Tharoor talks India-China relations

A former under-secretary general of the United Nations confirmed his candidacy for a seat in India’s parliament during a Wednesday lecture in Luce Hall.

Shashi Tharoor, who narrowly lost the election for U.N. Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon in 2006, confirmed what had hitherto been speculation about his political future at the end of his lecture, “India and China: Competition, Co-operation, Conflict?” In his lecture, Tharoor discussed the two growing powers and analyzed how their relationship would affect global politics before roughly 100 people, including graduate students and faculty.

Tharoor began his lecture by presenting a 2003 forecast report by Goldman Sachs. That report predicted that Brazil, Russia, India and China — the so-called “BRICs economies” — would become powerful economic contenders in the global economy by 2050. Tharoor said the current economic crisis has dampened some of the expectations in that report, adding that both China and India are undergoing profound economic transformation.

“China and India will demand more authority in the international community,” he said. “I do believe they will achieve it.”

Now that China has become India’s biggest trade partner, Tharoor said, the nations’ destinies are increasingly intertwined. China’s dominant manufacturing sector and India’s advanced software industry complement each other, Tharoor said, adding that “the elephant is already dancing with the dragon.”

“It has become fashionable to speak of China and India in the same breath,” he said. “Some even speak of Chindia, as if the two are joined at the hips in the international imagination.”

But Tharoor argued that a conception of “Chindia” was premature: The nations’ respective paths to economic power will be greatly influenced by their distinct political systems, he said. Individuals drive economic growth in India’s democracy, Tharoor said, while the centralized Chinese government determines the path of China’s economic development.

During the lecture’s question and answer segment, Fox Fellow Joe Thomas Karackattu — a native Indian — asked Tharoor to comment on recent speculation that he plans to enter Indian politics. Tharoor confirmed that he is planning to run for a position in India’s lower house of Parliament, and said an official announcement would be released “in a week to 10 days.”

“It is a shame that the Indian democracy has been led by people who are not worthy to lead,” Tharoor said.

Charu Gupta, a visiting associate professor of history and South Asian studies, said she was pleased that Tharoor had given China and India equal weight, but wished that the lecture had been more holistic in its approach to the two nations.

“You can’t measure success just in terms of development,” she said. “You must measure in terms of people as well.”

Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior lecturer at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said conversations about the rise of developing nations must include strategies for protecting the environment.

“Development without a sustainable component is suicide,” said Tucker, who runs the school’s Forum on Religion and Ecology. “We are driving ourselves towards the extinction of the human race.”

Tharoor’s lecture was the 16th in a series of annual lectures at Yale sponsored by the Coca-Cola World Fund. It was hosted by the Yale Law School, the Yale School of Management and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.

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