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Chorus at WEF: Chindia has arrived

Davos deliberations indicate the rise of the Asian giants should be seen as an opportunity, writes Meenakshi Iyer.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 11:11 IST

Western nations must prepare for a future dominated by China and India, whose rapid economic rise would soon fundamentally alter the balance of power.

-James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President

The aggregate economy of Latin America and the Caribbean in 1980 was twice that of China and India together, but by 2004, it was 20 per cent lower.

The share of India and China in world exports is now 50 per cent higher than that of the Latin America and Caribbean countries.

While Western nations have begun to feel the sting of this transition, deliberations at the World Economic Forum indicate that the rise of the Asian giants should be seen as an opportunity and not as a threat.

The rich nations, it seems, are already on a path to try and capitalise on the inevitable emergence of what will become the powerhouse of the world's economic activity.

"Discussions at Davos were not about India or China but on India and China and the global economy. The integration of these two economies with the global economy was not seen as a threat," says Jayant Bhuyan, CEO of India Brand Equity Foundation, a trust set up by the government to build and promote Brand India overseas.

The recent substantial investments in Africa by India and China are a case in point about how the two emerging giants are spreading their wings, beneficial not only to the latter but the former too.

"The growing economic clout of India and China is interpreted as a sign of a globalising economy where each economy derives strength from the other," adds Bhuyan, also Deputy Director General of Confederation of Indian Industries.

China, the second largest consumer of energy, is importing nearly 30 percent of its oil and gas from sub-Saharan Africa. 

Its trade with Africa will exceed $ 36 billion this year (nearly three times what it was in 2002).

Also, Chinese enterprises are investing about $1 billion a year in Africa, mainly into the energy and commodities sectors, according to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study.

And the Indian elephant is not far behind. The Tata Group has invested about $100 million and plans to triple that over the next three years.

India has invested in energy exploration in the Sudan and has extended credits to West African nations to boost sales of Indian IT services.

"We need to change from a defensive mindset about China and India to one that is more embracing, and one in which we can help determine the terms of engagement," says Ebrahim Rassool, Prime Minister of the Western Cape Province, South Africa.

By 2050, China's $2 trillion (R14.3 trillion) GDP will mount to $48.6 trillion, while that of India, which weighs in at under $1 trillion, would hit $27 trillion, projections by Goldman Sachs says.

In comparison, America's $13 trillion economy would expand to only $37 trillion.

The response to the report at Davos was overwhelming. As Bhuyan himself puts it, "The overseas CEOs were unilateral in their acknowledgement that India has arrived".

Not so long ago, India in the eyes of the West, was nothing more than a poor and a backward nation and China was not far behind.  

But now it looks as if they are set to regain a considerable part of their share of the world GDP that they had lost during the two centuries of European colonialism.

China has already trebled its share of world GDP over the past two decades while India has doubled it.

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First Published: Jan 31, 2007 11:45 IST