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Monday, February 5, 2024

India shining: The Herculean Rise of the Real Asian Tiger

Gone are the days when India was referred to as a third world country by the Western powers that shaped the global world order.

The diffidence with which India treated other nations at the helm of global affairs has now been replaced with more assertive though assiduous proclamations such as the unambiguous statement of External affairs minister, S. Jaishankar, “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems”, at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum 2022.

Increasingly, now, India is taking center stage at initiating dialogues on critical social, economic and political issues that are raging in the new multilateral power structures which govern international affairs. What was once only a diplomatic and soft power under the non aligned leadership during the Cold War era has now moved to a considerable economic and military power.

In this regard, the year 2023 was epic for India in that it both convened and participated in a host of principal international summits addressing the same.

 In January 2023, India organized the Global South virtual summit, participated in the Quad summit (Japan) and was invited to the G7 meeting in Japan and also attended the BRICS summit in South Africa.

 More importantly, India also hosted two cardinal summits; the China led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in July and the G20 summit in New Delhi in September, while also being invited to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

While both US and China eye the Global South as a critical area for expanding their geopolitical clout, India has emerged as a viable alternative for the South Asian developing economies keeping in mind their shared colonial history of exploitation and hard fought freedom struggle.

Moreover, the issues raised by India in the aforementioned international summits further validate the premise that India is all for a multi polar rules-based international order, a striking feature which adds to the appeal of India in the Global South as well as with other developing nations such as in the Middle east and elsewhere.

Take for example, India’s strong recommendation to reinvigorate multilateralism to “adequately address contemporary global challenges of the 21st Century, and to make global governance more representative, effective, transparent and accountable”, in the recently held G20 summit in New Delhi.

As far as the reform of international financial institutions and managing global debt vulnerabilities was concerned, India was unequivocal in stating, “We underscore the need for enhancing representation and voice of developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions.

The international finance system must deliver significantly more financing to help developing countries and EMEs to fight poverty, tackle global challenges and maximize development impact.”

Furthermore, for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), India affirmed its resolution to mobilize concessional finance to boost the World Bank’s capacity to support low and middle-income countries that needed help in addressing global challenges, with a “clear framework for the allocation of scarce concessional resources, and to provide strong support for the poorest countries.”

As far as the US is concerned, the India-US strategic partnership is at an all time high after the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June and the subsequent visit of  President Joe Biden to India in September, where the two leaders affirmed the importance of Quad in “supporting a free, open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific” and President Joe Biden categorically reaffirmed his support for a “reformed UN Security Council with India as a permanent member”.

A few years before, in November 2019, US and India conducted Tiger Triumph (first ever tri service between the two nations), wherein the Indian armed services partnered with US Marines and sailors to rehearse disaster response and humanitarian aid delivery.

India also participates in the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise and trilateral Malabar exercise with the United States and Japan.  These military exercises enhance US-India relations and help create a more stable and secure Indo-Pacific region.

On the technological front, the two nations have signed the U.S.-India Comprehensive Global and Strategic Partnership. In the joint statement, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi congratulated India and ISRO on Chandrayaan’s historic landing at the Southern region of the moon along with the successful launch of India’s first solar mission, Aditya-L1. In this light, NASA and ISRO have commenced discussions on modalities, capacity building, and training for mounting a joint effort to the International Space Station in 2024.

Moreover, for building resilient semi conductor supply chains, Microchip Technology, Inc., would invest approximately US$300 million in expanding its research and development presence in India and Advanced Micro Device’s announced investment of US$400 million in India over the next five years to expand research, development, and engineering operations in India.

The defense ties with the two nations have also deepened with the diversification of the Indo-US Major Defense Partnership, along with LEMOA, COMCASA and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, allowing for accelerated defense industrial collaboration and cooperation in emerging domains such as space and AI. The commercial agreement between GE Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) to manufacture GE F-414 jet engines in India will result in an unprecedented advancement of technology transfer and co-production.

India has also emerged as a hub for maintenance and repair of forward deployed US Navy assets, aircrafts and other vessels through the most recent agreement signed by the U.S. Navy and Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders, Ltd., in August 2023.

As far as climate change is concerned, both the nations have exchanged letters of interest to each provide up to US$500 million to anchor a renewable infrastructure investment fund while jointly supporting a payment security mechanism financed through both public and private funds which shall accelerate the procurement of 10,000 made-in India electric buses including those for the Indian PM e-Bus Sewa program that will also include the associated charging infrastructure.

On the other hand, to counter China’s ambitions in Central and Middle East through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India has countered its diplomacy through other multilateral engagements such as I2U2 wherein India’s economic relations with the UAE have improved through the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Along with the development of the Middle East Food Security Corridor through the I2U2 Partnership, a joint alliance of India, Israel, UAE and the US, the UAE is developing food systems in India and a series of integrated food parks under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) agreements signed in 2017, thereby enhancing cooperation frameworks in maritime transport, freight logistics and food processing.

These will help further reduce India’s water consumption in agriculture and eliminate food wastage through enhanced warehousing infrastructure. For instance, in 2019, the UAE committed US$5 billion to eight food processing units in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat and US$2 billion to contract farming, sourcing of agricultural commodities and related infrastructure.

Moreover, at a time when its neighbor Pakistan is ravaged by economic and political crisis and China is beset with demographic problems of an ageing population, the Indian economy is set to touch $7 billion by 2030 and become the third largest economy by 2027, as per Morgan Stanley.

Moreover, both of India’s neighbors are being perceived as threats, Pakistan, as a rogue nation ruled by the army and the ISI, creating, harboring, and sponsoring fringe terrorist outfits such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Chinese Communist Party posing a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of several South Asian economies (to control energy security needs and to disrupt trade shipments of other nations) such as Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia in the South China Sea through which one third of the global maritime trade passes. From 2014 to 2016, China has constructed more island surfaces that all other nations in the region and, as of 2016, also placed military equipment on one of its artificial islands unlike other countries, despite the stark UNCLOS ruling against China’s maritime claims.

Also, under the One China Policy, has tried to subjugate Hong Kong by stoking mass protests in the city, cracking down on human rights, censoring independent media, and prosecuting civil rights leaders under the National Security Law. On the other hand, as far as Taiwan is concerned, the CCP, through diplomatic offensives and military coercion has also been trying to appropriate Taiwan’s independence.

At the level of espionage, the CCP poses a grave danger to the national and international property security of every nation including America, Australia, Taiwan, India and more, by stealing sensitive cyber technology and defense information and data for decades. Given such a nefarious historical background of its immediate competitors, India is best placed to replace China as the next best alternative for economic, military, cyber and technological partnership while providing the same mechanics which made China popular; cheap labor and a huge, aspiring market gearing ahead for accelerated growth and development.

In summary, the time has come for the world to witness India’s departure from a regional, sidelined economy, to the majestic Asian tiger it has always been: a strong, resilient and powerful nation, spearheading the world’s international affairs without any uncertainty and hesitation.


Gaurav Sharma 

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