Introduction: India, the US and the Anglosphere
There has been discussion that just as Great Britain gracefully passed its world power status to the United States, the United States must look to do the same with India or else face decline in the face of a raising China. But something else that needs as much mentioning is the geopolitical significance of India, being so close to the Middle East and Central Asia (something that the map on the left I hope conveys). It is also India geography that makes it an attractive ally and partner for the United States and the West.
India has moved beyond its former position as “neutral” and leading the non-aligned movement of the Cold War. Today, we see India as a growing high-tech, financial services and biotech powerhouse; and, while India is modernizing its economy like China, it is taking an open and democratic route. And just as US has its roots in the UK, so does India in many ways (beyond colonialism). Indeed, it belongs every bit as much as the Anglosphere, as the other principal members of the Anlgosphere (US, UK, Australia).
In the February-March issue of PolicyReview, Parag Khanna and C. Raja Mohan’s “Getting India Right” outlines a very comprehensive view of the geopolitical history and direction of the Indian state. Its a length article, but worth the read.
Indeed, in order to grow and survive, the United States and the West needs an ally and partner in the New Core, India is that state.
Taking a look at “Getting India Right”
Khanna and Mohan go through the usual argument for why India is an essential and undervalued partner for the United States: 1) Share democratic values, which the PM had recently emphasized; 2) US wants stability in Central Asia and The Middle East, the backyard of India; and 3) India has the ability to engage and limit China.
However, what I would like to share on Khanna and Mohan are some important concepts that should attain wider circulation:
1. The Indian Strategy – Neo-Curzonia, Multi-Alignment
While there is no guarantee that India will become more allied or aligned, there has been a continuous trajectory toward a diplomatic posture which is perhaps best described as “neo-Curzonian,” after the British imperial viceroy and player of the “Great Game” Lord George Curzon. Ironically, India’s neo-Curzonian worldview is the logical heir to one of the nation’s strategic ur-texts, Kautilya’s fourth-century B.C. Arthashastras, which locates India at the nucleus of concentric rings of potential friends and foes. A neo-Curzonian foreign policy is premised on the logic of Indian centrality, permitting multidirectional engagement — or “multi-alignment” — with all major powers and seeking access and leverage from East Africa to Pacific Asia. Such a forward foreign policy emphasizes the revival of commercial cooperation; building institutional, physical and political links with neighboring regions to circumvent buffer states; developing energy supplies and assets; and pursuing multistate defense agreements and contracts. Today, India has recovered this 360-degree vision, looking west to boost investment from Europe and the Persian Gulf, north to secure stable energy supplies from Central Asia (including Iran), and east for partnerships and free trade agreements with South Korea and Australia. It engages actively in regional fora such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (saarc) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (asean) while not shying away from potential strategic competition with neighbors such as Pakistan and China. Furthermore, it has transitioned from demanding respect on the basis of its nuclear status to proving greatness on the basis of its political and economic accomplishments.
2. India – The Anchor in the Middle East, Central Asia and East Asia
Historically, the U.S. has viewed the Middle East and Pacific Rim theaters as separate policy realms, with India falling in between and viewed through the exclusive prism of South Asian politics. But India lies at the crossroads of Asia, a factor which was at the heart of British policy towards the East. Only after the Second World War and the partition of the Subcontinent was India’s position weakened, a shift accentuated by India’s socialist and inward-looking policies. Yet as India’s weight grows in the international system, it can become a strong anchor in support of America’s ambition to pursue a liberal order across Eurasia. Indeed, if the U.S. should welcome the emergence of any one Asian power, it should be India, which shares America’s concern over the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, sub-state nuclear proliferation, and China’s ambitions. Furthermore, each Indian election entrenches its status and credibility as the world’s largest democracy, and its growing economic clout and diaspora presence in the U.S. are tying the two societies on opposite sides of the world together as never before. Indeed, there is not a single area in which India’s rise threatens America’s interests.
3. India’s Economy and Demographics v. China’s
Khanna and Mohan both speak of India’s advantages over China, despite China being in the spot light at the moment. China may have the “industrial revolution” in terms of manufacturing, but India is conquering the “information revolution” in the important new service-sector industries. A similar vain was mentioned in Foreign Policy’s “India Outsmarts China” piece, they outline India’s lead in the “knowledge workers” area:IT, financial services, biotech, medical services, etc. See an excerpt of “India Outsmarts China” here.
