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India is more stable than most Asian countries

India is among the most stable countries in Asia, according to Swiss scholar Professor Gilbert Etienne.

"Despite its communal troubles, India never went through any deep crisis like China, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iran where the state and the nation were in danger," writes Professor Etienne in China-India-Pakistan: Disparities and weak links in economic performance, a book brought out by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies.

Professor Etienne, who teaches at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, said changes of Indian government following elections happen smoothly like in Europe.

''The judiciary, in spite of serious weaknesses, remains reliable. Besides, judges assert themselves, as seen in a number of corruption cases,'' he writes.

Comparatively, the book said the introduction of democracy in Pakistan has so far remained an uneasy process.

''The weakness of the institutions combined to a number of local tensions, violent struggles and rivalries do affect development,'' Professor Etienne states.

The book has a word of praise for former finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh. While comparing the attitude of the leadership of India and Pakistan on economic reforms, it says it is odd but encouraging that in both countries reforms were introduced by weak governments. In India, the process was relatively sustained, thanks to Dr Manmohan Singh.

"Without Dr Singh, reforms might have not gone so far as they did. Unlike many Indian politicians, he had a vision of what had to be done," the Swiss scholar holds.

About China, the book says it has not had stable, well-rooted political institutions since 1911. The judiciary and the legal systems, though progressing, have still a long way to go. The predominance of the Communist party is unquestionable. Individual freedom has, however, made considerable progress 'in all matters of life.'

"The press can be quite critical of weaknesses, wrong policies, malpractices, corruption... Officials can be outspoken as in India and Pakistan when discussing development issues,'' says Disparities and weak links in economic performance.

Unlike the Chinese, the Indians introduced their reforms on a low key, fearing to provoke too much opposition. A relatively weak government within the country's democratic set-up partly explains why reformers had to proceed more cautiously and gradually than in China.

According to Professor Etienne, the coalition government in New Delhi, as well as the state governments, are now openly in favour of liberalisation and keen to attract private investment.

About Indo-Pak relations, Professor Etienne says: ''Let us hope the detente appearing in 1997 will grow, because a climate of continuous tensions, incidents, arms race is not quite compatible with faster economic growth. In East Asia, it is not rare to hear such comments on the subcontinent.''

The book said despite spectacular progress in China and substantial achievements in India and Pakistan, a number of weak links appear within all three. Several of these could be overcome or reduced in a medium term perspective, such as fiscal deficit and subsidies, especially in South Asia, curbing inflation particularly in Pakistan. A more efficient management of banking systems is also needed, perhaps more so in China and Pakistan than in India.

The book said the Chinese economy has expanded at a much faster rate than India's or Pakistan's, one of the reasons being that neither of the latter countries have a Hong Kong at their door.


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