Actually, right now, there is no connection-at least on the business front.
Connection in the sense of business leaders of both the countries sitting
together and trying to draw a roadmap that will get them joint advantage in the
new millenium. This is very unfortunate because while everybody in the world is
talking about how India and China should work together, the two, don’t seem to
be too worried about it.
There are lots of things India will learn from China. India will learn to
rapidly build infrastructure like roads, metro railways, modern fly-overs, large
convention centers, and state-of-art airports and ports. But, most importantly,
India will pick a few lessons from the Chinese on how to bull-doze red-tape and
bureaucracy, and make the country industry friendly. Obviously, as manufacturing
becomes more expensive in China, a close relationship can lead to some of that
further outsourced to India. Today, India has a very good case for taking up
manufacturing on a global scale, but is just not able to take off.
Of course, it is not going to be a one-way traffic. India will consider China
as a destination for setting up even more cost competitive BPO and software
development centers. But, most importantly, India will be one of the world’s
biggest and fastest growing markets for China.
Advantage for India will not be only limited to China. Most of the small
countries in South Asia including Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand
and Combodia are developing economies, with very fast growth and high IT focus.
Indian IT players can play a big role there. If South Asia becomes a successful
confederation of countries co-operating with each other, most of them would be
quite favorable to China, as they already have a good experience with the
country. At such time, if India is not closely aligned with China, India may
miss out the South Asia opportunity.
On the political front, quite a bit of new ground is being broken. The new
Indian political leadership is trying to fast settle all pending issues with
China. The industry leaders, it seems, are still waiting. Knowing China, which
has now learnt the art of seamlessly weaving together business with the
political system, it might be a good idea if the Indian government and the
industry work on this like a team. With the government claiming to focus on
industry and infrastructure development, I would even take the liberty to pass
the onus on to the political leadership, to take the industry along, as it tries
to reach out to China. This strategic relationship building should happen fast.
Why it is the right time for these two nations to start getting closer is
also because the world seems to have accepted that they will. According to an
expert, the next generation tourists will be visiting the US and Europe for
museum value, and would come to the Asia/South Asia region to get a glimpse of
the future. Recently, the former prime minister of Singapore said that if India
and China join hands, the entire region will become very strong and not just
these two countries. The smaller countries are waiting for India and China to
start moving on these lines, and are most likely to support it.
To be very frank, if India does not actively align itself with China and
others in that region, the smaller economies of South Asia will become
competition for India. Because, if they have to choose between India and China,
instead of Indo-China-they will go with China. The time is right now because
everybody, including the US and its think tank at the CIA, is looking very
positively at the whole concept.
The author is Editor of Dataquest IBRAHIM