Pakistani analyst Uzair Younus has recorded personal impressions of his recent India visit on his YouTube channel, as well as in an interview on another YouTube channel called "Pakistan Experience". Indian media have gleefully jumped on it with headlines like "Visiting India Was Like Stepping Into The Future" and a "Pakistani analyst" talking of India's "communal harmony". It has helped Younus' channel draw its highest ever views, and inundated it with Indian trolls' comments praising Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and denouncing Pakistan. This is yet another confirmation of what former US President Barack Obama wrote in his book "A Promised Land": “Expressing hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity (in India)”.
|Indians See Uzair Younus Endorsing Indian PM Modi's Policies
Younus' "stepping into the future" comment refers primarily to the ubiquity of QR codes for retail digital payments that he observed in India. He said the currency in circulation accounts for 13% (actual: 13.7%) of India's GDP, versus 20% of GDP (actual: 18%) in Pakistan. He also saw the GST (Goods and Services Tax) numbers displayed at all retailers, and the GST taxes being paid everywhere.
|Pakistan's RAAST P2P System Taking Off. Source: State Bank of Pakistan
There's no question that India has made significant strides in digitizing payments in recent years. However, it should be noted here that Pakistan, too, is making progress in digital payments. Raast, Pakistan's P2P payments equivalent of India's UPI, has crossed Rs. one trillion mark in payments in 11 months, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. Pakistan is also among the world's top 10 smartphone markets.
|Pakistan Among World's Top 10 Smartphone Markets. Source: NewZoo
Younus also praised India's growing infrastructure and compared it with Pakistan's, claiming that the Pakistani infrastructure is better but it only serves the rich. He cited the example of driving time to Islamabad International Airport (serving 5 million population in the metro area) in Pakistan being much shorter than the driving time to Delhi Airport (serving 33 million+ population in the metro area) in India, claiming that it is because only the rich use the Islamabad Airport. This makes me wonder if the 5 million passengers who traveled in and out of Islamabad last year are all rich?
Uzair cited the example of a Muslim peer's shrine in Rajkot being looked after by Hindus which the Indian media interpreted as "communal harmony" in its reporting. The fact is that India is ranked as the world's worst in terms of religious hostilities, particularly against Muslims, according to a Pew Survey. Scoring a high 9.5 on a scale of 10, India’s score is found to be worse than all the South Asian countries, including Pakistan, which scores 7.7, followed by Bangladesh 7.2, Afghanistan 6.5, Burma (Myanmar). 5.9, Sri Lanka 5.6, Nepal 2.6, China 1.3 and Bhutan 0.4.
|India Tops Social Hostilities. Source: Telegraph India
National Debt and Deficits:
Uzair Younus argues that the Indian infrastructure is not built with loans while Pakistan takes on debt to build its infrastructure. It seems that the esteemed Pakistani analyst is unaware of the fact that India is the world's biggest borrower of infrastructure loans from various international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
India's external debt to GDP ratio is about 20% while Pakistan's is 34%. In addition, both India and Pakistan also run twin deficits: budget deficit and current account deficit (CAD). India's fiscal deficit is about 6.4% and its CAD is 3.3% of GDP. Corresponding figures for Pakistan are 7.9% and 4.6%.
India has perennially run huge trade and budget deficits. But substantial western capital inflows since the end of the Cold War have helped India avoid a balance of payments crisis. So, India's economic success is in part due to the change in global geopolitics in this century. In short, the West, led by the United States, is boosting India to counter China.
India is now emerging as the biggest beneficiary of the Ukraine War and the US efforts to check China's rise. Indian businesses are busting US sanctions to take advantage of the vacuum left in Russia by the exit of western businesses since the start of the Ukraine War. At the same time, the US is rewarding India by promoting it as an alternative to China in the global supply chain. Meanwhile, Beijing is warning New Delhi that India "will be the biggest victim" of America's "proxy war" against China.
Women at Work:
Younus saw many women at work in Indian cities, some engaged in constructions, other riding scooters to work. He compares it to what he perceives as absence of women in the workplace in Pakistan. What he misses is the fact that the female labor participation rate in India is, in fact, lower than in Pakistan, according to the International Labor Organization data.
Female labor force participation rate in India has recently fallen to just 19%, the second lowest after Afghanistan's 15% in the South Asia region. By contrast, Pakistan's women's labor force participation rate is 21%, Sri Lanka's 31% and Bangladesh's 35%. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mishandling of the COVID19 pandemic has hit Indian women particularly hard, with 90% of those who lost their jobs now shut out of the workforce.
|Female Labor Force Participation Rate in South Asia. Source: World Bank
The precipitous loss of women workers is disastrous news for India's economy, which had started slowing before the COVID19 pandemic, according to a Bloomberg report. Rosa Abraham, an economics professor at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, tracked more than 20,000 people as they navigated the labor market during the pandemic.. She found that after the first lockdown, women were several times more likely to lose their jobs than men and far less likely to recover work after restrictions were lifted. "When men are faced with this kind of a huge economic shock, then they have a fallback option," Abraham told Bloomberg. "They can navigate to different kinds of work. But for women, there is no such fallback option. They can't negotiate the labor market as effectively as men do."
Based on the small sample of people he met in India and Pakistan, Uzair concludes that people in India are very optimistic while those in Pakistan are despondent. Results of a recent Gallup International Poll of 64 nations differ from his conclusion.
Pakistan is in the middle of multiple serious crises. But the vast majority of Pakistanis feel that they have better lives than their parents did, and they think their children will have even better lives than theirs, according to a Gallup International Poll of 64 countries conducted from August to October last year. The poll asked two questions: 1) Do you feel your life is better, worse or roughly similar to that of your parents? and 2) Do you think your children will have a better, worse or roughly the same life as you? The answers to these questions reveal that Pakistanis are among the top 5 most positive nations among 64 countries polled by Gallup International. Anecdotal evidence in terms of packed shopping malls and restaurants in Pakistan's major cities confirms it. Such positivity augurs well for Pakistan's prospects of successfully dealing with the current crises. It will drive the nation's recovery.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Pakistanis said they live better than their parents did. And 69% of Pakistani parents think their children will have better lives than they do. In neighboring India, 54% of respondents feel their lives are better than their parents' while only 43% say their children will have better lives than theirs'. The global average for the former is 51% and it is 44% for the latter. The poll results put Pakistanis among the world's five most hopeful nations.
Uzair Younus' Background:
Uzair talks about his family's humble beginnings in a small Gujarati village near Rajkot which he visited during his India tour. His grandparents fled to Pakistan in search of better lives. He grew up in Clifton, an upscale neighborhood of Karachi.
In his effusive praise of the neighboring country that has twice elected Modi, Uzair completely missed the fact that Narendra Modi, now India's prime minister, is widely believed to be the perpetrator of a anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. The Muslim survivors of the 2002 massacre are still languishing near a mountain of trash on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, battling poverty and disease. Uzair Younus should have paid a visit to show solidarity with them.
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