For quite some time, India has been a darling of the west. Enamoured of the country’s rich cultural heritage, long history and its being the world’s largest democracy and impressed with its market size and economic progress and potential, both Washington and Brussels look at it as a counterweight to Beijing, though on its part, India is keen to be on good terms with both America and China.It has also become customary for western leaders to woo India in the main for tremendous enormous economic and commercial opportunities that the country’s large middle class offers to their multinational enterprises (MNEs).Nearly three years ago, while on his maiden visit to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron went out of his way in flattering New Delhi and declared that he wanted to make his country “a partner of choice” for India.Though Mr Cameron’s counterparts in other western capitals have resisted being that sycophantic, they don’t feel shy of showering praises on India. The US, the UK and France, three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), have on several occasions backed India’s campaign to enter the elite club.In international context, power means the ability to influence the actions of other states. The greater the ability, the more powerful is the state. A great power, like the US or China, has that ability on a global scale. Being a great power is a function of both military muscles and economic resilience.Already in the elite nuclear power club, India is ranked fourth in terms of conventional military strength and seventh in terms of territorial power. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the world’s seventh largest military spender, with an expenditure of $48.9 billion, and is poised to move three ranks up at the end of the current decade. For half a decade, now New Delhi has been the world’s largest importer of arms.
India is one of the BRIC countries, the three other being Brazil, Russia and China, which are widely predicted to dominate the global economic scenario by 2050. Ever since it shunned socialism and embraced free market economy in the early 1990s, India’s economy has grown substantially. It is the world’s second largest market behind China and the ninth largest economy.Between 2004 and 2011, the economic output grew on average at more than eight percent a year making India one of the globe’s fastest growing economies. In 2012, the growth rate came down to 6.9 percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections put India’s growth rate for 2013 and 2014 at 5.9 and 6.4 percent respectively. With merchandise exports of $301 billion and imports of $500 billion, India is ranked 18th and ninth respectively on these indicators globally.Indians have also made strides in export of services, particularly that of information technology. From $30 billion in 2004, export of services had scaled up to $134 billion by the close of 2011.Great powers are also supposed to have soft power: the ability to influence other states by ‘seducing’ rather than coercing them, by getting them want the desired outcomes through persuasion, co-option or example. Cultural and political values and practices, such as democracy, human rights, and individualism, have been important sources of wielding soft power.
In case of India, Bollywood, arguably one of the world’s largest tinsel town, has emerged as an important means of exercising soft power. The Indian film industry and, of late, TV plays have had a profound impact on viewers across neighbouring nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, while its centuries old mystic cults, such as yoga and meditation, and recent democratic credentials hold strong attraction for the west.The way an aspiring great power is looked upon by those already holding that status is also important. As in case of the former USSR, the rise of China was looked upon with suspicion by the US. Does this also apply to India? Not in the slightest. Seen from American perspective, India because of its geo-strategic significance and military muscles is crucial to balance of power in Asia.
In East Asia the US has Japan as its strategic ally and in South Asia probably no other country is better placed to play that role than India. To win New Delhi to its side, Washington has been assuring it of what it wants. India is an ambitious country and has a strong desire to be treated as a power to reckon with. Indians wanted to be recognised as a nuclear power. Though formally the US has not granted their wish, effectively it did that by striking a nuclear cooperation deal with India in 2005.
[ Pagal Ko Stable Hakim Lucman bhi Nahi Kar Sakta]
Even a very brief description of the different contours of India’s power can hardly be complete without bringing Pakistan in the picture, as relations with and developments in its western neighbour will continue to influence New Delhi’s foreign and security policies.An unstable Pakistan will put Indian security at risk, while détente with Islamabad will re-allocate precious resources from military purposes to social spending. Not only that, it will help New Delhi see a bigger picture befitting an aspiring great power. Not to speak of the potential commercial benefits that improved Indo-Pak ties promise.Therefore, a stable, prosperous and friendly Pakistan is in India’s own interest.
hether Indian policy makers share this view is anybody’s guess.The Indians have long been desirous of having a permanent seat on the UNSC – a status which they deem will be commensurate with their military and economic strength actual or potential. The US has supported India on that as well.