Over the years, debates on China-India relations have evolved from being just fashionable to becoming ever more rigorous and complex. Driven by the need to develop their special niche, a number of recent studies have begun to focus on examining and highlighting the enormity, complexity, uniqueness and nuanced limitations of this China-India comparative paradigm. Both these books under review that arrived towards the end of last year not only bring a fresh flavour in terms of their perspectives but stand solid in terms of their relevance, thorough research and value addition to the extant knowledge and discourses on this theme of rising China and India. To underline at the very outset, in spite of bits of an overlap here and there, both books complement each other rather well.
Pranab Bardhan’s book provides a deeper, academic and expansive canvass of detailed analysis (at times tedious but accurate) on various sectors while Raghav Bahl’s book stays largely within contemporary times, at times repetitive, but has an amazing knack of connecting with the reader. Also, while Bahl provides an impressively lucid statist political commentary, Bardhan’s is a societal-economic approach with little reference to individuals or ruling regimes. In his preface, Bardhan calls his work a ‘short book on two large countries, focusing on …a miniscule segment of their long history’ and the one that is ‘not about their now considerable impact on global economy’ but about ‘what has happened to the lives of people inside those countries.’ He aims to demolish some of the popular myths and rectify some of the hype and oversimplifications like ‘the issue of democracy or authoritarianism either facilitating or hindering development’ (p.3).