Geopolitics of India
India has entered a period of uncertainty. India’s business environment in the next decade is expected to be influenced as much by external geopolitical factors, as by the country’s initiatives in the area of economic, social, political and judicial reforms.
While reforms are very much within the realm of choices that India can make, it is necessary to examine if and to what extent India can influence the emerging geopolitical outlook. The developments that would shape this outlook may not necessarily be easily determined based on an analysis of present trends. They are more likely to be a series of discontinuities; therefore, there is a need to identify key uncertainties. In order to do this, one needs to take a view that transcends the traditional India- Pakistan prism and consider broader developments that may have an impact on India’s geopolitical outlook.
India’s geopolitical needs have to be examined in a world order where the United States has supremacy in military ideology and economy; NATO is the predominant military coalition in the world; democracy is at least notionally accepted as the universal ideology of governance; the free market is the dominant instrument of conducting economic relations; and technology is the greatest driver of economic growth.
It is a paradigm where elite societies seek to maintain security in a disorderly and volatile world, where regional powers such as China, Russia and Iran seek to protect their sovereignty and influence. Constructive non-state actors such as NGOs, as well as destructive non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, are challenging the present economic and political structure. The way that these groups are managed in the next few years will be a key determinant of the geopolitical outlook, not just for India, but also for the whole world.
We are in a phase in history where the new rules of conduct of international relations are being framed with the doctrine of pre-emption, subordination of sovereignty and primacy of prosperity. The nation-state remains the primary principle for organizing societies, though it is increasingly being challenged by forces within and outside its control. Economics and information have emerged, in addition to the military, as the main currencies of power.
It is an era where the theater of primary geopolitical action has shifted from Europe to Asia, an era in which developments in Pakistan, Central and West Asia, and China will determine India’s geopolitical outlook more than its immediate neighbours in South Asia. These events provide India with both a challenge and an opportunity to influence the shape of the decade to come. The manner in which India makes decisions relating to its foreign policy and strategic neighborhood will determine its future.
Four scenarios comprising alternative policy mixes that India may choose within the framework of directions set by identified drivers are developed. These include American ambitions in Asia, internal dynamics in West Asian countries, China’s economic resurgence, polarization in Pakistan, risk of a war over water between India and Pakistan, changing approach to international relations, and economic disparities within the country.
The policy mix chosen by India will very much depend on the vision of the country. From 1950 to 1990, India had a vision of itself as a self-reliant, non-aligned, secular state, albeit disregarding its economic potential. From 1991 to 2001, India viewed itself as a globalizing economy, but an increasingly fractious society. From 2002 to 2020, India would like to see itself transform from a developing to a developed country.
There are four possible scenarios for India’s geopolitical outlook for the future. The first compares India to a Frog in the Pond, who looks at the sky above him, muses about it, but is essentially focused on the pond that he lives in. India looks at the big wide world, muses about its permanent membership at the UN Security Council, but conducts its geopolitics very much from an Indian-Pakistani prism. The domestic ramification of this is that it favors a development strategy, which benefits the top 20%—really 2%—of the people, ignoring the vast Indian population.
In this scenario, U.S. Secretary of State, EU officials, Chinese and Japanese leaders regularly visit India but they want to discuss strategic stability in South Asia and the resumption of India- Pakistan talks. They do not consider it relevant to engage India in core decisions on global issues, except as a courtesy.
On the other hand, India maintains normal relations with China and Iran, mostly in trade, but does not consider nurturing strategic relations with these countries as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the U.S. and EU.
In economics, India is known as the cost-effective supplier of IT services. In 2010, she earns US$50 billion in exports, but employs only a little over 1 million professionals. Indiais still not seen as a large market but merely a supplier of cheap factors of production
The second scenario is that of the Cobra in the Hole. Like a cobra which is secure in its own dwelling, and is not concerned about the outside world, except for the prey that he surreptitiously grabs and eats in the security of his own home, India decides to adopt an inward-looking mold. It focuses on domestic growth and stability. It does not want to have any negotiation with other countries on any issue, except where it is almost essential and when it is seeking an occasional export opportunity to bolster its exchange reserves.
