India-Pakistan Rapprochement: How Long Will It Last?

The cross-border bonhomie is likely to reach its limit as 2013 unfolds

Last week’s signing of a landmark visa agreement making cross-border travel easier between India and Pakistan, especially for business people, is the latest sign of how economic engagement is driving the peace dialogue the two countries launched last year.  It follows last month’s decision by New Delhi to permit foreign direct investment from Pakistan, and steps by both governments to allow banks from one country to set up shop in the other (see here and here).  Islamabad also has committed to granting “most favored nation” trade status to India by the end of the year.

Other positive signposts include the brief but productive mini-summit between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari earlier this year in New Delhi – the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years.  And retired senior military leaders from both countries have engaged in an informal but promising dialogue about important confidence-building measures. Continue reading

Beware the Benchmarks to India

The country really isn’t a global competitor to the United States

The Competition that Really Matters, a new report jointly released by the Center for American Progress (a think tank with close ties to the Obama administration) and the Center for the Next Generation, contends that America’s competitive position is being eroded by the emergence of skilled labor forces in China and India.  It calls both countries among “our fiercest competitors for the jobs and thought leadership of the future.”  Noting the investments they are making in improving their human capital, it recommends that the United States substantially increase the level of resources directed at primary and secondary education.

Citing the report approvingly, a New York Times op-ed column chimes in that “We’re being outpaced in producing the employees of the future…. We’re cutting back, while our children’s future competitors are plowing ahead.”

There is certainly a strong case to be made that the U.S. educational system is in urgent need of overhaul.  But as I read the new report, I was reminded of Rising Above The Gathering Storm, a widely-publicized 2005 report that was written by an eminent group of U.S. business and scientific leaders.  It likewise warned that India and China were quickly acquiring a vast reservoir of low-wage but highly-trained brainpower that would inevitably sap America’s edge in innovation.  One of the particular warning indicators it presented was that Chinese universities were churning out some 600,000 engineers a year and India 350,000, but U.S. institutions were only minting 70,000.

In similar fashion, The Competition that Really Matters advises that India “is already producing more students with bachelor’s degrees than is the United States. Over the last seven years, India has tripled its output of four-year degrees in engineering, computer science, and information technology.”  It also notes that “seven times more children attend primary school in India than in the United States.”

But quality is really the issue here, rather than breathtaking quantity. Continue reading