Rapid shifts in the balance of power in the region have led to arms ra...

  Jun 07, 2020

Rapid shifts in the balance of power in the region have led to arms races and to rising uncertainty, also fuelled by the unpredictability, disengagement and “America First” attitude of the USA. What should India’s response be to the new situation? Examine.

  1. As China seeks primacy in a world so far dominated by the U.S., the world faces a destabilising power transition which may or may not be completed. It is a hinge moment in the international system.
  2. India finds itself in an increasingly dangerous world, one that is fragmenting and slowing down economically. 
  3. India is today in a new geopolitical situation, caused primarily by the rise of China, and other powers like Indonesia, South Korea, Iran, Vietnam in a crowded Asia-Pacific, which is the new economic and political centre of gravity of the world.
  4. China-U.S. strategic contention is growing, uninhibited so far by their economic co-dependence. 
  5. Some seem so worried by what they see as an unstoppable China that they advocate that India enter into an alliance with the U.S. India is much greater and more resilient than these people think.
  6. If there is any situation in which India should retain the initiative and not get entangled in others’ quarrels, keeping India’s powder dry and free to pursue its own national interest, it is this disorganised and uncertain world. 
  7. This is a world that calls for creative diplomacy and flexibility, adjusting to the fast-changing balance of power and correlation of forces around us. 
  8. An alliance seems to be exactly the wrong answer.
  9. The Doklam crisis of 2017 is only the most recent example that shows that no one else is ready to deal with India’s greatest strategic challenge — China. 
  10. China’s rise is the foremost challenge which could derail India’s quest. But it is also an opportunity. The big question, of course, is how to handle China. 
  11. One possibility is to engage China bilaterally to see whether the two countries can evolve a new modus vivendi, to replace the one that was formalised in the 1988 Rajiv Gandhi visit. 
  12. The more India rises, the more it must expect Chinese opposition, and it will have to also work with other powers to ensure that its interests are protected in the neighbourhood, the region and the world. 
  13. The balance will keep shifting between cooperation and competition with China, both of which characterise that relationship.
  14. Today, India is more dependent on the outside world than ever before. It relies on the world for energy, technology, essential goods like fertilizer and coal, commodities, access to markets, and capital. 
  15. The U.S. is an essential partner for India’s transformation. But it is withdrawing from the world, less certain as to how it will choose to deal with China. 
  16. Certainly, it will no longer be the upholder of international order, economic or political, and seems to have tired of that role. India must work with other powers to ensure that its region stays multi-polar and that China behaves responsibly.