With economic growth, political stability and prosperity comes confidence. Look at the big brother, the land of dreams, USA and the arrogance with which the country formulates its foreign policy and pokes its head in other’s business.
To be a world power it it important to show your clout. Take history, the Romans, the Ottoman empire, the British Empire and others. They expanded as they continued to annex one country/region at a time, till they had spread across continents. At times it was religious dominance, at others it was political and economic. A by-product was cultural dominance and assimilation of local culture in the macro culture.
In the modern world, where albeit wars are fought differently, all the above forms of dominance still continue. America decides the agenda – Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. It’s allies (or cronies), other western super powers, support these decisions. UN helps decide where atrocities are taking place, bodies like NATO give a seal of approval. A seat in the UN Security Council, the power to vote, lies with the big daddies. Except China. Which managed to sneak in this group and upset the party. When China growls, the world listens. And it listens even more now as the country’s economic growth gallops ahead.
Now why would India want to be left behind?
A solid year-on-year growth, the visit of all G5 countries’ heads in 2010 to India, and an ambitious bid for a seat on the UNSC. India’s knows that the world is knocking on its door, it wants a pie of the economic growth. India needs them, but they need it too.
For India, to be taken seriously, it needs a multi-pronged strategy. To get there won’t be easy. But, in this new, almost assertive India, impossible is not a word. So, in a simultaneous process, India has developed a stronger look east policy, an African policy and stronger diplomatic ties with the West. Its reluctance to form a strong policy in the MENA region was a thorn in the side, given India’s struggle with Muslim populated Kashmir, the biggest outstanding issue with the ‘enemy’ state of Pakistan.
And as India becomes the new global destination, it’s even got a seal of approval from USA. The countries signed a civil nuclear deal, US has extended support in helping with the 2008 Mumbai terror attack investigation, President Obama has visited the country, and a slew of agreements have been signed in the past five years.
Worryingly, the USA has decided to hand-hold India and help develop its foreign policy. Or rather, steer India towards the world architecture which US sees as right.
This latest trip of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is shouldn’t be viewed as a routine visit to discuss issues pertaining to the two countries. It has, in a subtle way decided to set an agenda for India’s foreign policy. I admire the beautifully worded American propaganda and diplomacy which no one seems to take offense to or try and read between the lines.
Mrs. Clinton has mentioned the ‘need’ of India to assert the human rights situation in Burma, a country which we are negotiating for gas, securing the Indian future. We have been told indirectly that at the UN we will have to make decisions in the larger interest. We have been patted on our back for tough talks with Pakistan, reassuring talks with Afghanistan, and pledging no support to Iran for nuclear technology. India’s look east policy has been appreciated but we have been criticized for not ‘acting east, engaging east’, meaning, not poking in the neighbour’s business (i.e. China, Thailand) like they would have wanted us to.
Interestingly and alarmingly, India now seems to be developing a MENA policy, which might mirror the American policy. India will ‘take reports’ from the USA in the progress for peace in the region, it will launch a West Asia dialouge, it has been told to do more in the region. India should remember, it needs the oil from the region, unlike the USA, which will keeping getting its (by force and launching a war, if they have to). India is seen as a country tolerant to diverse religions with an anti-war and a non-confrontational attitude. India should ensure that USA does not dictate the terms. Indian policy needs to come from India, from its foreign ministry and its bureaucrats, for the advantage of India and aligned with India’s broader principles of peace and mutual cooperation. Also, as America has said, India will share its ‘gold standard’ election conducting know-how to countries transitioning into democracy in the region. With American ‘help’, we are also going to ‘expand strategic consultations’ to the Latin America and Caribbean.
I only hope that, to show that India has truly arrived at a world stage, in a bid to get a coveted seat at the UNSC, to aim for a double digit growth rate until it becomes a developed nation, the country doesn’t end up losing its way. And it takes a strong view of arm-twisting by other nations. The gentle elephant should be self assured that it doesn’t need to be a hare to win this race, that the race isn’t against any other country, but itself.