China & India

January 15, 2008
C N Anand

Two of the world's oldest, greatest and neighboring civilizations, India and China, never coveted other's lands. Both were culturally and materially rich and did not have to maraud to acquire wealth. Both exchanged ideas when Hien Tsang visited India in the 6 th century BC. Simple living, eschewing ostentation to live in harmony with nature, were ideas that both shared. While Copernicus and Galileo were reviled and incarcerated for their theories on heliocentricity, Indian and Chinese astronomers mastered it centuries ago.

Both India and China were seized with protecting what they had from the drooling hordes of Central Asia. While India had the Himalayas for protection, China built a wall. But both the obstacles were breached. A few of the hordes carted away riches to carry on with their nomadic and plundering way of life, but most stayed on to be assimilated by the rich cultures.

Before the 17th century, both countries produced steel the Western world could not match in strength and durability. Ideas on Paper currency and printing were brought to the western world by Marco Polo. Use of gunpowder for rockets in warfare was experimented with. There was nothing that Europe produced which was wanted by India and China, but there was plenty that India and China produced that Europe desired.

While the marauding raids from Central Asia had an immediate cathartic effect, it was not corrosive in the long term. It was the rapacious multinationals that came from the sea that poisoned both countries, the effects of which last till today. The most powerful was the British East India Company, armed with powers to wage war, sue for peace, make laws, and mint money in the lands they subjugated. They had nothing to offer China and India in exchange for tea, spices, silk, Indigo and muslin.

They had to show profit and with a sword in one hand and ledger in the other they cleared the decks in China by fight the opium wars. They subjugated Bengal and Bihar of India, the main opium growing states. They secured the sea route between China and India by acquiring Hong Kong and Singapore and dominating the Malacca straits. Free opium was distributed in China for the habit to take root and then opium from India was dumped in China.

The profits enabled the East India Company to take home indigo, tea, spices, silk and muslin. Some of this tea found its way to the Boston tea party. The dawning of industrial revolution led to the death of Indian and Chinese crafts. Chinese and Indian labor was indentured for work in the Americas, Malaya, and Africa. A near collapse of self esteem took root.

Subsequent overthrow of British influence left behind festering wounds. The India- China border was not clearly demarcated by the British. India and China which never coveted each other other's lands bickered over inhospitable land. However, good sense seems to be prevailing when leaders agreed to leave the dispute for later generations to find a solution. In the meantime, there are urgent economic problems to be attended to.

Non-renewable energy sources are depleting while the appetites of China and India are growing. If every Chinese and Indian consumes extra two liters per day of petroleum products to improve their standard of living, USA's daily oil consumption will be surpassed. If literacy rates improve and two extra paper sheets are used by every Chinese and Indian, whole forests will have to be hacked. A small improvement in standards of living will strain the world ecology. The first world will not give up an iota of the luxury they are wallowing in.

Enlightened cooperation between India and China is needed to save the world. Joint R&D efforts in renewable energy, water conservation, oil exploration, nuclear energy and space exploration is the need of the hour. A consortium of countries, many of whom fought each other in WWII, got together and established the Airbus. Why can't India and China jointly land a man on the moon? If China is willing to share its plutonium with India, many fast breeder reactors can be set up to convert thorium to Uranium 233 for satiating the energy needs of both countries. If only they can put aside the border dispute and reduce their defense expenditures…

C N Anand is the author of Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed, where the central theme hinges around the world’s largest earth and rockfill dam, the Tarbela dam of Pakistan.
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January 15, 2008
02:11 AM


a little dichotomy here:)

first sentence:

Two of the world's oldest, greatest and neighboring civilizations, India and China, never coveted other's lands.

last sentence:

If only they can put aside the border dispute and reduce their defense expenditures...

C N Anand
January 15, 2008
02:30 AM

What I meant was historicaly(200 hundred years ago and before) both countries did not covet each others land. It was only after we gained independance that the trouble cropped up. This trouble was left behind by the British.

January 15, 2008
03:23 PM

Great article! A counter-point to the pointless competitive "mine is bigger than yours" India vs. China rants that dominate blogistan.


"Why can't India and China jointly land a man on the moon?"

Not sure if this would be of any use to anyone. Such ventures are a legacy of the cold-war ("mine is bigger than yours" in a different context) and led to nothing good, except for enhancing the techologies of spy sattelites. The money spent on such projects could be better utilized. On second thoughts though, perhaps India could send the SIFFERs to the moon?

C N Anand
January 15, 2008
10:03 PM

About jointly landing a man on the moon, I meant it figuratively to emphasize that there are no areas where we cannot cooperate.

January 15, 2008
10:10 PM

It seems to me that it's a game theory problem. Everyone is always looking out for number 1 and while there may be a good win/win alternative if both can agree on it and trust the other side to hold up their end of the bargain, it's hard to implement because there is a strong incentive to break away and go back to looking out for number 1.

So in theory I totally agree that countries should take the perspective of the world as opposed to their own country, but it's an awfully hard thing to do. But of course, it doesn't mean we shouldn't push for it

January 16, 2008
04:17 AM

Here in China, the media portrays China-India relations as healthy and non-competitive. In America, however, these two countries are always shown as "fighting" to be the next Asian superpower, with the implicit message that one will succeed and one will fail.

I am happy to hear that the "will to cooperate" is en vogue on both sides of the Himalayas-- if India and China do ever land a man on the moon together, it will be a harsh jolt to American misjudgment of the situation.

January 16, 2008
05:35 PM


Yes for sure, there is pointless media hype and obsession about the alleged end of the world as we know it because of India and China...it is amusing

January 18, 2008
10:23 PM

An interesting read, but historical inaccuracies need to be ironed out here. Admittedly it is hard to decipher what really happened, but clearly more research is required on your behalf. Perhaps with less emotionally biased language and a more critical perspective might enable you to provide a more convincing line of argument.

Ask a few more why questions. Common historical texts are laden with political and cultural bias which the writer must be aware of.

January 19, 2008
12:54 AM

Interesting article.

I'm no historian, so I can't comment on historical inaccuracies or lack thereof.

It was easy to read however, reflecting a good writing style.

I'm all for China and India using nuclear power, though the waste is a long-term problem, so long as it is contained I feel that it is better than coal power plants belching noxious fumes into your cities.

So long as the engineers who control and maintain the reactors have quality education, and future governments don't cut funding, everything should be fine.

Don't forget, however, the hideous outcome of Russia's initial forays into nuclear energy.

L. Vasudev
January 20, 2008
01:42 AM

The author's remarks strike me that that there will be a real ecological disaster if every Indian and Chinese increased petro fuel consumption by 2 litres a day or if they everyday used only two more sheets of paper!

India and China must really come together in cooperating in renewable and nuclear energy. Both countries have huge biomass generated from agriculture as well as good sunshine, and power generation from both can do with top quality R&D. Both countries have huge coal deposits and can come together in new methods that put less carbon dioxide or particulate matter into the atmosphere in power generation.

Does anyone know a Chinese who is interested?

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