Another of India’s advantage is its population. India’s population is expected to be reaching its work-force peak in 2015, around the same China’s is expected to shrink and India “may even provide surplus labor to an aging China”. As Khanna and Mohan notes, “India is aging gracefully while China is heading towards an unprecedented challenge of getting old before it gets rich.”.
4. US-India – Building Closer Ties: Immigration and Economic Integretion
India’s quest to go global has not only reached the United States; in many ways it originates here. Numbering almost two million, Indian-Americans are now the wealthiest ethnic minority in the country, boasting a median income of $60,000 and 200,000 millionaires. Fifteen percent of Silicon Valley start-ups have been launched by Indians, many of them first-generation immigrants who have chosen to make the U.S. their home….Given the Indian diaspora’s contributions to American economic and cultural life, the more than 50 percent decrease in h1-b visas for Indian professionals has been extremely disturbing to Indians in both countries, and the 25 percent drop in mba applicants from India is similarly worrying. If the U.S. does not allow Indian nationals to become Indian-Americans — in a demonstration of American pride, many prefer this term to be de-hyphenated as well — it ignores the Asia Foundation’s advice that the Bush administration should “continue to take advantage of Indian-Americans as a bridge” between Washington and New Delhi.
Towards the end of the Cold War in 1989, the Pentagon commissioned the Rand Corporation’s George Tanham to report on India’s strategic thinking; he famously concluded that there was none. This is no longer the case. India is beginning to rediscover the enduring elements of its own traditional geopolitical thinking and actively considering partnership with America, if only to advance its own interests. Within a constellation of shifting regional alliances among major states and powers such as the U.S., eu, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China, South Korea, and Japan, India’s relevance to the future of international power balances is assured. India’s strategic canvas is broadening, as is its thinking in the military, economic, diplomatic, and cultural realms. America’s trade with China will eclipse that which it has with India for years to come, but democratic India is sure to be a more reliable partner.
Better relations, however, create rising expectations. As American and Indian interests naturally come into closer alignment, both countries must recognize that their noisy democracies will examine every minute detail in the agreements that the two governments negotiate. Preventing these noises from overwhelming the long-awaited strategic signals of greater engagement will be the most difficult challenge that Washington and Delhi have to overcome.
Conclusion and Final Comments
As mentioned earlier and throughout this blog, the US and the West must reach out beyond its current base to find new partners in the New Core, such as Brazil, India, China etc. However, there are unique qualities about India that make it an ideal candidate as the first New Core member to be fully embraced by the US.
India dynamic knowledge economy and democratic values (which it has increasingly identified as part of its foreign policy orientation) is something the United States must encourage and integrate with. India is not just a large state, but also represents ~20% of humanity.
On the realpoltik side, India is in a geopolitically important area of the world, in the crossroad of Eurasia and the shipping-lanes that carry Middle East oil and near the energy rich area of Central Asia. For the US, India is too important to ignore – we must embrace her or lose her to a geopolitical orientation contrary to our interests.
US and India does have disagreements over the issue of a Iran-Pakistan-India energy pipeline that is an essential part of India’s energy security goals. And also, there is the recent announcement of the India-China Energy Partnership. The Iranian pipeline runs contrary to US goals of isolating Iran. How the US handles this issue, as well as its cooperation with Pakistan, will be a test of how viable a US-Indian partnership is.
India is eager to find partnerships where it can, but it’s up to the US to find a way to nurture a true deeper relationship that goes beyond an partnership of convenience. Let’s hope that the US (especially under the future Post-Bush administration) has the vision and finesse to help lead the way.
In “Is India a Menance to the West?“, Samizdata posted a counterpoint with India (under strong Hindu nationalism) being the potential enemy further down the line. He quotes Immanuel Wallenstein, who stated:
Was then the new Indo-U.S. joint statement a victory for U.S. diplomacy? In it, the U.S. for the very first time legitimated India’s role as a nuclear power, by promising India that it “will work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India as it realizes its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security.” This of course undermined enormously the already weak position of the U.S. in opposing Iranian nuclear ambitions, since what India has received from the U.S. is precisely what Iran has been claiming is its right, “full civil nuclear energy.”
And in return, what did the U.S. get? – a promise “to combat terrorism relentlessly.” Since India was already doing this, it wasn’t very much. Meanwhile, India is maintaining its close relations with Iran and Russia, and even (on paper) a strategic alliance with China. More importantly, India is proceeding with Project Seabird, aimed at turning it into the major military power in the Indian Ocean. This does not make the Chinese too happy, to be sure, but it shouldn’t make the U.S. too happy either, since at the moment, it is the U.S. that is the major military power in the Indian Ocean.