India as an old preeminent civilization in Asia has had civilizational influence in its neighborhood and in wider Asia. As a twist of fate it fell victim to Islamic onslaught in its weaker moments when it was at a fragmented state and also due to the military effectiveness of Steppe nomadic societies in upper Asia that suddenly became united under Islam. With the advent of gun-powder and its effective use developed by Europe along with the technological revolution that followed Renaissance, the Nomadic military machine quickly lost its relevance. As India was just getting out of Muslim yoke, it fell under the British. On the one hand, this was kind of inevitable, as this was the going global trend, the European colonial domination, but I wonder if India could have fared better, if India did not fall under the Muslim armies. Perhaps it would not have fallen so easily under the British and the situation would have been more like Qing and post-Qing China, where China was fallen but not taken over and ruled by a foreign Western Colonial power.
Influence and alliance is always a double edged sword, it can hurt and help at the same time. So one needs to be careful about consequences. I think India cares greatly for the technological prowess of the West, but it does not care for the civilizational influence. The West, as it is declining now in its influence in the world, is fast trying to convert as many poor disadvantaged people as possible using its still abundant wealth, rather clandestinely to its core beliefs (Joshua project), so it can have a sympathetic population of influence in different corners of the world, specially among the resurging influential civilizations of India and China.
The Chinese have old systems of thought such as Taoism and Confucianism, but they lacked a certain spiritual element and this gap was fulfilled apparently by Indian Buddhism which became part of its core ethos in Neo-confucianism, which is a mixture of Confucianism and Buddhism. Unfortunately it fell victim to soul-less and god-less Marxism (a rather disruptive idea imported from the West) at its weak moment. As PRC becomes more prosperous, my prediction is that Neo-confucianism and ethnic nationalism of Han Chinese will re-assert and take the place of communism, but they need to do move fast, before RoL conversion gains momentum, as there are already more than 100 million converts according to unofficial figures. So this may have long term adverse effect on the Chinese state in the future. Perhaps a boosting of traditional Buddhism with help from India can help China to fight this spiritual attack from the West. Perhaps Buddhism can also cement the relationship of India and China and ensure avoidance of any large scale conflicts between two neighboring power.
The dynamics of G3 (US/West, PRC and India) mutual relationship will be complicated in the next half a century as there is a process of realignment of power underway on the global landscape. A re-surging and militarily powerful PRC will make US/West realize the fallacy of their approach of engagement with PRC, because no rise to the top can ever be peaceful, its an oxymoron. The West is still drunk with the intoxication of being the pre-eminent global power and continues to drive under the influence, it needs some good slapping and cold showers to wake up, which may happen at the hand of PRC. The US/West will try to back-track, make efforts to control PRC resurgence and in this effort out of desperation, they will definitely come to India's door. I think this is inevitable in the next 5-10 year time frame.
India's challenge would be to ensure that it accepts the good effects of this relationship with the West, namely Wealth and technology transfer but resolutely refuses any room for further growth of RoL (as well as RoP
) among its vulnerable and poor (the remnants of Brown Shahibs among Indian elite are a phenomenon in decline IMHO and they are probably in their last throes, and will hopefully loose their relevance in a decade). At the same time, for both India and China, it is important not to jeopardize the long term prospect of good relationship with any significant mutually damaging blood-letting, as I believe in the very long run, in about 50-70 years time, when India and PRC both individually surpass the collective GDP of the West (US/EU/Oceania), then India and PRC, as immediate neighbors, will be much closer to each other and the declining West in faraway lands will become relatively unimportant for both as it will have nothing of value (wealth or technology) to offer to either India or China. It may remain an alternative source of high technology, minerals and farmland, as Russia is today, and a significant market, and as the third most important power in the world stage, but not much more.