Prosperous India Chafes in Shadows of China, Pakistan

Tuesday, 16 Mar 2010 11:02 AM

By Arnaud de Borchgrave

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India's two Ambani brothers can buy 100 percent of every company listed on Pakistan's Karachi Stock Exchange and still be left with $30 billion to spare.

That is one of many comparative conclusions about the two countries from Farrukh Saleem, a Pakistani writer focused on the giant next door, with a twinge of envy.

The four richest Indians, he writes, can buy all goods and services produced over a year by 169 million Pakistanis and still have $60 billion. Another conclusion: The four richest Indians are wealthier than the 40 richest Chinese.

As the U.S. Stock Exchange was bottom fishing, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries became a $100 billion company (dwarfing the entire KSE, which is capitalized at $65 billion).

Saleem's blend of admiring envy lists the baubles Neeta Ambani received from her husband for her 44th birthday last fall: a $60 million jet with a custom-fitted master bedroom with bathroom, a sky bar, entertainment cabins, game consoles, and so forth. And Mukesh, now building for $1 billion, the planet's most expensive new home — Residence Antillia (after a mythical, phantom Island somewhere in the Atlantic) — isn't even India's richest man.

At 500 feet in height, Mukesh's new family home will be a 30-story Mumbai skyscraper (first seven floors for parking and auto maintenance; eighth for theater, health club, and swimming pool; two floors for Ambani family guests; followed by four floors for the Ambani family with superb views of the Arabian Sea.

To top it all, not one, but three helipads. And 600 employees will staff the new Ambani home.

Saleem then marvels at India's penetration of America's domestic scene. Imagine, he says, 12 percent of all American scientists are of Indian origin; 38 percent of doctors; 36 percent of NASA scientists; 34 percent of Microsoft employees; 28 percent of IBM's payroll. And there's much more to come, says Saleem.

Sabeer Bhatia created and founded Hotmail; Vinod Khosla, Sun Microsystems; Vinod Dham fathered the Intel Pentium processor that runs 90 percent of all computers; Rajiv Gupta co-invented Hewlett Packard's E-speak project; Indians run an average of four out of 10 Silicon Valley start-ups; six Indian women have won Miss Universe/Miss World titles during the past 10 years; and Bollywood produces 800 movies a year.

Now on a roll, Saleem, indirectly chastising his home country of Pakistan, writes that Azim Premji — India's Bill Gates — is the richest Muslim entrepreneur on the face of the planet. Forbes lists him among the world's top 50. Chairman of Wipro, one of the world's largest software companies, he's worth about $20 billion. Mukesh Ambani, says the admiring Pakistani, is now the world's numero uno with $63.2 billion. Forbes downgrades him to fourth with $29 billion. Give or take a billion or two, who's counting!

More importantly, India is the second-fastest-growing investor in the United States after the United Arab Emirates, according to Robert D. Hormats, the under secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs.

Saleem says he believes he understands why Indians do better than Pakistanis. "We have the same genetic sequence and the same genetic marker (M124); the same DNA molecule; the same DNA sequence; our culture, our traditions and our cuisine are all the same; we watch the same movies and sing the same songs; so what is it that Indians have and we don't?"

Saleem's answer: “Indians elect their leaders; they don't focus on religion; neither do they spend time and money devising ways to kill their own and everyone else over religion."

Unpleasant to hear, but a great deal of truth to Saleem's conclusions.

And these were also some of the reasons that pushed the past three U.S. administrations to cultivate relations with India while they tried to find Pakistan's unlisted geopolitical numbers (e.g., ISI's covert link with Taliban). The Obamas' first state dinner for India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn't quite swing it. Nor did George W. Bush's nuclear deal that allowed India to dodge the nuclear quarantine it found itself in after testing nukes outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This, in turn, allowed the United States to sell nuclear power plants to India. But India was already looking elsewhere.

President Barack Obama's priority has been Afghanistan and ever closer cooperation with Pakistan. India, meanwhile, sidled back into Russia's embrace, an old Cold War relationship that gave India 70 percent of its military hardware from the Soviet Union.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew into New Delhi and flew back with firm Indian orders for $7 billion in a first tranche designed to cover no less than 12 multibillion-dollar nuclear reactors, an aircraft carrier, and a new fleet of MiG-29s.

As UPI's Martin Walker reported, Putin did not get an Indian commitment to select Russian warplanes for its planned $11 billion purchase of 126 advanced fighter jets. Russia, Europe, and the United States are vying to sell India a technological edge in the air over China and Pakistan.

Come election time, Indian politicians are prone to consult mendicants and yogis who dust off their cosmic calendars. India's geopolitical thinkers and planners don't need soothsayers to conclude that the United States puts a higher premium on its relations with China and for the foreseeable future will be more concerned with Pakistan than with India.

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