I am sure we have all heard the Hare and the Tortoise tale when we were little children. This time the Hare and the Tortoise are two neighboring countries (India and China) that went head to head at the book launch of Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China's Hare and India's Tortoise by Raghav Bahl on August 17 at 6.30 p.m. at Durbar Hall, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi.
This was no ordinary book launch where the author just gave an insight of his new book but in fact in my opinion, it was one of the most intellectual debates on the hottest topic of this decade. The panel consisted of Nandan Nilekani (Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India), M Damodaran (Former Chairman, SEBI), Bimal Jalan (Former Governor, RBI) and Shekhar Gupta (Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express). Rajdeep Sardesai and Shereen Bahn both moderated the healthy discussion that lasted for approximately 45 minutes.
"32 years ago if you asked someone who would win the race between India and China, people always said India. Today India is 1/4th of what China is in terms of GDP. Why is that we are so behind?" asks Raghav. The fact is that there is no country that can match China when it comes to massive investments made in Infrastructure, Health, Education and Rural Technology. Yes, there may be major imbalances in the Chinese economy but the nation has done a terrific job of pulling people out of poverty and that is the main reason why the Hare is ahead of the Tortoise by at least 10 years. The gap can definitely be shortened according to Bahl, provided India fixes its governance before China repairs its politics.
Kamal Nath had a slightly different perspective and suggested that we should not measure everything in terms of GDP but look at demographics of our own country. China will grow old before it goes rich, which is probably the most distinctive feature separating the two fastest growing economies in the world. He states that India has done exceptionally well in creating rural infrastructure, so we should not be too critical about our motherland. "If China can do it, why can't we? We both have our geniuses," says Kamal Nath.
Towards the end of the 45 minutes, the debate shifted to comparing India's democracy to the Chinese system. The majority of the panelists did agree that India's biggest strength lies in its democracy but the system could not be a ploy to slow down decision-making. Can a messy democracy overcome a different political system? Do we have an answer as to who will win this amazing race?
The founder and the controlling shareholder of Network 18, Bahl has produced a gem of a book that reveals how India's Tortoise holds a 50/50 chance of catching up to China's Hare.