Not always greener on the other side: Obsession with Indian model not healthy

Published: February 20, 2012

‘For example, in India …’ is a popular prefix among many Pakistanis. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID


As a strong supporter of close relations with India, and nurturing the dream of next time travelling by land from Karachi to Dacca, and on the GT road built by Sher Shah Suri to savour the common historical and cultural heritage, I believe my Pakistani brethren need a reality check when comparing our two countries.

In order to progress we need to seek the objective truth.

First, there is really no comparison between India and Pakistan.  Pakistan was cutout of India in fragments, to form a completely new entity 64 years ago. We had no; institutions, universities, bureaucracy, military, hardly any industry, and not even an airline or our own currency; when we achieved independence. India had all these and much more, functioning since ages. Delhi had been seat of power for centuries with complete infrastructure. We had to build our capital from scratch. India’s population is six times and land area more than four times that of Pakistan. It is at least six times bigger in almost every respect, and probably hundred times in the number of PhDs, it produces, just to give an example.

No doubt, the last decade has pushed India to the centre of the world stage because of impressive economic progress, market size and sustained democracy. Its huge military has enhanced its appeal to global interests. Its tourism and film industries further reinforced its international image. However, there is still another side of shining India that is usually overlooked by awestruck outsiders, especially Pakistanis.

According to an Oxford University study, ‘55 percent of India’s population of 1.1 billion, or 645 million people (three times the size of Pakistan), are living in poverty. While poverty in Africa is often highlighted, there was more acute poverty in India than many African countries combined. Poverty in eight Indian states—Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal—exceeded that of the 26 poorest African countries. The poverty level among India’s so-called Scheduled Tribes is 81.4%.

Successive Indian governments led by Congress and the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) are responsible for economic policies that have boosted the profits of big business and the wealth of a tiny layer at the expense of the working class and rural poor.

By focusing on a broader range of factors, the Oxford University study has highlighted the continuing lack of basic facilities for the majority of the Indian population. Governments at the national and state levels have failed to provide even the most rudimentary assistance for hundreds of millions of people.

As a result of the lack of health care and food, 61 million children in India are stunted, the largest figure for any country, according to a Unicef report. The Financial Express commented that: “The wealth amassed by Indian billionaires—estimated at $340.9 billion by Forbes magazine — is nearly 31% of the country’s total GDP. This gives them nearly three times more weight in the economy than their American counterparts and over ten times of those in China. The GDP share of Indian billionaires’ wealth is more than four times of the global average.”

In India’s financial capital of Mumbai, more than six million desperately poor people eke out an existence in the slums. Mumbai’s gleaming skyscrapers that symbolise India’s economic growth sit alongside makeshift hovels.

India’s business elite likes to justify their position in society on the basis of their own personal initiative, acumen and drive. In reality, their wealth is the product of the exploitation of the country’s huge reserves of cheap labour and depends on the continued impoverishment of the rest of the population. This worsening social divide will inevitably produce a rebellion against the appalling conditions created by profit system and the ruling elite that defend and benefit from it.

The purpose here is not to demean one country in order to cover-up weakness of the other, but to objectively evaluate the strengths and weakness of both, so that we could arrive at realistic goals for cooperation and mutual benefit.

Both India and Pakistan have deep-rooted problems but not necessarily identical in nature. Therefore, while we can certainly learn a great deal from each other because of our shared background, we cannot blindly follow the other in every sphere. We have our own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and must assess them in our own original way to move forward.

The contributor writes on socioeconomics and has a background in trading and exports in the private sector.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.

Reader Comments (164)

  • From Herat with Love
    Feb 22, 2012 - 8:11AM

    Yama the Afghan. Please also do visit the Real India … not just what is showcased to impress foreigners … the veneer is very thin, and misleading … Thanks.


  • Geo Neighbours
    Feb 22, 2012 - 11:10AM

    @From Herat with Love:
    Foriegn Tourist arrivals in India in 2011 was 25 million. Domestic tourists in India are over 150 million. They do see the “real” India and yet keep growing the numbers at 25% per annum.
    Kashmir alone saw tourists this summer of 1.1 million, slightly more than the 900000 that visited pakistan. So… the grass on the indian side is perhaps not so bad!


  • wise counsel
    Feb 22, 2012 - 5:06PM

    @From Herat with Love:
    am not a guy …a wise counsel can also be of the female gender and whats a “firaaagi”???.Also the trolls visit pakistani sites because equal numbers exisit of pakistani trolls exist but they come in all nationalities,religion,caste and creed,…hehehe


  • lucknow nabob
    Feb 22, 2012 - 10:15PM

    @yama … so you’ve been taken in too …

    … please come here, I ‘ll take you round the Real India … It’s not hard to find, it isn’t difficult to see, but really painful for the tens of millions of poor, destitute, hungry and hapless Indians who have been forsaken by the 1% … the see no hope From the venal, corrupt and insanely self-obsessed Indian Political-corporate Elite …


  • From Herat With Love
    Feb 22, 2012 - 10:30PM

    @geo Neighbour

    … in fact all those tourist attractions are those that were created and built before the ‘contemporary India’ founded … in fact the current dispensation has no contribution to that … it’s only living of it …


  • geo Neighbour
    Feb 23, 2012 - 9:48AM

    @From Herat With Love:
    That is the reality of real India. Plus Tourists visit other countries for history! Provided, they feel safe and welcome!
    BTW, the new international airport in Delhi was voted amongst the 5 best in the world. In last 10 years, India has built /renovated at least 35 more modern airports. That
    is progress. However, Pakistan must NOT follow India. It must strive to have its own model for “Grass”!!


