India – 163 years behind China?

Bruce Einhorn

Some Asiatech readers complain that I'm anti-India, that I spend too much time comparing India to China, and that in these comparisons all too often India comes out looking bad. But of course lots of top Indian officials do the same thing. For instance: Gangan Prathap, the top scientist at the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation in Banaglore. The C-MMACS, which got its start in the late 1980s by India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, has its offices on the campus of the National Aerospace Laboratories, so it’s safe to say that it’s not peopled by a bunch of India-haters. Yet Prathap, the scientist-in-charge of the center, the other day made headlines with his unfavorable comparison of India to China. According to a report in Indian newspaper The Telegraph, Prathap says that India is more than a century and a half behind China when it comes to sci-tech human resources. According to the Telegraph’s report, “India will take at least 163 years to match China’s research workforce of 850,000 even if Beijing were to freeze the number today.” More: Prathap “has now used simple school algebra to show that even if India’s 4,500 annual science doctorates were to join the 115,000-strong science and technology workforce, the country won’t be able to touch the figure of 850,000 until 2170 AD.”

And Prathap is not the only Indian scientist pointing out that people shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that success in IT outsourcing and generic drugmaking mean India’s rise as a high-tech power is a sure thing. For instance, the Telegraph quotes Rajesh Kochchar, former director of the National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies, saying “We’ve lulled ourselves into thinking we’re doing great things.” The Telegraph also quotes C.N.R. Rao, head of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister, bemoaning the situation: “India’s share of global research publications in science has dropped to unbelievably low levels.” Fortunately, Indian officials like these realize that it's useful to compare their country's progress (or lack thereof) with that of the other would-be Asian superpower.

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