India’s Rise as a Great Power

The Regional and Global Implications of India’s Rise as a Great Power.

David Robinson

Introduction:

Over the last decade there has been an increasing focus on India’s economic and military expansion, and its consequences for South Asia and the world. India is rapidly rising to become a great power, but its ascent depends on maintaining relative domestic stability, and carefully crafting its policies towards the United States and its neighbours Pakistan and China. All four states are nuclear powers, so the consequences of any conflict between them are potentially dire.[1] India has found the post-Cold War international environment amenable to expansion of its bilateral ties with all the major powers simultaneously, and has thus pursued a strategy of ‘poly-alignment’ – seeking to be a ‘bridging power’ between the sometimes competing poles of the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union.[2] This inverts India’s traditional non-alignment policy, allowing India to reap the benefits of closer economic and strategic ties while maintaining the same spirit of balanced international relations.[3] To a degree this arises from uncertainty about the shape of the emerging international order, and India’s own lack of a credible vision of its place in that environment.[4] Nonetheless, its growing wealth and population is now enabling India to build up its military might, and as “a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic democracy … India is being asked to shoulder global responsibilities in consonance with its rising global stature”.[5] This paper will consider India’s rise as a global power, and the likely regional and global implications, through a specific focus on its relations with its strategically significant neighbours Pakistan and China, and argue that fundamentally the balance of power between them will not change dramatically in the near future.

The Rise of India:

As Indian power increases it will inevitably challenge existing political, economic and military patterns, but as Harsh Pant argues,

“India continues to be ambivalent about power, it has failed to develop a strategic agenda commensurate with its growing economic and military capabilities … throughout history, India has failed to master the creation, deployment and use of its military instruments in support of its national objectives”.[6]

From independence in 1947 Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pursued a strategy of non-alignment that sought to avoid participation in the Cold War, prioritising multilateral institutions and the Non-Aligned Movement. Indian policy was always opposed to the use of military force in international relations.[7] However, as India begins to assert itself as a regional power it is today moving to convert its ‘brown-water’ navy into a ‘blue-water’ navy and is expanding the reach of its air force, moving beyond border control and demonstrating greater concern for strategic issues, such as the protection of shipping lanes.[8] While maintaining constructive relations with the United States, India has also been involved in trilateral dialogue with China and Russia, increasingly sharing their vision of a multipolar world based on consensus among the major powers. India has also become a non-voting member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), through which China and Russia have sought to strategically counterbalance NATO advancement into the Middle East and Central Asia.[9] At the same time, it is China’s conventional and nuclear capabilities that many argue remain the primary military threat to India’s security and the key motivation for India’s own nuclear weapons program; while the United States, under the G.W. Bush administration, negotiated a substantial deal that would assist India’s ‘civilian’ nuclear development. India’s other major challenge comes from its unstable neighbour Pakistan, with which full-scale war and nuclear exchange have been avoided despite clashes in the Kargil region of Kashmir in 1999, and attacks on India by Pakistani-backed terrorists in 2001 and 2008.[10]

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the 1991 Gulf War confronted India with an unprecedented financial crisis, as India simultaneously lost access to Eastern European markets, global oil prices spiked, and over 100,000 Indians were repatriated from the Gulf region, thus precluding their remittances. These economic shocks forced a dramatic rethink of Indian economic and foreign policies. Under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao India steered towards greater economic liberalisation and diplomatic diversity. The Rao government sought greater engagement with the United States and China, as well as making overtures to Israel and seeking improved relations with Southeast Asia through a ‘Look East’ policy.[11] Since then India’s average GDP growth rate has hovered at around 7 percent, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has predicted that in spite of the global financial crisis, India’s growth should remain at 6.5 percent in 2010.[12] Not only has India maintained this amazing economic growth, but it is also envisaged that in the next two decades India’s population “will surpass China’s to make it the world’s most populous country, and its rapidly expanding middle class may constitute up to 60 percent of its 1.3 billion-plus people”.[13] Internationally the Indian diaspora now numbers over 20 million, and is relatively affluent, successful, and well-integrated – spreading India’s ‘soft’ cultural influence.[14] While the approximately 3.7 million Indian nationals now living in the six Gulf (GCC) states specifically remit around $8 billion annually.[15]

