I’m no expert on geopolitics or global economics, so the following thoughts are offered under correction by those who know more than I.
1. It is widely agreed that China will be the world’s largest economy in the second half of this century.
2. There is no particular reason to think that China will cease to be a tyranny.
3. India has a population comparable to China’s. Although its economy is smaller and has not been growing quite as quickly, India seems likely to emerge into the middle-income ranks.
4. India is not a tyranny. It enjoys both republican governance and the rule of law in civil and criminal cases: neither perfectly, to be sure, but to a workable degree.
5. Despite the Cold War history of bad relations, India and the U.S. are in many ways natural partners, sharing a common English heritage in law and politics. Nor is the linguistic tie via Indian English to be ignored.
6. It is far from clear that the Chinese institutional structure will be able to carry it forward economically. The government has managed the transition from agriculture to industry with considerable skill, but whether continued growth is consistent with a lawless legal system, widely distributed kleptocracy, and continued attempts to exert tight control over communications remains to be seen. Singapore has shown that prosperity and tyranny can co-exist, at least during the lifetime of the founder, but Singapore’s government and courts are far more honest and transparent than China’s, and of course what works in a city-state might not work in an empire.
7. China also faces potentially explosive social problems in the form of the excess of young men over young women produced by the one-child policy.
8. Thus the possibility that India will come to rival or exceed China in economic power is one that the United States ought to reckon with, and, I would argue, encourage.
9. A stable peace between Indian and Pakistan would greatly contribute to India’s economic prospects, and also possibly weaken the noxious impact of the army and the ISI on Pakistani politics and economics.
10. Therefore brokering that deal ought to be high on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.