In this scenario, the government elected in 2004 decides to put its own house in order through a domestic economic revival. It announces tough carrot-and-stick approaches to deal with terrorism, crime, and other law and order issues.
Foreign policy is managed by the professional foreign office. India’s participation in SAARC is nominal. The president represents the country at SAARC government summits from 2004 to 2009.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to discuss Kashmir. India makes it clear that it will have no talks with Pakistan on this or any other issue. It strengthens defense forces on the border to pre-empt any Pakistani attack and gives security agencies a free hand to deal with terrorists in a brutal manner. India abrogates Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
India is least bothered about the tumultuous changes in China and the Middle East. It introduces stiff conservation measures to ensure its energy security and encourages companies to invest in local oil and gas fields. India accedes to all the global economic and environmental treaties but refuses to accede to any security treaty. It also restricts the entry of international human rights organizations and the media to the country. In order to protect itself from global uncertainty and irrational Pakistan, India advances its nuclear weapons and missile program, against global criticism.
The third scenario is that of a Calf in the Shadow of its mother, depending on the latter for food and security. Here, India joins U.S.-led Western alliance and agrees to toe the line without question. New governments in Washington and New Delhi decide to enter into a security pact in view of the nearing collapse of Pakistan and strong sense of insecurity all over South Asia.
India offers independence to the Kashmir valley under U.S. advice, and against domestic protests. FBI is put in service to assist the central government to control opposition at home. The World Bank and other multilateral organizations offer India a huge amount of long-term soft loans to develop urban infrastructure, power, and education. All restrictions on foreign trade and investments are lifted. The rupee is convertible on the capital account. India restricts its dialogue with Russia, China and Iran to economic and technical issues.
The politicians with a rural base have very little access to the prime minister who spends most of his time on foreign policy issues. The opposition also takes a leaf from the bookof the ruling party and their leaders cultivate senate staffers and academics in Washington.
India’s growth rate goes up to 8%, exports increase and a sense of prosperity arrives in the country by 2010. There are protests in rural areas against growing disparities, but the government manages cohesion by corruption and terrorism by counter-terrorism. Between 2006 and 2010, the biggest problem is terrorism. India now not only attracts terrorist attacks on its own account, but also for being an ally of the Western coalition.
The fourth scenario is that of the Lion in the Emblem (the three-faced lion in India’s national emblem), which believes in the victory of principles, and confidently perceives the whole world in all directions. Similarly, India re-formulates its geopolitical vision with confidence and commitment to certain principles.
There is a sustained effort to transform the agrarian economy into a productive, well-respected sector, creating employment with high returns for millions of new entrants in the rural labor market. There is substantial decline in youth propensity for crime and terrorism.
At the same time, there is a sustained effort to improve the technological edge of the economy by shifting the focus of the IT sector from maintenance to product development, and by developing biotechnology in both pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
India launches Resolution, Reconciliation and Reconstruction initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states and Naxalite-affected parts of central and northern India. Preventive measures are introduced in eastern Gujarat, Bihar and UP. All political parties emphasize genuine secularism and enter into an all-party accord to refrain from using caste and communal cards for electoral purposes.
India develops close relations with Europe, Russia, Iran, China and the U.S., and asserts its right to have independent relations with other countries. In 2006, Indian diplomacy launches an initiative for a new world order, with a Marshall Fund-type global transfer mechanism to reduce gaps in resources and know-how. India gathers the support of Russia, China and West Asian countries for this proposal. In 2009, the new U.S. administration endorses these ideas. In 2012, new institutions are created. In 2015, India is in the top bracket of the World Competitiveness Index. G-8, which had become G-9 with the inclusion of China in 2010, is made G-10 in 2015. India is its new member.