Despite India’s meteoric economic development, it can be said India has both the best of the First World and the worst of the Third World within its borders, and faces unprecedented human security challenges.[16] India now has 410 million people living below the U.N. poverty line – 37.2 percent of its population and actually 100 million more people than in 2004 – and millions of India’s rural poor are faced with food price inflation of up to 17 percent.[17] 60 percent of Indian labour is still agricultural, and the integration of hundreds of millions of peasants into a modern economy may be an extremely painful process.[18] And while Indian infrastructure such as roads, civil aviation, ports, and telecommunications have experienced noticeable improvements in recent years, electricity, railways, and irrigation all still need significant investment; and India continues to lag in social infrastructure, such as education and healthcare.[19] These social inequalities have fuelled the widespread ‘Naxalite’ Maoist insurgency affecting vast areas throughout eastern and central India, and whose 20,000 insurgents current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh identified as the “greatest internal security threat” facing the nation.[20] These internal issues pose the first challenge to India’s rise as a great power, as external projection must be based on a firm foundation of domestic stability. The requirements for domestic stability also shape India’s international needs. Pant asserts that,

“The biggest challenge for India remains that of continuing to achieve the rates of economic growth that it has enjoyed in recent years. Everything else is of secondary importance. … Unless India can sustain this momentum, its larger foreign policy ambitions cannot be realized”.[21]

The political stability of India (and similarly its neighbour China) “is absolutely dependent on continued economic dynamism, which is in turn dependent on energy and resources which must be imported”[22], thus the process of diversifying and securing access to international energy sources is a vital element in avoiding domestic social and political turbulence.[23]

In this context Indian oil and gas companies have been encouraged to invest abroad, and have the long-term aim of producing tens of millions of tons of oil a year overseas by 2025. India has thus been developing strategic relationships with the major oil-producing Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Central Asian states such as Turkmenistan, and increasingly Iran, as potential sources of energy. Multinational oil and gas pipeline projects have been high on India’s agenda for over a decade, though poor relations with its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar have prevented such a scheme; while the United States has used its significant leverage to insist India chooses between pipeline projects or a US-supported nuclear energy programme.[24]

The United States has been particularly concerned by India’s relations with Iran, which the international community has worked to isolate for some time. In this case the US is battling the logic of supply and demand as Iran has the world’s third largest reserve of oil, is nearby to India, and India is a resource-hungry customer. But India and Iran also have a convergence of other economic and strategic interests. The ‘Road Map to Strategic Cooperation’ signed by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Iranian leader Mohammad Khatami in 2003 also mapped out cooperation for increased bilateral trade, and developments like Iran’s Chahbahar port complex, the Chahbahar-Fahranj-Bam railway link, and a Marine Oil Tanking Terminal.[25] The broader aim of these facilities is a North-South Transport Corridor with Russia that would help facilitate the flow of goods across Central Asia, taking cargo from Iran’s ports of Bandar Abbas or Chahbahar via rail to the Caspian Sea and on to Russia’s Caspian ports. This route would significantly reduce travel time and transport costs for exporters like India.[26] India and Iran also share concerns about Sunni Islamist power in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there are reports of a strategic deal allowing Indian access to Iranian military bases and equipment in the event of war with Pakistan.[27] Politically, Iran has recognised Kashmir as a legitimate part of India; while India is thought to have transferred sensitive nuclear and rocket technology to Tehran, with direct security consequences for Europe and the United States.[28]

So, with energy pipelines still far from reality, and only a nascent civilian nuclear programme, India remains highly dependence on energy imports and increasingly seeks to secure sea shipping lanes for the transportation of oil, from nations like Iran and Myanmar, to as far abroad as Sudan and Nigeria.[29] Nearly half of global seaborne trade passes through the Indian Ocean, around 40 percent of offshore oil production comes from the Indian Ocean, and 65 percent of the world’s oil and 35 percent of its gas reserves are found in the littoral states of the Ocean. This makes the region generally strategically significant. With India’s ever-growing reliance on imported energy, any disruptions in the Indian Ocean (which are particularly feasible at ‘choke points’ such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Malacca) can lead to serious consequences for the Indian economy. While a key danger is interruption of supply during a time of war, today non-state actors, such as organised criminals, pirates or terrorists, are also an increasing threat.[30] As India increasingly sees itself as a great power, and defines its security in terms of the entire Indian Ocean basin, its strategic frontiers will stretch from the African coast, to the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, and potentially southwards as far as Antarctica. Continentally, India already looks to the economic and strategic importance of Central Asia, and has made moves to consolidate its strategic footing, including two airbases in Tajikistan.[31]

