After the devastating consequenc¬es of Mao’s Cultural Revolution which resulted not only in the loss of millions of lives but also put China in a precariously dangerous state of economic and social disintegra¬tion, the Chinese leaders had no option but to act fast. And they did. Deng Xiaop¬ing managed to topple the regime of Mao’s successor and the notorious “League of Four” and briskly took charge of the coun¬try’s government. He swiftly introduced economic reforms based on his understand¬ing of the laws that govern economy al¬though he was not an economist by train¬ing and education. The lack of a formal degree in economics didn’t come in his way of understanding what works better. China was put on the path of a dramatic economic restructuring and just within half a decade the country started robust¬ly ascertaining herself as a hard nut to crack. Agriculture was revived and the hunger that had killed millions in early years of the 80s was not only eliminated but China began to export the food grains. Market economy was encouraged to phase out the old and stale communist economy. In merely one decade China emerged as a power that was now perceived as a threat by the West and the USA to their econom¬ic hegemony. How could China achieve a miracle in such a short period of time? There are many explanations but if looked at closely one can’t help recognize that the equation boils down to one single and basic but significant driver of economy – Energy.
China’s rise as an economic, political and strategic power put the world in gen¬eral and the Asian powers in particular in a defensive mode. They began to look for ways to prevent or cope with the con¬sequences of this rising power of the Dragon. No wonder that India formally launched a policy in 1992 to try to recon¬nect with Asia as a whole, hitherto com¬placently ignored by India. The Russian patronage had put India into a state of slumber because the eggs seemed to be safe in the basket. India had not contem¬plated that the basket may break and eggs will also break or scatter if not break. It was no coincidence that Narasimha Rao rushed to America and became the first Prime Minister of India after Rajiv Gan¬dhi to visit America. India could no longer ignore that China with its rising power became more assertive in territorial claims after 150 years of her humiliation at the hands of the West and Japan. America sensed a future challenge to its interests in the region. India located at the southern flank of China gave a prospect of a new and a very large market for US products and so America changed its perception of India. India also seriously began to con¬sider the option of defense cooperation with neighboring East Asia.
A rapidly changing Asian environment, where improved economy has on the one hand allowed the populations of these countries enjoy better quality of life and on the other hand allowed these economies engage in the trade of sophisticated weap-onry, has also created challenges in terms of stability of these societies. Any small miscalculation can bring in an unmiti¬gated disaster. Economy drives the politics and political decision making always has to align national politics with the inter-national implication of the games played at home. The domestic policies in the Asian countries for their impact on interna-tional politico-economic scenario are more apt to be monitored and scrutinized by the watch-dogs because of the intense na-tionalistic tendencies of the Asian societ¬ies as compared to that of the western society. India has historically treaded a very cautious path and has avoided to get entangled into any controversial game-plan that may harm the interests of world economic structure. Apart from its ping-pong with Pakistan which India fully understands that she can afford to engage in as long as it doesn’t have any serious impact on the global interests, she is also more cautious especially in the present day situation of ailing global economy. Every country needs an enemy to keep the nationalistic ego of their electorate tamed and India needs one. Pakistan is a God-sent gift for India, both for domestic politics and international politics.
For India the priority is to mitigate its concerns of China and try to prevent China-led regional politico-economic or¬der from dominating in the East. USA is equally keen to keep its interests secure in Pacific and South China Sea. In that context India’s preference for the Asian regionalism centered on ASEAN serves a better purpose for India as well as USA. China was prevented from ascertaining its political influence through East Asia Summit (EAS) of ASEAN and she respond¬ed by shifting her policy thrust to eco¬nomic outreach. India can’t at this moment enter the negotiations of the US-led TPP (Trans-Pacific Treaty) because she can be marginalized in Asia precisely because of inherent structural weakness of the scaffolding on which India’s economy rests. India will have much to lose that way. India is bound to take care of its economy in order to remain not only economically but also politically relevant in the region¬al economic scenario.
Can India afford a major or radical do¬mestic policy shift in such a scenario of weakness that is enmeshed into the net of comparative strength maintained by the powers in the neighborhood? Rational thinking says no. Kashmir is an econom¬ic weak spot in India because of its stra¬tegic location thus incurring a huge defense expenditure on the exchequer. Economic restructuring and a robust economic growth in Kashmir can, like the flap of a butter¬fly’s wing, potentially favorably affect the Asian economic and political weather and every single human soul will be benefit¬ted. The onus falls more on the shoulders of the Centre to expedite the politico-economic process in J and K by paving the way for the honest, intelligent and educated class to participate in the ex¬pected and the promised construction of the destruction. And there is no doubt that Indian policy makers are sensible and attentive to everything that is taking place in the environment. They tread cau¬tiously. Simply, it is what they make their earning from!