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SUMMARY of the article “Devil is in the details,” by Aqdas Afzal, published on November 24, 2023


As China commemorates a decade of the Belt and Road Initiative, tensions between China and the US have intensified. The roots of this rivalry date back to 2011 when the US initiated a ‘Pivot to Asia,’ aiming to contain China with a strategic partnership with India. However, recent shifts in US economic strategy, acknowledging China’s lead, reveal an inclination to collaborate with India, particularly in technology development. While China faces economic challenges, India boasts a robust growth rate, attracting global investors. Yet, under scrutiny, India’s economic success unravels. Ashoka Mody, a former IMF economist, challenges India’s GDP growth, exposing potential exaggeration. The quality of growth raises concerns, with ‘jobless growth’ prevalent in finance and real estate. Despite increased military spending, two-thirds go to personnel-related expenses, making it challenging for India to outspend China. Democracy in India faces challenges, with signs of turning into an “ethnic democracy.” The analysis suggests that, despite its constraints, China need not worry about India in the near future, and both nations have lessons to learn from each other.

Easy/Short SUMMARY:

The article explores the evolving dynamics between China, the US, and India. Initially seen as a counterweight to China, recent shifts in US strategy highlight collaboration with India, especially in technology. While India’s economic growth appears robust, scrutiny reveals potential exaggeration and concerns about ‘jobless growth.’ Despite increased military spending, India may struggle to outspend China. The democratic fabric in India faces challenges, resembling an “ethnic democracy.” The analysis suggests that, despite constraints, China need not worry about India in the near future, emphasizing the potential for mutual learning between the two nations.

SOLUTIONS of The Problem:

Transparent Economic Reporting

India should adopt transparent and accurate economic reporting practices, incorporating international best practices for GDP calculation to present a more realistic picture of its economic growth.

Diversification of Economic Growth

To address concerns about ‘jobless growth,’ India needs to diversify its economic sectors, focusing on those that generate employment opportunities for a broader segment of the population.

Optimizing Military Spending

India should strategically optimize military spending, directing a higher proportion towards capital expenditure for military systems and arms, enhancing its defense capabilities more effectively.

Strengthening Democratic Values

India must address challenges to its democratic fabric by reinforcing democratic values, protecting secularism, and fostering inclusivity to mitigate signs of ethnic democracy.

Promoting Inclusive Economic Growth

Learning from China, India should explore policies that promote inclusive economic growth, ensuring that the benefits extend to a wider population, reducing disparities between the elite and the majority.

IMPORTANT Facts and Figures Given in the article:

  • China celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, but strategic competition with the US intensified.
  • The US initiated a ‘Pivot to Asia’ in 2011, aiming to contain China, pivoting towards a strategic partnership with India.
  • Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, proposed a “new Washington Consensus” driven by competition with China, emphasizing state involvement in economic growth.
  • India’s expected growth rate is 6.3% in the current year, outpacing China’s reported 4.4% growth, attracting global investors.
  • India increased its military spending by 50% from $49.6 billion in 2011 to $76.6 billion in 2021, becoming the third-largest military spender.
  • Ashoka Mody challenges India’s official GDP growth, suggesting a growth rate of 4.5% in Q1 2023-24, lower than the reported 7.8%.
  • India’s economic growth raises concerns about ‘jobless growth,’ with significant growth in finance and real estate sectors that generate few jobs.
  • Two-thirds of India’s military budget are used for personnel-related expenses, while only a third is allocated to capital expenditure for military systems and arms.

MCQs from the Article:

  1. What prompted the US to initiate a ‘Pivot to Asia’ in 2011?
    A. European economic challenges
    B. Containment of China
    C. Middle East conflicts
    D. Energy security concerns

  2. Who proposed a “new Washington Consensus” in response to losing economic ground to China?
    A. Barack Obama
    B. Narendra Modi
    C. Jake Sullivan
    D. Xi Jinping

  3. What is India’s expected growth rate in the current year?
    A. 4.4%
    B. 6.3%
    C. 7.8%
    D. 5.5%

  4. Which sector in India experiences ‘jobless growth,’ according to the article?
    A. Manufacturing
    B. Agriculture
    C. Finance and real estate
    D. Technology

  5. How much did India increase its military spending from 2011 to 2021?
    A. $20 billion
    B. $30 billion
    C. $27 billion
    D. $15 billion

VOCABULARY:

  1. Sombre (adjective) (پریشان): Dark or dull in color or tone; gloomy.

  2. Rivalry (noun) (رقابت): Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

  3. Prevailed (verb) (غالب آنا): Prove more powerful or superior.

  4. Counterweight (noun) (توازن): A weight that balances another weight, especially in a system in which it is suspended.

  5. Hegemony (noun) (ہگمونی): Leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others.

  6. Inclination (noun) (جھکاوٹ): A tendency or a feeling toward a particular action.

  7. Ostensibly (adverb) (ظاہری طور پر): Apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.

  8. Robust (adjective) (مضبوط): Strong and healthy; vigorous.

  9. Scrutiny (noun) (جائزہ): Critical observation or examination.

  10. Expenditure (noun) (خرچ): The action of spending funds.

  11. Optimizing (verb) (بہتر بنانا): Make the best or most effective use of (a situation, opportunity, or resource).

  12. Mitigate (verb) (کم کرنا): Make (something bad) less severe, serious, or painful.

  13. Fabric (noun) (ساخت): The basic structure of a society, typically regarded as a socio-economic system.

  14. Reinforcing (verb) (مضبوط کرنا): Strengthen or support, especially with additional personnel or material.

  15. Inclusivity (noun) (شاملیت): The practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.

  16. **Sch

adenfreude** (noun) (شادمانی): Pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.

