The Big Question: Why is India doing better than Pakistan?

The Big Question: Sixty years after partition, why is India doing so much better than Pakistan?
By Andrew Buncombe, 14 August 2007: the Independent

Why are we asking this now?

Pakistan celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain today (14 August) while India marks the occasion precisely 24 hours later. For much of the long campaign for independence - led by Mahatma Gandhi - the campaigners' demand was for the creation of a single independent nation in which the rights of Hindus and Muslims would be protected. The campaign for an independent Pakistan grew during the 1930s and 1940s, under the direction of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the All India Muslim League and the man who served as Pakistan's first Governor General. In the years since Partition India has proudly and robustly championed its occasionally chaotic democracy while Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators for more than half its history (1958-71, 1977-88, 1999-present). Now, at the age of 60, India's image is that of a resurgent, confident regional power racing to compete with China and the West. Meanwhile, Pakistan's image - at least in the West - is as a broken, backward country that provides a safe haven for extremists.

How correct are these perceptions?

In recent years India has certainly been making rapid economic progress. Its economy is now the 10th biggest in the world and a new middle class of up to 200 million has been created. The economy is currently growing at about 9 per cent a year. Pakistan's is also growing. One government minister said recently it was the third fastest-growing economy is Asia. Over the next four years it is expected to grow at about 6 per cent. The UN Human Development Index - which measures a series of economic and lifestyle indicators - ranks Pakistan 134th out of 177 and India 126th. In India and Pakistan, life expectancy is 63.6 and 63.4 years respectively, the adult literacy rates are 61 per cent and 49 per cent and the GDP figures are $3,139 and $2,225. However, the Gini Co-efficient, which measures a country's economic equality, suggests there is a slightly greater disparity between the rich and the poor in India than in Pakistan.

And what about politics?

India never misses an opportunity to remind people that it is the world's largest democracy. There is a broad swath of mainstream political opinion represented. The left has a long history in India, particularly in places such as Bengal. Meanwhile 60 years after independence, Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who first seized power in a coup in 1999, is desperately seeking to hold on to his position ahead of elections, technically scheduled to take place before the end of the year. Of the many difficulties he faces is the increased threat from extremists, largely situated in the country's north-west where Islamabad's ability to exert influence - and also perhaps its desire to exert influence - is greatly reduced. In the aftermath of the Lal Masjid operation this summer which saw more than 100 people killed, there has been a backlash against police and troops. The US - which has been a crucial backer of General Musharraf both politically and financially - has grown increasingly unhappy with his record at confronting extremists. The public of Pakistan appear poorly served by their leaders and yet there appear few genuine alternatives to the roster currently seeking popular support - a roll-call which includes former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who both intend to return to Pakistan from exile to contest the election.

Are Pakistan's military dictators to blame for all its problems?

India's economic transformation dates to a series of reforms that were introduced in 1991 when the government removed many restrictions and opened up the country to foreign capital. Tariffs were reduced and financial markets were opened. One of the architects of the reforms was the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Pakistan's attractiveness to foreign investors, meanwhile, remains hobbled by the country's political uncertainty. At the weekend, General Musharraf claimed that the development of both Pakistan and Afghanistan was being held back by a "a small minority that preaches hate, violence and backwardness". Yet a number of commentators have pointed out that Pakistan's military leaders have paid little attention to developing the country's economy and have spend vast amounts of the nation's revenues on its military budget. Even when civilian leaders have been in power, the Pakistan military - a major owner of business, land and logistical operations - has retained crucial power.

Is there another side to all of this?

Yes. For all the confidence of its politicians and wealthy elite, India is a country that still faces huge problems. It remains riven by the caste system, especially in the rural areas, and the majority lives in abject poverty. A report published last week suggested that 77 per cent of Indians were living on 20 rupees (25p) a day. "For most of them, conditions of work are utterly deplorable and livelihood options extremely few," said the report by the state-run National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector. And while India's middle class is frenziedly buying up consumer goods that for a long time were unavailable, the country's infrastructure remains utterly inadequate; roads are congested, ports and airports have insufficient logistical capacity and even the biggest cities are routinely struck by electricity cuts and water shortages. Many believe that India's head-long pursuit of consumerism is not the correct path for the country to take and that too many people are not being included in the country's progress.

How do Pakistanis react to the portrayal of their country versus that of India?

Since Partition the relationship between the two countries has been deeply competitive. There have been three full wars fought between them and several other conflicts, most recently in 1999 when Pakistani troops and fighters entered the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kashmir. The fighting threatened to escalate. There was huge worldwide concern because by that time, both India and Pakistan were nuclear powers. India carried out five nuclear tests in May 1998 and Pakistan responded in kind just days later. An earlier war in 1971 coincided with the eastern part of the country's own conflict with West Pakistan - a conflict that would result in East Pakistan securing its own independence as Bangladesh. India supported the separatists in their efforts. Anecdotally, one finds that the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis resent the portrayal of their country as a terrorist haven and go out of their way to show friendliness and hospitality to a visitor. They are also unfailingly inquisitive about the situation in India and whether the image of India's economic transformation is genuine.

Is India successful because of its own efforts?


* Politicians took crucial decisions that helped transform the country's economy

* Indian politicians have proudly protected the country's democratic tradition

* India has insisted that foreign companies must work with Indian firms, thereby helping turn Indian companies into international players


* India's large internal market has made it a hugely attractive option for foreign corporations

* India's large number of English speakers has helped it develop itself in industries such as the service sector

* India has not been entirely successful. There are still huge challenges facing the country


Ankit said…
You started out very well, but left the post incomplete. I wanted to read more of your thoughts but the post end abruptly.

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