China’s capabilities. The book ends with answering the questions related with the future of India and China, which is supported by the experience of the author, not with any forecasting model. It makes this book more comprehensible and easy-to-read for anyone who wants to know the history and growth model of both the countries, without any technicality.

Both India and China were giants in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and accounted for 50 per cent of world GDP in 1600. But two hundred years of colonial domination shrunk their economies and political space on the globe. The British describe their rule as one which ‘civilized’ India whereas China’s colonial history was far more turbulent several rulers without a similar ‘institutional osmosis’. India attained freedom in 1947 and Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China at a massive rally in Beijing. India became a parliamentary democracy and China became a totalitarian state. Till 1978, both the hare and the tortoise were at the starting line but hare had started it reforms at this time while tortoise didn’t realize this till 1991, a decade later after China stared to leap in the race. Nearly two and a half decades after hare has become a $5.9 trillion gorilla while tortoise is a 1.6 trillion cub.

The robustness of the two models was tested in 2008 during Leyman Brothers collapse. When whole world got panic India’s stock market reacted the other way allowed its investor to short the stocks while China, whose stock markets had not even been introduced the concept until then, chose to go ahead with a trial experiment in short selling just a month later.

When religion is the main force behind geopolitics played by America, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries, it is clearly not driving the geopolitical reflexes of India or China. But economic ambition is. Raghav Bahl equalizes both India and China on geo-political parameter. I think, he should also mention the effect of China’s ‘veto’ power in United Nations in world’s geopolitics.

When George Soros (a well-known investor) visited India in 2006, he said in his interview that the one word that makes India far ahead of China is ‘Entrepreneurship’. China has over 2,000 listed companies and more than 80 percent of these are state-owned and India has over 6,000 listed companies and over 95 percent are privately owned. The demography of India is far more conducive to the India’s growth as compare to China. By 2020, US could be short of 17 million people of working age, China 10 million, Japan 9 million and Russia 6 million. Only India will have a surplus of 47 million people in the working age. If India can harness this population then it could become the job exchange of the world. But if it fails to do that, India could become the job graveyard, explains Raghav Bahl.

The sector where China made progress by leaps and bounce is urbanization and infrastructure. China has become the standard for India can be seen in the PM’s statement when he wishes to transform Mumbai as the Shinghai of India. The author keenly studied the basis of this difference which lies in the approach of both the governments. While Chinese mayors may be accused of overreach, Indian Municipal leaders lacks ambition. China has added 20,000 km of railways tracks in last two decades and India done a 860 km in same period. China’s rail investment was $133 billion in 2010, fourteen times that of Indian railways. China has 18,000 km of coastline against India’s 7,500 km. China also has 1300 ports against India’s 200 making China a bigger seafaring nation. In 2010 China has 960 GW of installed capacity, five times more than India.

The race between China’s hare and Indian tortoise will depend on the China’s not-yet-fully tested model of ‘escape velocity’ and India’s classical and sustainable model of development. When China is investing nearly half of its GDP in its factories and creating infrastructure, India is struggling to hit the meagre targets in investment. Paul Krugman, a Noble Laureate, explains that the answer will not be quite as simple as who is investing more and growing faster today but a lot will depend on who has superior innovation? Who has more entrepreneurship savvy? Who is expanding in intensely competitive conditions?

The growth potentials of the two countries are measured on tangible and intangible abilities of India and China but, I feel, Raghav Bahl should also have covered the available natural resources in both the countries and their approach in acquiring the world’s resources. The growth model of United States resides on its huge natural resource base and their strategies in acquiring resources in other parts of the world. If any country wants to achieve and maintain double digit or close to double digit growth rate then the sustainability will largely depends on the fulfillment of its energy requirements.

 The book has been praised by Anand Mahindra (VC & MD, Mahindra and Mahindra), N.R Naraina Murthy (Chairman, Infosys), Mukesh Ambani (Chairman and MD, Reliance Industries), Bimal Jalan (former governor RBI), K.V Kamath (Chairman, ICICI) and many more authors, policy makers and entrepreneurs. I found the complements from Mr. N.R Naraina Murthy are most apt in the description of this book. He says ‘In his inimitable way, Raghav Bahl has painted very insightful and highly data-rich perspective on the history and potential of India and China. His powerful story-telling, backed with analytical research………..’.

The author disclaims that he is not writing this book as academician or economist or policy maker so he recommends reading this book as a work of instruct, intuition and his experience. But I didn’t find any arguments or statement, given in the book, that is not supported by any data or available fact. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Phones become smarter, people get dumber

Big data, unfettered information, the ability to be in constant contact, and our growing reliance on technology are all conspiring to create a noisy traffic jam between us and our place of insight and peace. Call it an iParadox; our smartphones are actually blocking our path to wisdom.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Election 2014: What Is There For A Common Man?

Year 2014 came with the promise of giving the chance to choose the government for the next five years. People from all over the country are more active and excited this time as compare to last election in 2009, atleast on social media, as many of them wants to exercise their voting right. The conventional political fight has become more interesting with the entry of AAP and activation of some regional parties. People are joining some party or other in an attempt to make an impact in the development of the country which is not bad. Couple of months ago, I failed to understand when Kiran Bedi said that people too can work a lot from the outside. Is there anything for the common man to do in the current politics? Can he/she participate from outside?

There are three types of people in the elections; one, political parties and their leaders who will be the direct beneficiary for victory in the election, two, volunteers of these political parties, which are seen as supporters, are the indirect beneficiary of these election as they KNOW SOMEBODY who is in the power, third, the common man, who is always at the at the mercy of their leaders for whom they voted for.