The US government’s recent National Intelligence Council ‘Global Trends 2025’ report projects that, “Maritime security concerns are providing a rationale for naval buildups and modernization efforts, such as China’s and India’s development of blue-water naval capabilities”.[32] Indeed India spent $10.5 billion between 2004 and 2007 on creating the world’s fourth-largest military[33], and is projected to spend more than $45 billion on arms purchases between 2009 and 2013.[34] These will include long-range aircraft, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines that are intended to make India a formidable force in the Indian Ocean.[35] The Indian Navy is planning over the next decade to create a fleet of 130-140 vessels comprising three aircraft carrier battle groups, and has created a Far Eastern Naval Command, headquartered on the Andaman Islands – 190 nautical miles from Chinese facilities at Great Coco Island.[36] Meanwhile, India’s longer-term plans involve constructing a fleet capable of projecting power into the South China Sea.[37] There is also much speculation around India’s production of the new ‘Surya’ ICBM, which may use technology from India’s civilian space programme. India’s Agni medium-range ballistic missile programme currently consists of missiles with ranges of upwards of 700kms, 2,000kms, and 3,000kms. The Surya project will result in missiles with ranges of 5,000 kms, which can hit Chinese targets; 8,000-12,000 kms, which can reach the United States and Europe; and 20,000 kms, which will have a global reach. These will have the option of a nuclear payload, and potentially multiple warheads.[38] The reported 12,000km-range Surya-2 in particular is tailor-made to target the United States.[39] This expansion of India’s missile capacity may create increased tensions with China, and may hinder cooperation with Europe and the United States.[40]

Today the United States remains the key external actor in the Indian Ocean, with its military presence stretching from north and east Africa to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, east to Singapore, and southwards to Diego Garcia. “America’s raw power in the region has made it imperative that New Delhi court the United States”.[41] From the time of Indian independence some American analysts already saw the potential for India to compete for influence with Communist China, but as India took its non-aligned path the US found a willing ally in Pakistan, which provided military bases in exchange for economic and military aid.[42] The US relationship with Pakistan led to them taking financial and political actions against India following the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars, despite Pakistan being the aggressor. Eventually President Reagan made moves to close the diplomatic gap with India in an effort to wean New Delhi away from dependence on Moscow, thus the 1982-1991 period witnessed a gradual warming of US-Indian relations. The collapse of superpower competition in 1991 then allowed the United States to move away from its Pakistani ally and engage with India.[43] By March 2000 President Clinton made this new relationship clear while visiting India, stating that, “we are convinced that it is time to chart a new and purposeful direction in our relationship”.[44] This was enacted through the ‘Next Steps in Strategic Partnership’ agreement of January 2004, which announced expanded cooperation in civilian nuclear activities and space programs, as well as missile defence. A senior official made the strategic design of this relationship clear, announcing that America’s, “goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century … We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement”.[45]

As part of this emerging relationship the United States has subsequently held joint military operations with India, encouraging them to actively patrol the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, and President G.W. Bush sponsored agreements facilitating the development of India’s nuclear program.[46] President Bush signed the US-India Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Bill into law in December 2006, which will result in up to $40 billion in trade with India in defence and energy products.[47] Contrary to non-proliferation goals, the deal leaves India free to develop its military nuclear capabilities and increases its ability to access uranium and nuclear technologies.[48] Supporters of the deal see it as President Bush’s,

“greatest foreign policy achievement. This success, if sustained through wise policies and skilful diplomacy by future administrations, will portend enormous consequences for the future balance of power in Asia and globally to the advantage of the United States”.[49]

Subsequently, under the Obama administration, the Indian government signed a $2.1 billion contract with the US for eight long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, capable of anti-submarine and anti-surface naval warfare.[50] Despite India’s advocacy of a non-polar world, Indian policymakers recognise the benefits of American sponsorship; and both nations agree that it serves neither American nor Indian interests for a powerful authoritarian China to dominate the Asian landmass, or for radical Islamic to wage wars that threaten the security of both states.[51] Thus, as the United States perceives strategic advantage from assisting India’s rise to great power status, and India is receiving tangible military and economic benefits from this relationship, for the foreseeable future India’s continued ascendance will be supported by the global hegemon.

