Friday, December 17, 2010

India’s claim to the high table

Dec 15, 2010 - Satish Kumar
Global power structures have a way of adjusting themselves to the changing power realities and world leaders become instruments for the articulation of those realities. What US President Barack Obama said in the course of his address to Indian Parliament with regard to his support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council was a recognition of one such reality.
By the turn of the century, the outside world started taking notice of India’s power potential because of its consistent economic growth in the previous 10 years. Global Trends 2015, a report prepared by the National Intelligence Council of the US in 2001, predicted that “India will be the unrivalled regional power with a large military — including naval and nuclear capabilities — and a dynamic and growing economy”. This view was echoed in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America released in September 2002 in the words: “The administration sees India’s potential to become one of the great democratic powers of the 21st century and has worked hard to transform our relationship accordingly”.
In the next four years, there was greater realisation of India’s growing power which found expression in the US National Security Strategy 2006: “India now is poised to shoulder global obligations in cooperation with the United States in a way befitting a major power”. By 2010, India’s enhanced military capabilities were also taken cognisance of. The Quadrennial Defence Review of the Pentagon published in February 2010 pointed out: “India’s military capabilities are rapidly improving through increased defence acquisitions, and they now include long-range maritime surveillance, maritime interdiction and patrolling, air interdiction, and strategic airlift… As its military capabilities grow, India will contribute to Asia as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond”.
Independent studies of India’s economic growth also pointed towards a promising future testifying India’s eligibility for a larger role in world affairs. A report prepared by an Indian scholar, Manmohan Agarwal, under the auspices of the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada in 2008, estimated that India which shared two per cent of the world gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004 is likely to increase its share to four per cent by 2025 and nine per cent by 2050. During the same period, the US share in world GDP will decline from 30 per cent in 2004 to 28 per cent in 2025 and 20 per cent in 2050.
Global Governance 2025, a report prepared by the National Intelligence Council of US and Institute of Security Studies of EU in September 2010, has predicted that India which possesses nearly eight per cent of global power in 2010 is likely to increase its share to 10 per cent in 2025. The estimate has been made on the basis of measuring GDP, defence expenditure, population and technology.
This assessment is more or less corroborated by the Delhi-based think tank, National Security Research Foundation (which I head), which has estimated in the National Security Index 2010 that India is among the top 10 powers of the world and occupies fifth position. It ranks fourth in defence capability, seventh in economic strength and third in skilled working population. It is, however, very low in technological capability and energy security, holding 34th and 33rd positions respectively.
A senior Indian diplomat who has handled difficult international negotiations in recent years has pointed out that India is a “premature power”. He says that while India’s cumulative rank in the hierarchy of powers is high, its per capita income is very low, and it will take decades before India catches up with the developed world in this respect.
I am of the view that as long as the purchasing power of the people of major developing countries is sufficiently high, it is not necessary for those countries to wait until their per capita income equals those of developed countries in order to play an important role in world affairs. What is important is their proven capability to discharge global responsibilities. In this respect, India’s record is creditworthy, especially, if we consider India’s contribution to international peacekeeping, nuclear non-proliferation, disaster management, counter piracy and non-aggression.
A section of the Indian strategic community has been found to be taking a highly cynical view of India’s attempts to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. They point out that India should first address its innumerable domestic problems. But they fail to understand that in the era of globalisation, the decisions taken at the United Nations and other rule-making bodies of the world directly affect the destiny of millions of people of India. Unless India is a member of these bodies, it cannot favourably influence the decisions taken at these bodies.
WikiLeaks has disclosed that the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton regards India as a “self-appointed front runner” for a permanent Security Council seat along with Brazil, Germany and Japan. If that is true, Ms Clinton is quite at odds with America’s attempts to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership with India. But the lesson that India must learn from this is that the struggle for a permanent seat on the Security Council is going to be hard and long drawn. Nor should India take the US support at face value.
Besides, India must be careful in clubbing its fortunes with those of Brazil, Germany and Japan. Germany and Japan are not the powers of tomorrow. Also, their candidatures are being opposed by regional heavyweights. So also is India’s. But India must build its case on its own merit as a country of great future, and should do so through bilateral partnerships with strategically important countries rather than through group lobbying.

The writer is director, Foundation for National Security Research Foundation and former professor of diplomacy at JNU, New Delhi.
India’s claim to the high table

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