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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Foreign Affairs Essays: The Rise of India II

C. Raja Mohan wasn't his usual self with silly phrases and words such as "laser like focus" sprinkled in the essay. Explaining how India increasingly holds the Balance of Power, he wrote a lucid and clear headed essay about growing Indian global power and reach. There is some focus on the Bush-Singh nuclear accord but the essay was more general and tried to present what Indian foreign policy is trying to achieve - usually the activities are not very clear reading the Indian media's piece meal quotation based coverage of foreign news.

"Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Indian leaders do not announce new foreign policy doctrines....New Delhi has made concerted efforts to reshape its immediate neighborhood, find a modus vivendi with China and Pakistan (its two regional rivals), and reclaim its standing in the "near abroad": parts of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Central and Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region. At the same time, it has expanded relations with the existing great powers -- especially the United States.

"As it rises, India has the potential to become a leading member of the "political West" and to play a key role in the great political struggles of the next decades."

While I doubt India would be political "west", I have no doubt about the latter phrase. His explanation of three strategic circles was pretty interesting.

"India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security."

He also talks about what held back India from pursuing these strategic objective: partition during independence (I actually think partition was the best thing that happended to India - more on that in a different post) and J&K terrorism sponsorship by Pakistan; pursuing (that silly and devastating) socialism causing the great decline in economy; and Cold War - with US allied with China and Pakistan, India was pushed into Soviet sphere. Now the change in direction of the second cause along with disappearance of third cause frees India to pursue its "grand strategy."

He rightly says Clinton didn't do much to have closer relationship with India (other than that presidential visit to India just before his eight-year term expired); Bush did. And I would venture to add that if Al Gore had become the president, he would have listened to all the nay-sayers and, India and US would still be distant democracies talking to each other through the media.

For those in US and India with an illusion that India will have to kowtow to US after the nuclear deal is sealed, he tries to make the case that India will never be a junior ally to US.

And US does not like having allies having a say in its actions; so the question of alliance, especially against a third country like China, is still up in the air and won't be resolved unless something changes on the ground.

"But shared interests do not automatically produce alliances. The inequality of power between the two countries, the absence of a habit of political cooperation between them, and the remaining bureaucratic resistance to deeper engagement in both capitals will continue to limit the pace and the scope of strategic cooperation between India and the United States. Still, there is no denying that India will have more in common with the United States than with the other great powers for the foreseeable future.


"It will never become another U.S. ally in the mold of the United Kingdom or Japan. But nor will it be an Asian France, seeking tactical independence within the framework of a formal alliance."

Overall a good read on strategic issues facing India (and to some extent US). Raja Mohan's forth coming book is Impossible Allies: Nuclear India, United States, and the Global Order.