Saturday, August 26, 2006

India, China - then, now

I happened to read this post at the Patent pending blog , a post about the Great wall of China. I reproduce here:

The first major wall was built during the reign of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China during the Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty (221 B.C - 206 B.C.). It was created by joining several existing walls built previously by regional governments. This first wall was built much further north than the current Great Wall, and made of materials that have largely dissappeared over time.

The Great Wall that can still be seen today was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), on a much larger scale and made of stone on the sides and top. The wall housed garrisons, signal fires, and a messenger and postal service. The primary purpose was to make it difficult and slow for nomadic armies to get their horses across the wall. Without their horses the Huns were not a serious military threat.

India (I am no authority on history, so I wont comment on the timeframes) and Indian kingdoms were also threatened by nomadic armies of invaders from time to time, much like China, but what did India do? Nothing. Though we built small forts, we waited for them to come in, fight, won a few times (at which points, we stupidly sent them back intact with gifts) lost a few times - entirely reactive. The Chinese on the contrary were proactive and built a great wall (no ordinary wall) through some superhuman effort to keep out the invaders.

Today, many hundreds of years later, India is yet to kick start infrastructure, though we have pockets of infrastructure (like the forts of yore). The Chinese like the great wall builders of yore, have made huge investments in infrastructure. Argue as you may about the countries were different, are different - whatever the line of argument, it kind of makes of think of how centuries apart, the countries approaches does not seem to have changed!


Raj said...

I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that, historically, we were made up of many fragmented states and kingdoms and there was never an entity called India, with a central command. China's homogeneity and a centralised system made them capable of taking such proactive decisions on matters of security,etc.

Neelakantan said...

It is quite tempting to use that as an analogy and I thought about it, but India also had a lot of alliances; we did not capitalize on it perhaps.