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Economic Centrality


The meltdowns taking place in India’s neighbouring countries have several commonalities; one being their closeness with China. Adherence to the Chinese exploitative development model caused turmoil in nations of Africa, earlier. This should have served as a warning to the leaders of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and others. While Nepal and the Maldives, for instance, have taken heed and made course correction, the others have fallen prey. The ongoing developments are bound to have their fallout on India, for which appropriate measures need to be taken well in time.

It is also a fact that smaller peripheral countries around a large economic unit perforce need to be organically connected with it. In fact, in the trade-off, the smaller economies tend to benefit more. An example of this is Bangladesh’s relations with India. The soft borders between the two nations made it possible for large numbers of Bangladeshis to find economic refuge in India. In the meanwhile, the cheap labour and other natural advantages attracted investment from other countries, including India. Even the burden of the Rohingya influx has been considerably absorbed by India. This and good diplomatic relations with the larger neighbour has provided Bangladesh’s economy the cushion to grow and flourish. Today, it is a rapidly developing nation.

In contrast, Pakistan and Sri Lanka preferred to take what seemed to be cheap money from China by providing corridors, land and ports for that nation’s expansionist projects. As there is never an easy path to development, all they have done is dilute their sovereignty and antagonise their people. The troubles being faced by the Rajpaksas and Imran Khan have also to do with this serious misjudgment.

There is now realisation in Sri Lanka that it is better to be India’s satellite economy than that of a distant neo-colonialist regime. The most substantial help being provided in the present crisis is from India. It will very likely continue in the future. On the other hand, relations between India and Pakistan are so bad that a similar scenario is not possible in their case. Unless the identity crisis that has afflicted Pakistan, based on its grandiose self-image, is resolved, there is little hope for it to emerge from the quagmire. The danger is that, as always, the existential crisis will further fuel the fundamentalist (other)world view and, as usual, overflow into India. This has to be prevented as vigorously as possible, if the ongoing process in Pakistan has to reach its natural result.