This is an interesting time in world politics – the USA wants to hold onto its position as a superpower while on the flipside China, a country whose meteoric rise in the 21st century makes it a worthy contender for the position of superpower. Both countries are gathering allies to become a dominant force in world politics. While the world grapples with the covid pandemic which has brought the entire world to a halt, in a post pandemic world India should take up a dominant and leadership role in world politics rather than being a silent spectator. However, in order to achieve this, India has to overcome a number of challenges.
India has a very interesting neighbourhood. In late January this year, Pakistan’s army chief expressed to conduct a peace talk with India. While Pakistan had previously expressed its interest to conduct peace talk with India, India has always made its stance clear- talks and terrorism don’t go hand in hand. Critics believe that this could be an attempt by Pakistan to make right noises before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) sits down to review terror financing in Pakistan. In February this year, India had to beef up its security in the India-Myanmar border as Myanmar’s army staged a coup and took control of all government institutions. While the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) tried to condemn the coup, China vetoed the statement and is actively blocking attempts to restore democracy. It is also believed that China helped Myanmar’s army in this coup by supplying them arms.
Then we have Sri Lanka. This country has become a very important diplomatic battle ground for India as the Chinese influence is being encouraged in the country and the Sri Lankan government seems to be comfortable with it. Earlier this year, the Sri Lankan government scrapped a trilateral port deal, as per which Japan and India were supposed to build an eastern terminal for Colombo port. The majority stakes were to be held by the Sri Lankan port authority (51%) and the rest 49% by India and Japan. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government has been awarding various infrastructure deals worth billions of dollars to China.
The next significant turf is Afghanistan. The Biden administration has announced it will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. It is important to understand that India has great strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan. India supports and works closely with the Afghan government. On the strategic front, support from Afghanistan helps India to counter terrorism activites from Pakistan. Indian have invested and granted millions of dollars for infrastructure development in the country. Now, with the withdrawal of the American troops, there is a high possibility of the Taliban coming into power. India never recognised the Taliban as it has been always clear on its stance -talks and terrorism don’t go hand in hand. But things have started to change, as per latest development, Indian foreign minister’s latest visit to Doha indicates that India wants to open a communication channel with the Taliban (Doha is the city where Taliban has an external office and is where Afghan peace deal was held). The changing power equations are evident and India is making the right moves by adapting its policies to the changing ground rules in Afghanistan.
In a recent interview, India’s chief of defence General Bipin Rawat recognised China as India’s biggest threat. India is still engaged in a border standoff with China. The government of India has decided to adopt a 360 degree approach, where it plans to counter China militarily, diplomatically and economically. India’s inclusion in the QUAD (an alliance of India, Japan, USA and Australia for a free and secure Indo-pacific) has not gone down well with Beijing. In Spite of repeated warnings from China, the QUAD countries formed an alliance which involves military cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, to secure a rules-based global order, liberal trading system and freedom of navigation. It seeks to contain a ‘rising China’ and work against its predatory trade and economic policies.
At the recent G7 and the NATO summit, all the member countries agreed that it is important to counter the growing influence and expansionism of China. China’s position as a superpower could significantly impair the democratic values and principles, which the world cannot afford.
China’s growing influence among India’s neighbours is a cause of worry. India has to use all tricks possible to reduce the chinese influence among its neighbours like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. But for that to be done, it has to resolve its long standing disputes with these countries like the Teesta river dispute with Bangladesh and a maritime dispute with Sri Lanka. It should leave no stone unturned for it to remain an uncontested leader of the Indian Subcontinent.
Under the present regime, India has clearly demonstrated its will to play a leading role in the global arena and be counted as ‘pole’ in its own right. Continued stability and prosperity at home and political consensus on broad foreign policy parameters, will help India reach its goal.