Rising Asian Power

India to outdo China!

By Dr DK Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

India’s rise as a formidable Asian Power was confirmed around ASEAN and East Asian Summits held last week. Major countries engaged in the region reckon and back India as a potential countervailing force to China’s aggressive and expansionist policies in the region. The only impediment to India’s march is its domestic determinants such as the economy and social harmony. The economy has to grow at least at 8 per cent for a decade or so to meet her commitments at home and the objectives abroad. Because it is only the economic might of China India should be wary of.
India is unique in Asia in many respects: in political democracy, the only one in Asia that has sustained for 70 years since its independence in 1947; in social pluralism, it is the most diverse country in the world, with 22 official languages, 6 major religions, hundreds of castes, it holds together without falling apart unlike the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, the so-called developed countries; and in civilisational resilience, it has a 6000-year-old civilisation that has withstood several invasions, yet survived and thrived with its indigenous attributes.
In economy, India’s growth has not been as meteoric as that of China, it has been unaffected by the vagaries of the world economy, been reformed democratically, and is steadily growing. India can also pride itself in producing a massive technical human resource which is contributing to the knowledge economy of the world.
Undoubtedly, India faces the most difficult external challenges from Pakistan and China, says former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. But, I have difficulty in accepting his argument that Islamabad has been the spoilsport in India’s engagement in Asia. He argues Pakistan has blocked the integration process in SAARC to stem India’s growing clout in the region. It has bled India by abating cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, and has used nuclear blackmail to thwart India. Pakistan’s open and loud admission of its continued aggression on India is centred on Kashmir. Pakistan would not put the sword back in the sheath until Kashmir imbroglio is resolved.
India needs to address Kashmir issue with a defter diplomacy. For instance, why not India put entire Kashmir—both PoK, and the part in India-on its agenda, and decide if it should remain in India, or jointly be administered with Pakistan. That way, both India and Pakistan would remain partners, or tied as friends around Kashmir. Or alternatively, Pakistan and India settle for their respective possessions of parts of Kashmir, and sign another peace agreement like the one at Shimla, and, not ever stir the hornet’s nest any amore.
Third, New Delhi and Islamabad, should keep Kashmir aside for a while, Islamabad stops supporting terrorism in India, helps revive the SAARC process, build closer co-operation leading to eventual integration in various sectors, and then address the Kashmir issue. One perceptive observer said to me in a seminar on Kashmir in University of Hull, UK, “India will not cede an inch of Kashmir even after a bloody war, but Kashmir can be handled in an integrated framework under SAARC, where territorial affinities become less relevant to the growth and development in South Asia”.
Whatever may be a possible scenario ‘New Delhi has to resolve the Kashmir controversy to silence Pakistan forever and resume the bilateral relations in a healthier and friendlier setting. At any rate, New Delhi should be sending positive vibes to Islamabad treating it as a potential friend.
Admittedly, China is the real worry for India. It is run by an authoritarian Communist Party, has built a gigantic economy by exploiting its cheap human resource. Beijing perceives India to be a competitor in Asia. It is buying off India’s friendly neighbours with project finances. Of late, it is propping up Pakistan to contain India strategically. China is the only country in the world that is making territorial claims on all the countries it borders. It is making ‘fantastic’ claims on Indian territory.
Ludicrously, it objects to India’s current president visiting Arunachal Pradesh, one of India’s 29 states. It supports Pakistan on terrorism; blocks India’s entry into UN Security Council as a permanent member, although all other permanent members agree to it, and denies access to Nuclear Supply Group. Beijing, ungratefully, forgets that Jawaharlal Nehru generously suggested China’s permanent membership in UNSC.
India has to seriously and strategically counter China’s designs in Asia. New Delhi has smartly drawn closer to Japan, another country aggrieved and hurt by China’s geo-politics. India-Japan partnership across the Globe— Asia and Africa — would checkmate China’s moves. The ‘Quad’ conceived and nurtured by Japan, comprising India, Japan, US, and Australia is the perfect instrument to stop China on its tracks.
During the latest ASEAN, and East Asia Summits India’s position in Asian stage was acknowledged by most countries. The nomenclatural change of Asia-Pacific into Indo-Pacific includes India into the equation, acknowledging India’s role, being vital to Asia’s security.
So far, New Delhi has done remarkably well, shifting away from a non-aligned position to stitching strategic alliances with Japan, US, Israel, ASEAN and East-Asian countries. India can become an Asian Power, more effective and acceptable than China by being a model of politics and development, at home and abroad. Prime Minister Narendra Modi can no longer ignore the symbiotic link between domestic and foreign policies.
In the current globalised world, the efficacy of a country’s foreign policy is the function of the success in politics and economy at home and vice-e-versa: It seems the mandarins in South Block under the able leadership of NaMo are yet to learn this fundamental truth of foreign affairs. They will do well to recall the advice by the author of realpolitik, Professor Hans J.Morgenthau, who said, “India cannot promote its laudable foreign policy objectives due to her chronic and widespread poverty”. To be sure, much water has flown down river Yamuna since, but not enough to propel India to the world stage. How is China flexing its muscle, if not for its economic might?
Obviously, NAMO is enjoying his new found status in the world. He is perceived to be one of the effective global leaders. Will he be able to retain this image, at least in Asian context, if he fails to shore up the economy and maintain the social equilibrium? In addition to addressing the domestic challenges, the prospects of India emerging as the Asian power also depend upon how India develops its relations with in neighbours. Modi made a sound start by inviting the heads of the neighbouring countries to his swearing – in ceremony in 2014. Also, he made his first foreign visit as Prime Minister to Bhutan. But China has surreptitiously slipped into India’s neighbourhood. New Delhi seems to have conceded, in advertently or otherwise, some space to China in her neighbourhood.
Modi’s visit to Nepal invited euphoric response, but our subsequent policies like supporting the Madhesi movement provoked anti-India feelings. Nepal as been the most trusted friend of India, but now courts China, supposedly to tap into its surplus money. Similar is the story with other neighbours. Being the largest country, India overawes its smaller neighbours. It must be sensitive to comparative geo-politics, and embark on positive engagement in the South-Asia region. That will be the hallmark of a big power. – INFA