The Problem of Pakistan:

India’s geographically closest and most frequently problematic relationship is with its neighbour and prodigal twin Pakistan. India’s rise as a great power will most immediately impact the extremely dangerous stalemate between these two states. Many security concerns converge in Pakistan, which has been a key supporter of the Taliban in Afghanistan, factions of which the Pakistani Army is now fighting in a de facto civil war; elements within the state support Islamic terrorist organisations that periodically attack India, provoking regional crises; and, the Pakistani Army has a growing nuclear arsenal, which could be vulnerable to misuse by malicious elements within the state.[52] India and Pakistan engaged in wars in 1965 and 1971, with crises surrounding continuing Pakistani support for an indigenous insurgency in the disputed Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir erupting periodically, and threatening war in 1990.[53] Following Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May 1998, Pakistani incursions across the Line of Control in the Kargil region of Kashmir led to another limited war, and the veiled nuclear threat by Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed, “We will not hesitate to use any weapon in our arsenal to defend our territorial integrity”.[54] Major terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir on 1 October 2001, and in the Indian capital Delhi on 13 December 2001, again threatened war though merely resulted in major military manoeuvres by India – code-named Operation Parakram.[55] The lack of military retaliation by India despite grave provocation seems to suggest that India is successfully deterred by Pakistan’s nuclear capability, and this in turn only fuels the eagerness of elements within Pakistan to provoke them.[56] Pakistan has adopted an ‘asymmetric nuclear escalation posture’, which has deterred Indian conventional military power and thus enabled Pakistan’s “aggressive strategy of bleeding India by a ‘thousand cuts’ with little fear of significant retaliation”.[57]

India is four times larger and seven times more populated than Pakistan, and as Pakistan averages only 300 miles in width it is susceptible to a central assault that would spilt the country in two. A number of important Pakistani cities also lie close to the international border in the Indus River basin.[58] As Pakistan is thus extremely vulnerable to conventional attack by India’s larger military, it defines such an attack as an existential threat to the Pakistani state. Pakistani Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai thus outlined that Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons if India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory; India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land or air forces; India blockades Pakistan in an effort to strangle it economically; or India pushes Pakistan into a state of political destabilisation.[59] This asymmetric escalation posture is designed for a rapid first use of nuclear weapons against conventional attacks, thus leaving India without the ability to punish terrorist attacks through conventional retaliation.[60] As elements within Pakistan continue to provoke India, this creates an extremely dangerous imbalance reliant on India’s restraint to maintain peace.

Vipin Narang notes that, “Scholars who study the South Asian nuclear balance have argued that if a limited clash between India and Pakistan were to expand into a full-scale conventional war, escalation to the nuclear level would likely result”.[61] And most of the ‘war-game’ scenarios played out by the US military also foresee any conventional conflict between India and Pakistan escalating to the use of nuclear weapons within the first 12 days.[62] New analyses of this eventuality reveal that a conflict be­tween India and Pakistan, in which 100 nuclear bombs were dropped on cities and industrial areas within the two countries, would kill more than 20 million people from the blasts, fires and radioactivity. However, in addition, the explosions could produce enough smoke to cripple global agriculture. Smoke generated by burning cities could create a climatic response that immediately reduces sunlight, cools the planet, and reduces precipitation worldwide. This ‘nuclear winter’ would reduce or eliminate agricultur­al production over vast areas, simultaneously decreasing crop yields nearly everywhere at once. Approximately one billion people worldwide today live on marginal food supplies and would be directly threatened with starvation.[63] While some analysts maintain that nuclear weapons would only be used in a measured way, the chaos, fear and interruption of communications that would follow nuclear war’s commencement leads some to doubt that attacks would be limited in any rational manner.[64] Additionally, Pakistan could face a decision to use its entire nuclear arsenal quickly or lose it to Indian forces which seize its military bases.[65] Thus unrestrained nuclear war in South Asia potentially has cataclysmic regional and global consequences.

