As India’sminister prime goes to China, Indians should learn that they have less to fear from their giant neighbour than they think
SOME 687m people, 300m fewer than China. Living standards, as measured by purchasing power per head, were rougcomparisons are stark[绝对的] enough to generate a national inferiority[劣等] complex[情结]. In 1980, India had about hly the same. Then, as China embraced modernity with a sometimes ugly but burning passion, it left India behind. In the next 21 years, India outperformed[胜过] its neighbour in almost nothing but population growth.
By 2001, India had 1,033m people against China’s 1,272m. But China’s national income per head, according to the World Bank, was $890, nearly double India’s $450. Adjusted for[以..判断] purchasing power, the Chinese were still 70% wealthier than Indians were. Some 5% of Chinese now live below the national poverty line, compared with 29% of Indians.
Many Indians now often ask why the West is so obsessed with[困惑] China’s economic success. But the obsession[困惑] is India’s, too. Comparison with China has become a distorting mirror in which Indians see their country’s shortcomings grotesquely magnified[荒诞般扩大]. The same goes for India’s sense of geopolitical[地缘政治] inferiority. An accident of history made China one of the five permanent, veto-wielding[常任理事] members of the United Nations Security Council, but that seat now seems to belong to it as of right. India, feeling it should have one too, is just one of a number of big countries with a claim, and laments[哀伤] its comparative geopolitical weakness.
For Indians, the “Chinese threat” comes in at least three forms: the geopolitical panic that rivalry with[竞争] China may one day lead to another war between them; the economic nightmare of an India of underemployed farm labourers spending their meagre[微薄的] earnings on imported Chinese goods; and the ideological[意识形态的] doubt that maybe India’s heroic experiment with democracy has exacted an even higher price than has China’s erratic[反复无常的] dictatorship.
This was not the way Jawaharlal Nehru[尼赫鲁（1889-1964）印度首任总理] planned it. India’s relations with China are still scarred by the bitterness that ended its first prime minister’s dream of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai[印地秦尼，巴依巴依（中印人民是兄弟）], Indo-Chinese brotherhood, sealed in a treaty in 1954. Sibling tension soon surfaced, and sharpened when India gave sanctuary[避难] in 1959 to the Dalai Lama[达赖喇嘛] and 100,000 of his followers as they fled[逃亡] China’s suppression[镇压] of an uprising[起义] in Tibet. It ended, in humiliating betrayal for Mr Nehru and India, in the war of 1962. The conflict, which grew out of territorial disputes[领土争端], ended in a comprehensive Chinese victory.
It took a quarter of a century for relations to return to something like normal. In 1988 the two prime ministers, Rajiv Gandhi and Li Peng, agreed to set the border dispute to one side. Since then there have been 14 meetings of a joint working group set up to tackle it. Last year Zhu Rongji, then Chinese prime minister, came to India, and his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee, is repaying the visit this week—the first time an Indian prime minister has travelled to China since 1993.
On many international issues—such as the war in Iraq—the two countries agree. Moreover, bilateral trade has grown from a paltry $338m in 1992 to nearly $5 billion in 2002. On the first day of Mr Vajpayee's visit, Indian and Chinese officials signed a series of agreements, including one easing visa rules and a Chinese promise of $500m for India's infrastructure. “We should focus on the simple truth that there is no objective reason for discord between us and neither of us is a threat to the other,” said Mr Vajpayee. The following day, India and China appointed envoys to resolve their long-running border dispute (China still refuses to recognise India’s incorporation of Sikkim in 1975 as a state of the Indian union) and India explicitly recognised Tibet as part of China, though it showed no sign of being prepared to hand over the Dalai Lama.