RSTV discussions are helpful in UPSC exam – this article features the ‘India’s World’ discussion on ‘Emerging Global Scenario & India’. It covers information related to Decline of Post World War Order; relation between Russia and China, role of economic might in global power play and position of India in the current world order.
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In this debate, the discussion is centred on the emerging global scenario vis-a-vis diplomatic ties and the world order, in an attempt to evaluate India’s standing in the global power structure. We generally look at how the world is changing through the lens of globalisation or technological innovations. But another way of looking at changing dynamics is to focus on the shifting sands of balance of power in global geo-politics.
Are we Witnessing a Gradual Decline of the Post-World War II Order?
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, a certain power structure had emerged and certainly, the United States was at the heart of that structure. The global order of those days was certainly relying extensively on the economic and military might of the US. But this unipolar power structure was challenged soon enough by the Soviet Union and thus the cold-war ensued between the two global powers from the 1960s. The cold-war ended in 1991 with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Post 1991, it seemed that a uni-polar world had re-emerged, at least for a certain period. Post 2000, this has been challenged with the emergence of China, India and Russia, leading to the establishment of a multi-polar world. China has been playing catch up to the United States and is well on its way to becoming the strongest economy in the world. Along with China, other countries like Japan, India, Russia, Germany etc. are also making rapid advances in many fields, thus setting up a multi-polar world order. But having said that, we can’t deny the fact that in many respects American power is still pre-eminent. Especially in the field of science & technology American prowess at the frontiers of technological advancement is way ahead of most other countries. This combined with their power projection capability makes the US a very significant and pre-eminent power in today’s world.
Contrary to popular notion, the American power and economy is not actually in decline. Since 1969 the US economy constitutes roughly around 25% of the global GDP. In fact, the rise of China is largely premised on its reliance on American markets. While the European and Russian markets have declined, the Japanese market has become stagnant and this void has been filled by emerging economies like India, China and Brazil.
From the days of Napoleon, the Anglo Saxons have followed a consistent policy of opposing a total unification of Eurasia and its domination by any one power. The French and the Germans have tried in the past to dominate Eurasia and have faced stiff opposition from the West. Today China is trying to unify and dominate Eurasia through its One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR). In this scenario, the western policy of isolating Russia via sanctions has pushed them into China’s embrace and the Russians are not particularly happy about this development. It’s not that Russia wants bad relations with China, they understand the economic and strategic imperatives of maintaining good ties with China but they are uneasy about China’s OBOR project. Even with regard to the new financial institutions like AIIB which was set up by China, Russia was amongst the last to join. The primary reason for Russia’s hesitance is that they understand the implicit nature of China’s strategy in making inroads into Central Asia and Western Europe.
On the other hand, the previous Obama administration was consistently cornering Russia with sanctions, as a response to the Ukrainian crisis, Syrian crisis and Russia’s alleged meddling in the US Presidential elections. Now with a change in leadership in US, Russia is keen to balance its ties with both US and China. Russia is looking at reviving ties with US under President Trump but Trump himself has been stymied due to domestic constraints with regard to ongoing investigations against his presidential run. The US congress has limited the President’s discretion in offering any kind of waivers in the sanctions against Russia. The more the US congress and administration squeezes Russia, the more it will be pushed into China’s fold, which Russia is not comfortable with. This is where India needs to be mindful of these developments both at the global level and at the regional level and craft an appropriate response to the emerging power dynamics.
Is Economic Might the Guiding Factor in Global Power Play?
While economic might does add a lot of weight to a country’s standing that alone is not sufficient to pull the levers of power in geo-politics. Military might and a prominent presence in international institutions is also required to be considered as a significant global power. This is the reason why India has prioritised global institutional reforms by giving a push for adoption of current geo-political realities in vital institutions like – UNSC, NSG, and IMF etc.
Where Does India Stand?
It wouldn’t be right to put India and the US on the same pedestal. Though India has come a long way since the Pokhran tests of 1998 in terms of its power projection capabilities, it still has a long way ahead to catch up to the likes of US in terms of economic and military strengths. India might eventually get there but it’s still a tough road ahead.
