Tuesday, November 24, 2009

India has growth like china but with lots of values-Manmohan Singh


Bull in a China shop is not an expression one would normally use to describe India’s mild-mannered Prime Minister, but at a Washington think-tank on Monday evening Manmohan Singh was anything but delicate on India’s newly nettlesome neighbor before an audience that is largely in thrall of the Middle Kingdom’s meteoric rise on the global stage.

In candid remarks that were keenly scrutinized in the context of New Delhi’s niggling troubles with Beijing and US overtures to the country, Dr Singh offered an Indian perspective on rising China that included an admission that lately, ''there is but a certain amount of assertiveness on the Chinese part. I don't fully understand the reasons for it."

Singh prefaced that comment by telling his audience that India recognized that it has a long standing border problem with China which it was trying to resolve it through dialogue. In the meanwhile both countries have agreed that pending the resolution of the border problem, peace and tranquility should be maintained in the border line. ''Having said that I should say that I have received these assurances from Chinese leadership from the highest level,'' he added, suggesting that Beijing was not entirely sticking to the script.

But for that one discordant, complaining note vis-à-vis Beijing, Singh indicated that India was on the same page as the rest of the world on China, wanting to prepare for its peaceful rise as a major power. ''So, engagement is the right strategy for India as well as for United States. We ourselves have tried very hard to engage China in the last five years and today China is one of our major trading partners,'' he said.

Singh remarks came against the backdrop of President Obama’s own visit to China last week in course of which some Indian analysts felt he (Obama) was sub-contracting or outsourcing oversight of South Asian peace and security to the East Asian giant and accepting it as a rising if not equal partner, to the detriment of India. That episode came on the heels of India’s renewed tensions with China on the border issue, and over the travels of Dalai Lama to regions Beijing regards as disputed.

Singh was also unexpectedly tetchy about comparisons between Indian and Chinese economic growth, saying while there is no doubt that Chinese performance is superior to India's, ''there are other values which are important than the growth of Gross Domestic Product.''

''I think the respect for fundamental human rights, the respect for the rule of law, respect for multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious rights, I think those have values. So, even the Indian perforce with regard to the GDP might not be as good as the Chinese, certainly I would not like to choose the Chinese path," he said in unusually blunt remarks that constituted a criticism of the Chinese model.

Singh’s candid public statements on China, Pakistan (no purposeful talks till it abjures terrorism and acts on 26/11), and Afghanistan (insisting India will stay the course against Taliban and asking US and international community to do the same militarily) set the stage for his meeting with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday following a ceremonial state welcome on the South Lawns of the White House.

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