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Shall Indian policymakers at all learn anything from Bangladesh and Nepal?

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Shall Indian policymakers at all learn anything from Bangladesh and Nepal?

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

According to the latest edition of the “South Asia Economic Focus, Making (De) Centralization Work”, Bangladesh’s economy would grow at a faster pace than India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives and Afghanistan, and the country has already emerged as the second fastest-growing economies in South Asia, meaning, Indian Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s economic policies are gradually failing as he and his party cronies are more inclined into political tamasha [political caricature] than successfully doing something in recovering Indian economy from the faster pace of decline which is combined with the deepening of the unemployment crisis.

Amongst the South Asian country, Pakistan being a terror-patron nation, which has been mostly ruled either by military junta or Islamists, really has a slim chance of becoming a prime choice of foreign investors, as no one actually would put their money into the land of Islamist and jihadist thugs. In my personal opinion, Pakistan’s economy will continue to decline until the nation comes to the realization of adopting a secularist approach by sending their jihadist, Islamist and Sharia mindset into the morgue.

But of course, the current condition of India’s economy and jobs market is a matter of grave frustration, especially because of its size of the population as well as geographic vastness. Policymakers in Delhi may sooner or later feel challenges posed by those economically disadvantageous states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Northeastern states, etc., where poverty and unemployment are reaching an alarming level. If this cannot be stopped now, India may ultimately witness independence movements in those economically struggled states. Especially the situation will be even vulnerable with the case of Tamil Nadu, where radical Islam and jihadism have been expanding its wings very fast. According to my personal understanding being an expert on counter-militancy, within the next 10-15 years, Tamil Nadu will ultimately declare separation from India and proclaim as another Islamist state – much worse than Pakistan.

As I have mentioned in the first paragraph, Bangladesh and Nepal are estimated to grow much faster than India in 2019, while the pace will continue to get faster in the coming years. According to the World Bank, the overall growth in South Asia would slow down in 2019 in line with the global downward trend. But this is not going to happen in the case of Bangladesh and Nepal.

Growth in South Asia is projected to fall to 5.9 percent in 2019, down 1.1 percent points from April 2019 estimates, casting uncertainty about a rebound in the short term.

In India, domestic demand has slipped, with private consumption growing 3.1 percent in the last quarter from 7.3 percent a year ago, while manufacturing growth plummeted to below 1 percent in the second quarter of 2019 compared to over 10 percent a year ago.

Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region said, “Declining industrial production and imports, as well as tensions in the financial markets reveal a sharp economic slowdown in South Asia.”

He said, “As global and domestic uncertainties cloud the region’s economic outlook, South Asian countries should pursue stimulating economic policies to boost private consumption and beef up investments”.

In Bangladesh, the real GDP growth is estimated at 8.1 percent in 2019, up from 7.9 percent in 2018, and the country’s growth is projected at 7.2 percent in 2020 and 7.3 percent in 2021.

The garment industry of Bangladesh has benefitted immensely from the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China.

Hans Timmer, World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia Region said, “In general, what we see in high-frequency data is that Bangladesh is doing better than the rest of the region, especially India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. We see that in industrial production, we see that in exports”.

In contrary, India’s economic growth is projected to fall to 6.0 percent this fiscal year. Growth is then expected to gradually recover to 6.9 percent in the fiscal year 2021 and to 7.2 percent in the following year. Meaning, Indian economy will ultimate leg behind Bangladesh for sure and it will also leg behind Nepal.

China behind Bangladesh and Nepal’s prosperity?

For past few years, Nepal has already deepened its relations with China, which has helped this land-blocked nation to witness such tremendous economic growth. It is well anticipated that relations between Kathmandu and Beijing will continue to grow further in the coming years. One of the key factors of Nepal’s inclination towards China is because of India’s decade-old hostility and hegemonic tendencies. A similar reason is applicable to the growing relations between Bangladesh and China. Under the magnanimous statesmanship of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has not only been succeeding in combating terrorism and militancy, but it also has been successful in continuing its economic boom. Sheikh Hasina has put special emphasis on improving the country’s infrastructure and connectivity and by joining Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), within the next ten years Bangladesh will have connectivity with African and European nations, which ultimately will help in further boosting its export market.

In my personal opinion, while we certainly should put emphasis on maintaining friendly relations with India, it is equally essential for us to put importance on our relations with China as Beijing has already been proved as the most dependable and trusted economic partner of Dhaka.

A comparison between Indian and Chinese economy

Indians have a wrong perception thinking they are economically and militarily mightier than China. While the World Bank has already provided specific data showing India lagging behind Bangladesh and Nepal, it is rather foolishness to compare an economically struggled India with an economic giant like China. Let’s get some facts. According to the Fortune 500 list, 129 Chinese companies are amongst the top companies in the list, which is followed by 121 companies from the United States. Back in 1999, China had just 8 companies on this list.

Amongst the financial institutions, The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) occupies the top position, which is followed by China Construction Bank Corporation, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China. There aren’t any of the Indian financial institutions in the top-10 list. Meaning, India has nothing to boast of being “a strong economy”.

India in fact, is struggling to hold its position as a developing nation although the ground reality says, it actually is an under-developed poor country.

And to compare the military might of China and India would be simply foolish.

Shall Indian policymakers come to sense?

In my opinion, there is no possibility of either India getting rid of the culture of filthy politics nor the politicians learning any lesson seeing the speedy growth of the neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal. At the same time, since 2014 in particular, India has been witnessing the rise of radical Hindutva, where religious hatred, fanatism, extremism, and even Hinduist Kurush [jihad] forces. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its political and ideological cohorts are increasingly becoming active in transforming India into the epicenter of religious extremism.

Under such a situation, it is difficult for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pull the lever of religious extremism, which he had actively encouraged and promoted for the past many years. Instead, Prime Minister Modi will push ahead his agenda of transforming a secularist India into the land of radical Hinduists madness, which may ultimately pave the path to a volatile and unexpected consequence.

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