Neighbours in conflict
Over two billion people of the two Asian giants – China and India – had their eyes glued to their TV sets to witness the 'heart-to-heart' conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping taking place at Wuhan Villa, a famous retreat of Chinese leader Mao Zedong. At the same time, there was another epochal event unfolding in the neighbourhood, in the Korean peninsula. You may call it a coincidence that the head of North Korea, Kim Jong-un was shaking hands with South Korean president Moon Jae-in after planting a pine tree symbolising peace, near the military demarcation line at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone of the South. This event was well anticipated as all world leaders from the US to the UK, France to Russia, Japan to most of the East Asian countries awaited with anxious breaths.
It was only a few months ago that the world was watching in woe of an inevitable or a 'highly-likely' nuclear war, when the US sent one of its nuclear-powered carriers and several other warships in the Korean peninsula in a show of force by the Trump administration, just days after North Korea tested another intermediate-range missile. North and South Korea have technically been at war since eternity – the cessation of fighting was only enabled by an armistice signed in 1953 rather than a peace agreement. The Peninsula has been divided since 1945. However, the joint statement on last Friday, from the border truce village of Panmunjom, which was signed by the two leaders of the two adversaries to establish a 'permanent' and 'solid' peace in the region, has been the most remarkable event, so far. Now, the leaders of North and South Korea have pledged to jointly eliminate the risk of war and work together to achieve complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Even though there is still a long distance before achieving the prospective 'peace' in the region, given the fact that there are many countries involved, including the US, China and Japan, with scepticism among them for nearly sixty years, there is a chance that there will be no war in the future between the reclusive state and South Korea and a permanent settlement will be finally be met at the end.
Though the 'informal' meeting between Modi and Xi was more symbolic than the outcome of an 'unexpected turn of events', there was a time when the two countries were at loggerheads on a host of issues confronting the two nations. The 70-day standoff at Doklam last year, on and off intrusion of Chinese soldiers in Indian territories, India's huge trade deficit with China, and, moreover, China's relentless 'incursion' into our neighbouring countries, specially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives, and recently Nepal, which India considers a sphere of its own influence, are some examples of India's complaints against China for quite some time now. Whilst it's true that both the countries are the fastest developing countries in the world, it can't be denied that China is far more advanced in terms of development and its raging economy. China's economy is already five times bigger than India's, according to our former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. Whilst it's also true that India has an impressive story over the last 25 years, especially with its 7 per cent GDP growth, India has not built adequately upon infrastructure and construction in its own backyard. Apart from sectoral under-developments -- red-tapism in every government-funded project, lack of healthcare for rural India and adolescent girls, which is painfully insufficient in delivering quality and timely care to its people; microfinance, an institution that defines bottom-up solutions to economic inclusiveness; low-cost education for low income groups; rural economy for farming and agriculture communities; waste and sewage management, an exponentially growing economy; and sanitation, are some of the areas where India lags far behind China. If India wants to compete with China it has to take some painful initiatives for overall and timely development.
Although the complication that has been encrusted by distrust and suspicion between the two Koreas is almost similar with the present differences between the two Asian giants, it is true that the two countries are mature enough to settle all outstanding issues and usher in an era of friendship and diplomatic prosperity.