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Body.Various geopolitical issues. How India should balance
The global situation that made all this possible has altered. Rivalries among nations have intensified. There is virtual elimination of the middle ground in global politics, and it has become far more adversarial than at any time previously. Even the definition of a liberal order seems to be undergoing changes. Several more countries today profess support for their kind of liberalism, including Russia and China. At the other end, western democracy appears far less liberal today.
Various geopolitical issues and how should India face it?
- Focus on South Asia-India needs to rework many of its policies in the coming five years. South Asia, in particular, and the region of our highest priority, need close attention. The region is one of the most disturbed in the world and India has little or no say in any of the outcomes taking place. India-Pakistan relations are perhaps at their lowest point. India has no role in Afghan affairs and is also excluded from current talks involving the Taliban, the Afghan government, Pakistan, the U.S. and even Russia and China. India might have recouped its position more recently in the Maldives, but its position in Nepal and Sri Lanka need fresh efforts.
- Challenge of China-Across much of Asia, China is the major challenge that India has to contend with. Smaller countries in the region are being influenced to participate in China’s programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India and Bhutan are the only two countries in this region that have opted out of the BRI. The challenge in the coming years for India is to check the slide, especially in Asia, and try and restore India to the position it held previously. India cannot afford to wait too long to rectify the situation.
- Balancing India- US relation-Deepening India-U.S. relations today again carry the danger of India becoming involved in a new kind of Cold War. This is another area that needs special focus. India must ensure that it does not become a party to the conflicts and rivalries between the U.S. and a rising China, the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, and also avoid becoming a pawn in the U.S.-Iran conflict. In the past, we manage a shift from non-alignment to multi-alignment, that could improve our relations with the United States without jeopardising our long-term relationship with Russia, all the while maintaining our strategic independence.
There is little doubt that current India-U.S. relations provide India better access to state-of-the-art defence items; the recent passage of the National Defence Authorisation Act in the U.S. makes India virtually a non-NATO ally. However, such close identification comes with a price. It could stress relations with Russia, which has been a long term ally and a defence partner of India. Closer relations with the U.S. also carries the risk of aggravating tensions between India and China, even as China and the U.S. engage in contesting every domain and are involved in intense rivalry in military matters as well as competition on technology issues.
- Big powers concern-The U.S.-China-Russia conflict has another dimension which could affect India adversely. It will impact India’s position in both Asia and Eurasia, with India being seen as increasingly aligned to the U.S. Hence, India needs to devise a policy that does not leave it isolated in the region.Again, notwithstanding the ‘Wuhan spirit’, India cannot but be concerned about China’s true intentions, given the regional and global situation and its desire to dominate the Asian region. Within the next decade, China will become a mighty military power, second only to the U.S. The ongoing India-U.S. entente could well provoke a China to act with greater impunity than previously.
- Disruptive technology challenge-As India intensifies its search for state-of-the-art military equipment from different sources, it may be worthwhile for India to step back and reconsider some of its options. Today, disruptive technologies have tremendous danger potential and nations that possess these technologies have the ability to become the dominant powers in the 21st and 22nd Centuries.A major challenge for India will hence be how to overcome our current inadequacies in the sector of disruptive technologies rather than remaining confined to the purely military domain. The U.S., China, Russia, Israel and few other countries dominate these spheres as also cyberspace and cyber methodologies. New policy parameters will need to be drawn up by India, and our capabilities enhanced in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and cyber methodology, all of which constitute critical elements of the disruptive technology.
- Slowing Economy issue-India is aiming to become a $5-trillion economy by 2024-25, the reality today is that the economy appears to be in a state of decline. Jobs, specially skilled jobs, are not available in sufficient numbers and this should be a matter for concern. The ability to sustain a rate of growth between 8.5% and 9.5% is again highly doubtful. The looming challenge for India in the coming years, therefore, would be how to build a strong economic foundation, one that is capable of providing the kind of power structure needed for an emerging power, and also one possessing the best liberal credentials.
How to balance India’s interests at global platform?
In response to the challenges China represents, India has four types of tools at its disposal: military power, potential partnerships with other countries (including China), multilateral diplomacy, and international economic integration. India needs to cultivate and enhance these tools as much as possible.
- Military power-States are ultimately responsible for their own security, and for most states, except especially weak onesmilitary power is a form of insurance that cannot be ignored. It is the most basic instrument that states have, and it is ultimately the only instrument that is entirely under the control of the state. That said, military power is often by itself insufficient, and expending too much effort in this area can potentially have deleterious consequences.Building sufficient military capabilities could conceivably allow India to deter China from using force against it or, if deterrence were to fail, to defend itself. Having such military capabilities may also give India a freer hand in a potential confrontation with its long-time rival Pakistan, because greater military strength in New Delhi would likely lessen the incentive for Beijing to open a second front in such a conflict along the Indian border with Tibet. The army suffers from equipment shortages, especially artillery. In addition, there are concerns about the adequacy of the army’s reserves,as well as a shortage of officersissues that could potentially affect combat effectiveness. These issues should be resolved.
- Partnership with other countries– Countries who can help India balance against China and possibly help India enhance its own capabilities should be approached. This is because China is far wealthier and militarily stronger than India, and this reality is unlikely to change much over the next two decades because the gap between the two is already very wide. China’s continuing high growth rate makes it difficult for India to significantly reduce this gap, especially since India’s growth rate is not much greater than China’s. This makes partnerships necessary for New Delhi, although such partners should share India’s concerns about China and be capable and willing to use their own military forces to counter China’s military power. Equally important, they should have enough clout in the international arena to be able to support India’s interests. Additionally, they should be both able and willing to help India develop its own economic, technological, and military power so that it can better balance against China.
- Multilateral diplomacy– India could potentially use multilateral institutions such as the United Nations to undermine the legitimacy of and constrain any aggressive Chinese behaviour in the international arena. In addition, although India is not a permanent UNSC member, New Delhi could conceivably garner support on issues it deems important from other states, especially more powerful ones like the United States, and, in so doing, attempt to isolate Beijing and deter China from acting against India’s interests. Admittedly, China could opt to veto such proceedings in the UNSC, but it would likely pay a diplomatic cost for doing so, and such veto power does not extend to the UN General Assembly. Meanwhile, in some situations, New Delhi could also conceivably partner with Beijing in such venues, in order to give China an incentive to be more accommodating of India’s interests.
- International economic cooperation and trade- Trade and economic cooperation are useful tools for growing the Indian economy, generating greater wealth, and developing India’s technological capacities. Greater wealth and technological capacities are essential building blocks of military power and greater international influence, both of which are necessary for meeting the challenge China poses. India can use trade and economic cooperation with China as one way of enhancing Indian economic growth, but New Delhi should be careful about buying into the idea that such cooperation can ameliorate potential conflict with Beijing. More broadly, greater trade and cooperation with friendlier countries and blocs, from the United States and the European Union to Japan and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, can also help expand India’s wealth and power.