  1. Robust (adjective) (مضبوط): Strong and healthy; vigorous.

  2. Scrutiny (noun) (جائزہ): Critical observation or examination.

  3. Expenditure (noun) (خرچ): The action of spending funds.

  4. Optimizing (verb) (بہتر بنانا): Make the best or most effective use of (a situation, opportunity, or resource).

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dawn.com
Devil is in the details
Aqdas Afzal


AS China recently celebrated 10 years of the Belt and Road Initiative, the mood remained sombre in Beijing largely because the “strategic competition” between China and the US has grown increasingly intense in the last few years.

The origins of this rivalry can be traced back to 2011, when president Obama was prevailed upon by China hawks to ‘Pivot to Asia’. At the time, US foreign policy experts argued that containing China required a long-term partnership with India as the two democracies not only shared common values, but India’s emergence as an economic and security anchor would also provide the necessary counterweight to China’s expansionary ambitions. Predictably, in 2015, the Obama administration, pinning its hopes on India, declared that the US relationship with India “will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century”. It appears that US foreign policy experts might be in for a disappointment.

Earlier this year, Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, argued that since previous strategy had not been able to ensure American economic hegemony, a “new Washington Consensus” was required. In other words, rapidly losing economic ground to China, the US would now employ the state in generating economic growth, something it had shunned in the era of markets-driven globalisation.

Since this new economic strategy is driven by competition from China, there were echoes of the old idea of using India as a counterweight. Where the US has tried to hobble Chinese progress in the semiconductor industry, Sullivan identified India as one of its ‘partners’ in taking its semiconductor industry forward.

It seems that India and China have much to learn from each other.

American reliance on India for developing future technologies makes good economic sense as the numbers ostensibly are in India’s favour. Where the World Bank and Western media outlets are consistently reporting a growth slowdown in China — 4.4 per cent, the slowest since 1990 — India is powering ahead with an expected growth of 6.3pc this year.

Global investors are said to be taking their money out of China and investing it in India. Where the Chinese economy, purportedly, faces cyclical and structural headwinds — property crisis, low export growth, geopolitics — India’s economy is riding high on cyclical and structural tailwinds.

Sustained economic growth has also enabled India to increase its military spending by 50pc from $49.6 billion in 2011 to $76.6bn in 2021, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, making India the third biggest military spender, surpassing Russia and the UK.

India’s political system also appears sturdier than China’s. Domestically, China has not found a way to formally institutionalise democracy. This could turn out to be a stumbling block given that China needs to find a way to sustain the relationship between a communist state and a capitalist economy. In contrast, India achieved this milestone a long time ago by consolidating democracy despite being one of the world’s poorest countries.

Given such stellar performance, have Chinese policymakers overlooked the existential challenge from India? Were US experts correct in pinning their hopes on India as the next Asian hegemon?

As they say, the devil is in the details.

Sadly, under the microscope, India’s impressive economic growth reveals some startling details. In India is Broken, Ashoka Mody takes issue with India’s official narrative of explosive growth. Mody, a former IMF economist, cites international best practices for calculating GDP to show that India is overstating GDP growth by relying only on income as opposed to averaging both income and expenditure. Using a well-rounded approach, Mody shows that India’s GDP growth in the first quarter (April-June) of 2023-24 would amount to 4.5pc, and not equal the official 7.8pc.

The quality of economic growth is also questionable. Where the Indian elite buy luxuries thanks to an overvalued exchange rate, a vast majority struggles to buy even basic necessities. Mody shows that in the first quarter, most of the growth has taken place in the finance and real-estate sectors, which generate very few jobs for highly qualified Indians, a phenomenon known as ‘jobless growth’.

Moreover, India may have raised its military spending significantly, but two-thirds of the military budget is used for salaries, pensions, and services for personnel, while only a third is directed towards capital expenditure in military systems and arms. The fact remains that China is a far superior adversary that India, despite its economic growth, would struggle to outspend. And the fact that India is a poor democracy, where political governments always need to walk a tightrope between guns and butter, further complicates the equation.

Finally, on the democracy front, things are not looking good either. Despite consolidating democracy as a poor nation, Indian democracy has hit choppy waters, according to long-time India watchers like Christophe Jaffrelot. In Modi’s India, Jaffrelot argues that India is showing major signs of having turned into an “ethnic democracy”, where a political party’s desire to turn India into a “de facto Hindu rashtra” have led to attacks on secularists, intellectuals and universities. Moreover, where China may be able to sustain itself politically given that 91pc of its population comprises mainly Han Chinese, India’s innumerable fault lines would lead to many problems, given the recent democratic backsliding.

What this analysis indicates is that though China may face constraints, it does not need to worry about India for the foreseeable future. Actually, the two nations should not be worried, as both have much to learn from each other. India should look at how China has managed to lift 800 million people out of poverty, and China should study how India enshrined and consolidated democracy — the recent backsliding notwithstanding — despite being a poor nation.

The preceding analysis should not give rise to schadenfreude in Islamabad, as Pakistan’s democracy and economy are still in serious trouble. Rather than deriving pleasure from someone else’s misfortune, Pakistan’s policymakers need to learn from China and India about inclusive economic growth and democratic consolidation, respectively.

The writer completed his doctorate in economics on a Fulbright scholarship.

[email protected]

X: @AqdasAfzal

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2023

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