Tag Archives: India

The Complex Puzzle of Growth in India and China

The discourse on India and China is often seen analysed through different lenses: the democracy versus development lens – we tend to highlight the differences between these two countries in their political systems, economic structures and the different outcomes that we have seen based on these differences. The flip side is to look at what these countries have in common –over 1 billion people, rapidly developing economies, and even a territorial border.

Whether you look at it as an economic race or a political headlock, there are several directions that this debate can take. One approach that is arguably underrepresented in the media’s portrayal of the two big economic powers or political players is how similar these countries have are in terms of their historical circumstances. Both are ancient civilisations, with rich histories and a millennia of culture, knowledge and tradition and ultimately face a common and unique predicament while pursuing economic growth: The challenge of embracing modernity while preserving tradition.

It’s a complex puzzle of growth that two of the world’s most populous nation-states, two of the world’s most ancient civilisations, today pitched as the next big powers face. At SAPAC it’s the topic of our next roundtable, the first of many more to come this semester.

The discussion will be led by Professor Partha Ghosh, a Professor of Practice at the Gordon Institute and teaches at the Fletcher School. Partha Ghosh is a renowned Management Consultant and Policy Advisor with an extensive record of solving strategic, operational and complex organizational issues in technology-based industries. He is currently in an advisory role with multiple organizations worldwide, and runs his own boutique advisory firm Partha S. Ghosh & Associates focused on policy and strategic issues. Previously, Ghosh was a partner at McKinsey & Company. He holds Master’s Degrees in Chemical Engineering from MIT and a Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. Ghosh was a Rotary Foundation Fellow. He earned his Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering with honors at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur, India.

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Defining South Asia

I took a course on the Government and Politics of South Asia at the School of Oriental African Studies (SOAS) in London during my year abroad — the first term covered India, while the second term covered Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma and Afghanistan.

“Why are we covering Afghanistan?” was one of the first questions, to everyones surprise. “Isn’t it part of central Asia?” she went on.

It’s an interesting question, though one I would have never thought of asking. I study South Asia and the Middle East. A country like Afghanistan would for me fall into one of those categories. But now there’s a third possibility that emerges.

It’s a confusing world that we live in: this summer I worked with GlobalPost, where both Afghanistan and Pakistan came under the “Middle East.”

The world as I knew it was being distorted. Deconstructed. But it also forced me to finally ask the inevitable: what is the purpose of assigning such categories? It’s not a simply geographic answer. It’s geostrategic, or geo-political, whatever you want to call it.

For me an Indian, whose grandparents crossed the Indo-Pak border from Lahore, I say, how can you not lump India and Pakistan in the same category? After all if you study  history prior to 1947 after all, there was no geographic boundary. It’s the South Asian subcontinent.

But then what about Afghanistan? If you’re working in a newsroom in the U.S., covering contemporary stories, there’s a broader purpose for assigning Afghanistan and Pakistan to the same category too.

It’s a dynamic world that we live in. Diplomacy and politics on the ground are constantly working to change relationships between nations. To create new nations and new boundaries, out of which arise new categories.

So where does South Asia start and where does it end? Also are boundaries as porous as we like to describe them thanks to globalization? If you’re India and Pakistan the simple answer would be no, if you’re Afghanistan and Pakistan the answer may be more complex.

There is scope for endless categorization when it comes to the confusing and expansive region of South Asia. But there’s always a purpose behind why we choose to include or not include some countries under certain demarcators. What’s interesting is to ask “why” and try to understand the historical and present circumstances at work, that shape these categories and our own understanding the world as we know it. Don’t just take it for granted.

For now, here’s map that might provide you with some answers. It’s the map which my professor at SOAS sent us, in response to the question on the first day of class.

Also, for the purpose of this blog, and the SAPAC group, we do choose to include Afghanistan in South Asia!


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