With regard to forming alliances, India has had a long tradition of maintaining ‘Strategic Autonomy’ and abiding by the principle of Non-Alignment. India has always sought harmonious ties with all major powers in pursuit of protecting and promoting its ‘National Interests’. India should never become a junior partner either with the US or with Russia. But a reality check suggests that, even though India and China are trying to diffuse the Doklam crisis, the fact is that both are natural competitors in some areas and this requires India to develop a web of friendly ties with governments in Asia, US, Russia and beyond. India should continue to pursue its self-interests via selective alignments while continuing its policy of maintaining strategic autonomy. But the developments on the domestic front throw up a few challenges. Indian leaders and strategic thinkers are divided due to divisive politics which is being fanned in India on the fault lines of jingoism, communalism and bigotry.
India’s non-alignment policy has not always stood us in good stead. During most critical junctures India has abandoned the non-aligned approach. Be it 1962 or 1971 etc. India has sought help during times of crisis. Diplomacy works effectively when there is a principle of reciprocity, when there is a give and take for mutual benefit. Big powers like the US believe that India has little to offer in return for diplomatic investments made by them. Indian foreign policy, particularly after 1991, has failed to take a clear stand on most critical issues of global importance. India needs to display greater deft in such situations and must bring something to the table in order to receive support in other areas.
China will continue to pose a challenge to India along with Pakistan. So currently India’s options might be limited in dealing with such a situation and it has to invest in developing partners to add to its diplomatic heft to tackle such situations. On the sea, Asia-Pacific countries like Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore etc. are crucial and on land out of necessity it’s going to be the United States. This policy of give and take is something that has to be internalised in our strategic posture, if we are to be considered a global power in the future.
There are two critical parameters on which India’s standing will be judged – one with regard to its economic performance and second with regard to its military might. Indian economy has the potential to do a lot better, provided our taxation policies are completely overhauled. GST is a start, if there is further rationalization of taxes it could unleash the economy and India could easily register 8% plus growth.
With regard to military might India still has a lot to do. Currently it spends a mere 1.6% of its GDP on Defence and hence does not qualify as viable partner for major powers. Military power is still the currency of international relations and India needs to ramp up its military infrastructure at a much faster rate considering the two-front challenge posed by China and Pakistan. It’s not only conventional defence that we need to focus on but we also need to pay far greater attention to our strategic programmes. In particular, to the sea leg of the Nuclear Triad. There is no other way to tackle the foray of China into the Indian Ocean and as well as its Himalayan incursions.
Should India Rethink its Non-Aligned Approach?
India has been accused of fence-sitting when it has stayed away from taking a stand on certain issues and has been projected as a weak country as a result of its non-aligned approach. It has become fashionable to run-down the non-aligned approach in the 21st century. But in hindsight we can say that India’s principle of strategic autonomy has brought huge dividends considering the context of those years. India has done well by shying away from becoming allies with any major power, instead its focus on developing partners all over the world to address its national interests is a more sensible and balanced approach. But that said, at times India needs to be pragmatic as well. India needs to be seen as pro-active rather than being seen as reactionary to global developments. It needs to be more decisive in taking a stand on critical issues.
In short, the approach of non-alignment is not irrelevant. It has to be reworked and updated to form the NAM 2.0. The approach of NAM during the 1960s coincided with India’s priorities due to the fact that it was an erstwhile colony and a developing country. But with India’s rapid growth and evolving stature, its interests do not coincide entirely with the non-aligned approach. India is in a process of transition; hence it needs to adopt a more nuanced approach on this issue by adopting greater flexibility while dealing with conflicting powers, like the US and Russia for example.
Approach to Civil Services Exam
GS PAPER II
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests; Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests; Indian diaspora
UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- India is well on its way to be considered as a global power. Critically evaluate the statement with focus on the Indian economy and its military might. (200 words)
- The Non-Aligned Movement has become irrelevant and has eroded India’s global standing in the past. Evaluate. (200 words)
The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2020.