Let us see what common people are doing right now; they have some preferences for some political party like BJP, Congress, AAP or any other region party. They think these parties can do something good for them, which is not wrong. They post everything for the support of these parties on Facebook and tweets in the favour of this party, they want to win every discussion which is related with the party of their interest. People are searching and researching material to post on their wall and if any one comments anything against it then there are exchanges of news articles, youtube links, reports and anything and everything which is in favour of his/her party or against the other party. Isn’t it happening right now?

“Whatever is good, it is for me, whoever says”, may be the another strategy of this common man but when they commit to some political parties, they have to prove everything right, inside he may be feeling it wrong. Do they have any obligation to prove their leaders correct in all respect? No political party can be envisaged as free-from-doubt and has the magical stick that will change everything. Biasedness is our greatest enemy. All political leaders are delivering their speeches, although it’s political, and one can judge it correctly if he/she is unbiased. Our leaders, most of them if not all, are very good students of marketing and they know the power of positive and negative branding. They give us the spectacles of negative brand from which we 
see our opponent leader with.

Time and again we blame them for their arrogance, autocracy, nepotism and cronyism but we have also contributed in some way or another to make them powerful, we prefer to defend them by giving the examples of opponents that they are more wrong-doers than mine. Let negative criticism leave onto these leader and their paid-agents we need to adopt positive criticism from all the depths of our wisdom, which is the required most at this time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kashmir: Not a Black and White Problem

In the cozy living rooms of middle class India news from Kashmir excites the people and gives them the chance to prove themselves as the great lover of the country by saying few line about it like ‘Dooth Mangoge to Kheer Dange, Kashmir mangogay to cheer dange’ (we will give you anything you want but if you want Kashmir then we will tear you), ‘Why don’t we attack Pakistan to solve the problem of Kashmir’, ‘The people of Kashmir don’t want to be in India and army is teaching them nice lesson’, ‘When we are giving them so special rights like article 370 then what else they want’. ‘Those who are helping the terrorists should be killed’ so on and so forth’. These casual comments on Kashmir try to make the issue black and white which hints that the solution is very easy and why not the Government of India is showing its intention to solve the issue.

Time and again the hue and cry for Plebiscite is asked by the people from some parts of the society considering that it will solve their problem. There are three sections of the people in J&K, one, who wants to remain with India, second, who want to go with Pakistan and third, who wants them to be independent and not to be ruled by India or Pakistan. We can sense that the majority of them don’t want to be with Pakistan but skewness of the graph tilted toward India and Independent Kashmir from time to time. Let us say, majority of the people want to be Independent, what answer do we have? Before jumping in to the conclusion and imagined-theories we first understand how this segment of the people looks towards India.
This section of Kashmiris never likes India, because they always have seen India with guns in CRPF jawans or in army men. Outside they are been treated as terrorist and in Kashmir they think they have been treated as slave. The history has created their memory the way it is and Pakistan continued fueling the issues to create a hostile environment against India.

Parveena Ahangar achieved international attention in 1994 when she formed Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP). On 18 August 1990, Javed Ahmad Ahangar, then a 17-year-old student, was allegedly picked up by the army for a militant. She started an agonising search for her son. She informed the local police station about his arrest and staged a sit-in on the road for a full day. After a six- month search for her son, she finally approached the court which ordered an inquiry into her missing son's case. For four years nothing substantial happened in her case. The state government's request for sanction to prosecute the accused Army officers was not granted by the central government. In 1994, determined to continue her struggle, Parveena formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP). The APDP believes 8,000 to10,000 people are missing.

On 21 August 2011, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) confirms that 2,156 unidentified bodies lay in unmarked graves in 30 locations in north Kashmir. The SHRC had ordered the investigation after taking cognisance of a December 2009 report on mass graves titled “Buried Evidence” by the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK).
Now there are two versions of truths; one version says that these are the bodies of militants who were killed by armed forced and another version says that these bodies are from 10,000 missing people.

The incident that further strengthened the memory of this section of the people is Kunan Poshspora incident occurred on February 23, 1991. An army unit launched a search and interrogation operation in Kunan Poshspora, Kupwara district and 53 women were allegedly gang raped by soldiers that night. Villagers claimed that a police investigation never took place in the region. Wajahat Habibullah, former DC, asked why not the incident was first reported and answer was not easy. Some women don’t want them to be publicize as the raped victim in the conservative society and others who wanted to come up were not heard.

After much criticism Press Council of India investigate the incident and medical examination conducted on 32 women nearly one month after incident, confirmed that the women had wounds on their chests and abdomens, and that the hymens of three of the unmarried women had been torn. But the team claimed that that such delayed examination proved nothing.

Once again there are two versions of statements; one states that the charges against army were bundle of fabricated lies and a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and all allegations are grossly exaggerated or invented. Another version, from Asia Watch, in its 1991 stated, ‘The alacrity with which military and government authorities in Kashmir discredited the allegations of rape and their failure to follow through with procedures that would provide critical evidence for any prosecution’.

The plight of soldier fighting in the Kashmir valley is not less critical than the people of Kashmir. If he is asked to kill the enemy in battlefield, he doesn’t have to give the second thought but to shoot. But if he is landed in the place where he is surrounded by his own people but some of them can be his enemy whom he has to kill to save him and his country. Thousands of the solders have given their lives in the valley.  Nearly 4,000 soldiers have been killed in the country after the Kargil operations in 1999 while more than 390 Army troops have committed suicide in the last three years, Lok Sabha was informed on 25 November 2012.

Minority hindu and majority muslims believed and created ‘Kashmiriyat’ in the long past was ruined by the crackdown in 1990’s, when a number of forces started playing together; ISI’s role in Kashmir, Political right of Kashmiris, Mujahideen Influence, religion and human rights violation by militants and by armed forces. The people in Kashmir, whether participated with any force or not, remain the only victim.