jump to navigation

India’s feet of clay October 16, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

India is gradually emerging as a major economy and defence power. But it faces numerous hurdles in its quest for regional ascendance. On the one hand, structural disabilities constrain its ambitions. On the other, a vision deficit limits its ability to overcome structural disabilities. One of the most significant hurdles is its inability to manage, let alone legitimately lead, South Asia, its own neighbourhood. A number of structural factors have gridlocked its attempts to overcome this hurdle.

First, India is much larger than all its neighbours put together, accounting for more than two thirds of its neighbourhood’s area, population, economic output, foreign exchange and gold reserves, and armed forces. The consequent power differentials translate into a sense of insecurity in its neighbourhood.

Second, given its central location within its neighbourhood and enormous geographical expanse, India shares land and maritime borders with almost all its neighbours. This is a perennial source of conflicts because international borders in South Asia remain unsettled and multilateral fora like SAARC that could arbitrate territorial disputes are weak. The possibility of territorial conflict accentuates the aforesaid sense of insecurity.

Third, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the next largest countries in India’s neighbourhood, are not small and, in fact, are among the seven most populous countries of the world. This fosters polarization in South Asia and constrains India’s regional leadership ambitions. The presence of an erstwhile global power (Russia) and a number of nuclear powers (China, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia) in the wider neighbourhood further constrain India’s ambitions. (more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: India’s ‘strategy’ as an emerging power September 2, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

This paper is a short version of a paper submitted for publication.  It is not to be quoted or cited without the author’s permission.

Introduction

As India rises to power, some critical questions need to be answered both by analysts of that rise and those in the Indian government determining the strategies to be adopted. The most fundamental of these questions relate to the relationship between India as a rising power, its neighbourhood (South Asia), its region (Asia) and the world. How do these different levels of security inter-relate in the context of a rising power? To what extent does a great power aspirant such as India need to ensure competitors cannot garner undue influence in its South Asian neighbourhood? What strategies might India adopt to deal with the enmeshed nature of dissonance between its domestic and neighbourhood arenas?

A measure of power that includes analysis at different levels of the global structure is somewhat different from, but not inimical to, more traditional measures. These tend to assess power in relation to population and economic strength, while often ignoring the geopolitical and regional circumstances within which a rising power is required to operate. For example, power transition theorists, and for that matter their critics, often tend to look at issues in this way. (Gideon Rose, ‘Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy’, World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1, October 1998, pp. 144-72, p 146).

A number of analysts – especially of South Asia –  have, however, become interested in emerging powers in relation at least to the regional and global levels, if not the domestic, neighbourhood, regional and global levels we canvass here. This view of power acquisition from the point of view of a power’s region or neighbourhood ipso facto brings the domestic perspective on power acquisition into sharper focus, since the domestic-neighbourhood linkages are inevitably close – a phenomenon strongly evident in South Asia. It thus differs from the perspective of ‘offensive realists’, who claim that factors relating to the international order are always dominant.

India falls well short of a power that can function with ease within its South Asian neighbourhood. Indeed, policy makers in New Delhi are caught in a tightly woven, negative inter-relationship between dissonances within India and dissonances in South Asia. And events in South Asia are, in turn, heavily influenced by global developments. India appears powerless to sever these links.

(more…)

Some thoughts about the South Asian ‘region’ May 27, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Snedden, Christopher, South Asia - General , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

In April 2010, the body attempting to create a South Asian region—the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)—celebrated 25 years of existence. The fact that SAARC has existed since 1985 is an achievement in itself. SAARC members have few connections with each other apart from SAARC itself, some historical links with British imperialism, and geography.  South Asia is a long way from becoming a unified and coherent region.

SAARC’s most recent ‘Meeting of the Heads of State or Government’ was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April.[1] The summit’s (largely aspirational) ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration’ was positively titled ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. Somewhat surprisingly, however, its third point ‘emphasized the need to develop a “Vision Statement” ’, something that should have been done a long time ago.  Furthermore, SAARC has held only sixteen summits in 25 years, despite its Charter stating that ‘The Heads of State or Government shall meet once a year’.  ‘Annual’ summits were not held in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. More than one of these meetings was abandoned due to the parlous-to-poor state of India-Pakistan relations. (more…)