  • Mufti
    Feb 23, 2012 - 6:29PM

    The views expressed by a large number of readers to this article seem to fall on two extremes.

    First, the facts are not manufactured but based on accessible information in an Oxford University study. Secondly, the opponents of the views expressed appear to have overlooked the appreciation about the Indian progress, their impressive number of PhDs (education sector), sustained democracy, and of course the economic progress etc. Nevertheless, one cannot shut one’s eyes to the misery prevailing parallel to the progress.

    Why most of Indian readers went on the defensive I am unable to understand, because the point of the whole article was that both the countries have huge problems but not identical ones, and cooperation rather than rivalry ought to be our guiding principle. I personally travelled to India to buy a sitar because we simply do not have the kind of musical instruments India makes. I wish I could buy an Indian sitar in Pakistan. So, relax we can do much better if we felt more positive about each other. In any case, what do we stand to gain by attempting to prove that we are better kind of poor than you are?


  • wise counsel
    Feb 23, 2012 - 11:12PM

    @From Herat With Love:
    “… in fact all those tourist attractions are those that were created and built before the ‘contemporary India’ founded … in fact the current dispensation has no contribution to that … it’s only living of it “

    There is no need for current dispensation to spend anymore on it because there are enough and more of historical monuments , temples with wonderful display of art and architecture and natural beauty that can take care of the tourism industry while we can concentrate on marching towards the future in order to allievate poverty and the need of the hour is modernisation and not monuments.


  • 99
    Feb 23, 2012 - 11:38PM

    @From Herat With Love:
    when tourists visit these sites they dont sleep on the streets and travel on horseback. You need trains, airports, hotels, roads, bus services, marketing and security among other things and that costs money. Yes India is using its historical sites but its a stupid logic to think India got everything sitting on its backside and did nothing in terms of investment and development.


  • MRK
    Feb 26, 2012 - 8:26PM

    India is successful not because of emphasis on inclusive development etc, but because it has used its massive population for the benefit of its businesses. It’s not the PhD’s who have turned india around, it is the likes of ambanis, murthy’s, Thata’s etc. India has done extremely well in converting skill into success. have we though tens of thousands of pakistanis have been graduating from the O/A level system from the past few decades. What’s the result? All it takes is a undergraduate like Ms Kiran Shah, one of the most successful women business leaders on the continent. You not practical and actionable skills. Not pure emphasis on theories that lead nowhere.


  • Feroz
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:33PM

    To make progress you have to question the status quo and adopt best of class experiences from around the World. No system is perfect. India is the size of Europe with far greater diversity in terms of Religion, Culture, Language and Race. Today the European monetary union is on the verge of collapse while the idea of India marches on. No third world country has given its people a continuous Democracy and freedom. India and Pakistan differ significantly only in one respect – their Constitution. One has the most egalitarian Constitution,best in the World, the other better left unsaid.
    Pakistan has a bright future if it can pack up its obsession with Religion and give up its love for violence. Life is to be lived and enjoyed, not destroyed by man made fixations.
    God Bless all people in India, Pakistan and the wider world who live by their conscience and are wedded to human values.
    Make Love not War !


  • LucknowTaluqdar
    Mar 20, 2012 - 5:06PM

    Ferozk, what is the point in having a constitution when no Muslim can buy a house?! As my senior, Lucknow Nawab, has mentioned, the place is in a mess, Muslims have no roof to live under, can’t own land, property, are given no jobs.

    If this is the situation of us Lucknow Nawabs and Taluqdar, what constitution are you talking about? I am so glad Pakistan does not have a constitution like India.


  • bharat
    Mar 20, 2012 - 9:09PM

    The best thing about India is that the middle class is very big more than 300 million people earning about US $ 12000 Annually . Its quite impressive. However, tax evasion is rampant and really few pay taxes. The taxes would have helped our poor which are more than 400 Million.

    However, only economic growth can help our poor. I really hope we keep on growing fast.

    i always wonder why Pakistan despite a small population is considered a failed state ?


  • Rakib
    Mar 20, 2012 - 10:49PM


    “If this is the situation of us Lucknow Nawabs and Taluqdar………..”

    This is the situation of only Nabobs & Taluqdars. And it serves the contemptible fellows right. After Wajid Ali Shah of 1856 their decadence had hit the zenith under British protection; the fellows have hit the nadir now. No tears are shed for this lot whose clan had lived off the fat of the land & contributed nothing to India. However, if they are shelter-less they can be accommodated for a few days at Qaisarbagh. Nothing can be done for Prince Ameer Naqi Khan and Nawabzada Saiyad Masoom Raza since their friend, philosopher, guide and Clan Elder Nawab of Mahamoodabad was involved in Pakistan movement & after 1965 war their property was seized as enemy property by India. These men fought the case in India just to grab whatever they could while holding on to Pak-citizenship! Pakistan is certainly a haven for such feudal & if some of these chaps have not migrated there yet, time to do so is now since things will only get worse for them in India.


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