New Triangle Of Power
In an emerging tripolar world,stewardship of Indias foreign policy needs firmer hands
A Fulbright scholar,external affairs minister S M Krishna has doubtless read Niccolo Machiavellis Art of War and Chanakyas Arthashastra.Together,the two treatises define the dark science of diplomacy.In todays fraught geostrategic environment,they also teach useful lessons in the conduct of foreign policy.
Indias two defining international relationships are with the US and China.The US sees India as a natural counterweight to China.But Americas realpolitik is Machiavellian.It wants India to play the role of a permanent junior partner much as Britain has done from the 1950s to the present while it pursues its own global objectives.
However,if it leverages its economic and demographic strengths with Chanakyas finesse,India can rapidly emerge as Americas most important global partner instead of a perennially anxious supplicant.US GDP is $14.70 trillion.Indias GDP (by purchasing power parity) is nearly $4 trillion.Assuming an average annual growth rate of 7.25 per cent between 2010 and 2040 (a reasonable trendline-based extrapolation),Indias GDP will increase eightfold to $32 trillion within 30 years.Assuming,further,an average annual growth rate of 2.40 per cent (an equally reasonable trendline extrapolation given a low American savings rate of 4 per cent and a high budget deficit of over $1 trillion),US GDP will double to $29 trillion during the same period.Thus in 30 years,Indias economy using a mathematical model that factors in several economic and demographic variables will be larger than Americas.
This is not fiction but cold,hard fact.US think tanks have come to the same broad conclusion.So has the Obama administration.Few in South Block though recognise its far-reaching implications on the rapidly changing balance of global power.Chinese strategists,in contrast,fully recognise these implications.Similar extrapolations,assuming average annual Chinese GDP growth at a slower average annual trendline rate of 6 per cent,place Chinas GDP at $48 trillion in 2040 50 per cent larger than both the US and India.China is clearly the elephant in the room and already behaves like one.
Chinas principal global objective is to regain its 16-century Middle Kingdom status as the worlds pre-eminent world power an era in which the US did not even exist.From this broad aim flow several others.One,military parity with the US.Two,economic superiority over the US.Three,reintegration with Taiwan.Four,settlement of Tibet.And five,proving to the world that its alternative non-Anglo-Saxon political model can bring sustained economic prosperity to one-and-a-half billion people.
As the third angle in the isosceles triangle of Great Powers in 2040,Indias foreign policy must be at once more sublime and more muscular.India,like China,represents the future,America the present,Europe the past.
Americas history provides many clues to its current behaviour.It was founded by working class families escaping religious persecution from newly-Protestant England 425 years ago.These English settlers (Britain as a nation had not yet been formed) liquidated indigenous Indians,appropriated their land and shipped slave labour from Africa to work the fields.
As the US won independence and grew more powerful,it invaded Mexico and by 1848 had annexed what are today California,Texas,Arizona,Colorado,Nevada,Utah,Wyoming and New Mexico.By the 1890s,it had colonised the Philippines and built a silent empire arching from the Pacific to the Atlantic.After World War II it invaded Korea,Vietnam and Grenada and propped up dictators and puppet-monarchs in Latin America and the Middle East (including the early Saddam Hussein and the sybaritic Shah of Iran).It made a pact with the Sheikhs of the post-Ottoman Middle East to deny Arab citizens voting rights in return for US military protection ostensibly against Israel but in reality against popular democratic movements in their own countries.
With such a colourful past,it is hardly surprising that the US continues to follow a ruthlessly self-interested foreign policy in South Asia to secure its geopolitical goals.But both the US and China have an Achilles heel.The US is a declining power.By 2040,it will not only be relegated to the status of the worlds third largest economy (after China and India) but it will also for the first time in its history become a blackmajority country.African-Americans,Latinos and Asians comprise 34 per cent of Americas population today.By 2040,that figure will rise to 51 per cent.The implications of this demographic shift will resonate across social,ethnic,economic and cultural boundaries.
As Indias own demographic dividend kicks in,New Delhis bargaining power with a declining US and a communist China sitting on a tinderbox of suppressed peoples freedoms will grow if South Block gets its strategy right.That strategy involves deepening Indias economic and diplomatic engagement with Africa and (Brazil-led ) Latin America,influencing the course of the Arab-Israeli dialogue over Palestine and using old military and economic ties with Russia to our advantage in tackling the post-US Af-Pak world with its scattered terrorist threats.
All of this requires a ministry of external affairs with intellectual depth and strategic vision and the ability to project both globally.Sadly,the current MEA falls short.In an emerging tripolar world,the stewardship of Indias foreign policy needs firmer hands and clearer minds.