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Home > News > Columnists > K Subrahmanyam

Does India have a world view?

January 09, 2006

In her article 'The Promise of Democratic Peace' published on December 11, 2005 in The Washington Post, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came up with a number of new formulations, from the US point of view which she herself called ambitious, even revolutionary but not imprudent. These were:

1.For the first time since the peace of Westphalia in 1648 the prospects of violent conflict between great powers is becoming ever more unthinkable.

2. Major states are increasingly competing in peace, not preparing for war.

3. Today the US is building a more lasting and durable form of global stability: a balance of power that favours freedom comprising the US, Japan, Russia, the European Union, China and India, especially the last two.

4. The greatest threats to our security are defined more by the dynamics within weak and failing States than by the borders between strong and aggressive ones.

5. The unparalled danger posed by weak and failing States are transnational ones relating to terrorism, pandemics, movement of criminals and terrorists and the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons.

The goal of US statecraft is to help to create a world of democratic, well-governed States that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. In the 'broader Middle East'' there is a 'freedom deficit' providing fertile ground for the growth of an ideology of hatred leading to terrorism by suicide bombers. US statecraft should now be guided by the undeniable truth that democracy is the only assurance of lasting peace and security between States.

Implicit within the goals of its statecraft are the limits of US power and the reasons for US humility. US statecraft pursued since September 11, 2001 has produced positive results such as a Lebanon, free of foreign occupation and advancing democratic reform, a Palestinian authority with an elected leader who openly calls for peace with Israel, an Egypt with constitutional amendments for multiparty elections, a Kuwait with votes for women and an Iraq with a new national charter and elections for a new constitutional government. She ends with the hope that when she leaves office, the foundation will have been laid on which 'future generations will realise our nation's vision of a fully free democratic and peaceful world.'

Strangely enough this article did not produce adequate reaction either in the US or India. The few blogs were focused on her ambition to democratise the areas where there is a freedom deficit. What is not understandable is the general neglect of her formulation of the new international strategic order.

Here is a person, who has been the American president's national security adviser for four years and is now the secretary of state. She is considered to be the most influential among President George W Bush's advisers setting out formulations never before heard from US leaders, not at least in the last few decades.

She has challenged the view popular among China, Russia, France and even in sections of opinion in India that the US is dominating international strategic decision-making as the sole superpower and the present system is unipolar. Very often calls are heard from the leaderships of China, France and Russia for a multipolar world. She argues that the world is already a balance of power system and points out no major power considers any other in adversarial terms. On the other hand in the globalised world there is increasing competition among them.

Why the United States needs India

Therefore, it follows, in the future, international relations will be dominated not through military power equations among major powers but by factors such as innovativeness and competitiveness among them.

Dr Rice has also concluded that the fundamental character of regimes matter more today than the international distribution of power. One wonders whether this is a reference to China, which alone, among the six balancers of power in the world is not democratic.

Elsewhere Dr Rice has spoken about building a balance of power in Asia and America's relationships with Japan, South Korea, Australia and India, helping China to fit in with that balance of power. Her article brings out in clear terms the linkage between terrorism and democratic deficits in various nations of the broader Middle East.

Though she has not specifically named Pakistan -- both in its role as the epicentre of terrorism and as being freedom deficit Pakistan finds a special place in the 9/11 Commission Report which calls for a long-term US commitment to 'fostering a stable and secure future in Pakistan,' implying that it belongs to the category of failing States.

There have been even earlier speeches and articles by the US leadership on its support to democracy. What makes this article different is specifically naming India as one of the six balancers of power in the present international system against the background of the steps undertaken by the Bush administration to help India in its moves to become a world class power and the possible connection between the US partnership with India and the competition in peace among major States in an international system in which violent conflicts among them are becoming ever more unthinkable.

Is there a linkage between Dr Rice's world view and the policy the Bush administration, especially the State Department, is now pursuing vis--vis India, including the exceptionalisation of India from the technology denial under the NPT? While single point specialists such as the Nonproliferation Ayatollahs or even South Asia scholars who focus mostly on Indo-Pakistan conflict could only see through their respective tunnel visions, Secretary Rice has projected in her article a realistic statecraft for a transformed world of balance of power in favour of freedom.

While it is understandable that for US analysts, subject matter specialists and media men, India does not feature in their radar screens it is difficult to explain why in India her formulations and their possible relevance to India's future have attracted so little attention.

In India since the international politics has been viewed through the prism of bipolarity and nonalignment over the last six decades an alernative vision of the world in terms of balance of power perhaps failed to make an impact on most of our media and academia though the prime minister himself in his address to the Combined Commanders Conference in October, had made a reference to India's new role in the international balance of power politics.

While a large section of opinion considers Iraq as the example of the US acting as a sole superpower, in fact it is the clear demonstration of limitations of US power and the present international system being a balance of power. The US could carry with it only Japan and to a partial extent, Europe but not others.

Iraq also demonstrated that the awesome US military power is not adequate to sustain a prolonged military occupation of even a medium sized country. The truth is unlike up to the end of the Second World War today the spirit of nationalism all over the world makes it impossible for any nation to occupy another with reasonable population strength except at unacceptable costs. This has been acknowledged by Dr Rice when she talks of the limitations of US power and the reasons for American humility.

A country's diplomacy and policy succeeds and serves its interest to the extent its leadership is able to develop a realistic understanding of the international developments and adjust itself to them to maximise its advantage. Have we in India developed a world view and how far does it overlap and how much does it differ from that set out by the present US secretary of state?

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Number of User Comments: 5

Sub: K Subrahmanyam's column

After C Rajamohan, Shri K Subrahmanyam is the Voice of America in India. This indeed is selling America to Indians - mindless Indians that is. ...

Posted by Radha Rajan

Sub: Does India have a world view?

Of Course, Mr. Subramanyam, India does have a world view. Its another matter that it is a blinkered one! We dont seem to have any ...

Posted by Ashok D Chhibbar

Sub: SAARC first

Prosperity for common people, the ones who are below the poverty line or near to it, needs conventional technologies and resources already available in the ...

Posted by N J Ramesh

Sub: A peace loving, non-aligned, neutral and friendly India is what I would like to see...

friends with everybody!...a peace-loving, soverign country of India shud be our dream...strategic partnership with less hostile countries., and that is like excluding america alltogether...They havent ...

Posted by Dinesh D Nagaraju

Sub: About the Indian worldview

As regards the article by Shri.K.Subrahmanium I would like to point out that basically we hindus do not understand the role of force in international ...

Posted by Dr.Grama Seetharam



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