Page 1 of 2 SPEAKING FREELY Brazil-India partnership would be win-win
By Abhismita Sen
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click hereif you are interested in contributing.
After disappointing itself for decades, India is now emerging as the swing state in the global balance of power. The world started to take notice of India’s rise when New Delhi signed a nuclear pact with former president George W. Bush in July 2005, but that breakthrough is only one dimension of the dramatic transformation
of Indian foreign policy that has taken place since the end of the Cold War.
In recent years, India has enjoyed consistently high rates of growth and steady improvement in human development. It is estimated that India will overtake Japan in terms of gross domestic product by 2020. On the international stage, India is a nuclear power. The country is rich in natural resources and a majority of the population is educated. It is also the biggest exporter in the world of software services and workers. India has been a World Trade Organization member since January 1995.
India is now universally accepted as one of the fastest growing economies of the world. However, like all other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), India mixes high growth in some sectors with a low-to-average rate of general development. Much of the foreign investment that comes in is used to feed the teeming millions in the country. India also faces many threats, including jihadist terrorism and a persistent Maoist insurgency, and is overshadowed by China in its ambition of assuming the leadership of South Asia. Among the most important associates of inequality are caste and religion, with the caste system still denying basic amenities to many people in the countryside.
India’s political dealings with its neighbors have not been very successful. Terrorist attacks across the Pakistan-India border or via Kashmir are the main source of India’s concern in the west. A radical Islamic Pakistan would be more than a nightmare for India, with Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities a constant concern. Its arsenal of warheads, developed with Chinese assistance, is at least as large as India’s and probably larger. India’s overtures toward Nepal have not been very prudent. After its king dissolved the parliament, India stopped its support for Nepal – including the delivery of weapons that were needed for the fight against Maoist terrorists.
It lies in India’s interest to safeguard the status quo. China is the most important neighbor of India. Both nations have tried to forge amiable relations in BRICS summits although border tension still exits. Bhutan acts as a buffer between India and China. There is concern that a “corridor for terrorists” might be established from Nepal, through the northern part of India and Bangladesh. India’s relationship with Bangladesh considerably deteriorated after the recent disputes over the waters of the Teesta River.
The most common public policies in India have focused on specific aspects of combating poverty, without considering the deep-seated nature of deprivation and its systemic relationship to inequality. Urban areas benefit more than rural areas from the provision of public goods and infrastructure. The poor generally do not have access to bank accounts. Instead, they hold cash and therefore are subject to inflation tax.
Not surprisingly, there exists a great deal of similarity between the economic and often the social situations of India and fellow BRICS member Brazil. Much can be done together in order to usher in comprehensive development in both these nations. The following areas can be especially beneficial zones of Indo-Brazilian cooperation.
Education: Undeniably India has several of the finest institutions in the world, like the Indian Institutes of Technology. Thousands of international students seek admission to these schools every year. India produces the most engineering graduates every year, with new institutes emerging every day in the country. And although Indian schooling is essentially based on memorizing, it cannot be ignored that the syllabus is an excellent balance of theory and practice, and covers a wide scope of subjects.
Although Brazil appears to have very high rates of literacy, a deeper look into the statistics would show a high rate of drop-outs from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. And schooling in Brazil is often considered to be of poor quality. Large-scale student exchanges with India will not only enhance Brazilian education, but will bring in revenues for India and solidify Brazil as its loyal ally.
Agriculture: Although it is estimated that more than half of the Indian population is engaged directly or indirectly in agriculture, the share it contributes to the annual GDP of the country reveals a number of problems. Thus Brazil’s expertise in agriculture could be very useful for India, especially with Brazilian products such as soy and processed foods growing in popularity in India. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research has started to engage with its Brazilian counterpart Embrapa, probably the most advanced research institute on agricultural productivity in the world. In the context of food security, Brazil could thus be of key importance to India, and help usher in a new Green Revolution.