Following the terrorist attack by Kashmiri militants in December 2001 and the subsequent military standoff with Pakistan in Operation Parakram, the Indian Army announced a new limited war policy in April 2004 called the Cold Start doctrine, which aims to allow conventional retaliation without posing an existential threat to Pakistan.[66] Under Cold Start the Indian army would avoid delivering a catastrophic blow to Pakistan, and instead deliberately only make shallow territorial gains, 50–80kms deep, that could be used in post-conflict negotiations. This doctrine aims to deny Pakistan the justification of ‘regime survival’ for employing nuclear weapons in response to a conventional Indian attack.[67] However, Walter C. Ladwig foresees that, “An operational Cold Start capability could lead Pakistan to lower its nuclear red line, put its nuclear weapons on a higher state of readiness, develop tactical nuclear weapons, or undertake some equally destabilizing course of action”.[68] The danger of escalation is further compounded by the relatively immature ‘command and control’ and early warning systems of both India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals.[69] Scott Sagan also points out the danger of nuclear accident as, if one of the nations accidentally blows up a nuclear warhead on one of its own military bases, it probably will not have adequate surveillance intelligence to know it has not been attacked by its enemy, and thus may falsely ‘retaliate’ against the other country.[70]

Meanwhile, in the context of the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan believes the United States will intervene to prevent war, as it relies on Pakistani troops along the Afghan border, and supplies for American forces are transported through Pakistan. Thus Pakistan believes the only potential military action available to India is air-strikes against Islamist training camps, which itself is not a serious problem, and may actually help Islamabad by killing destabilising jihadists while generating massive support among Pakistanis for their government.[71] The dual problems of nuclear escalation and American reliance on Pakistan for counter-insurgency meant that following terrorist attacks in Mumbai by Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba on 26 November 2008, which killed 163 people, India was unable to respond with conventional military strikes.[72] Any attack by India might either destabilise the Pakistani government, or escalate the conflict to nuclear exchange. In the event of state disintegration, Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of militant elements who would attempt to use those weapons against India or the West.[73]

Unfortunately, there is no easy path to stabilising reform within Pakistan. Pakistan essentially has a feudal political establishment, run by a civilian aristocracy of wealthy agricultural landowners and industrialists, and the Army.[74] The civilian political parties primarily function as patronage networks, without deep-seated ideological differences, and merely struggle to control state resources. As a key aim of the agricultural and industrial elites is to avoiding paying income taxes, the Pakistani government is also chronically in debt.[75] The Army is seen by most Pakistanis as the primary defender of the nation and the ultimate guarantor of domestic stability. The ever-present threat of India is used to justify the Army’s disproportionate share of national resources, and the Army itself also owns and manages a large agricultural and industrial empire. Domestically, the Army is the ultimate power-broker between the political parties, and has acted on several occasions to remove the party in power.[76] As successive governments have received bailouts from international financial institutions, neither the civilian political elites nor the Army have felt any real incentive to institute fundamental change.[77]

For the time-being the Army is objectively the most stable and responsible force to control the country. The Pakistani military is the only state institution that works effectively, and without it Pakistan would probably have disintegrated long ago.[78] The dire alternative is the representatives of the rising wave of radical Islam who arose from the madrassas under the patronage of General Zia-Ul-Huq, and gained their training in the US-backed mujahadeen struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.[79] These elements, and more recent jihadist recruits, are currently involved in the Kashmiri terrorist organisations like Jaysh-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), as well as in the Afghani and Pakistani Taliban who occupy Pakistan’s border provinces.[80] While the Pakistani Army and intelligence services (ISI) are often unwilling to directly challenge these forces (and indeed currently cultivate relations with the Kashmiri groups and the Afghani Taliban), and external (and particularly American) attempts to deploy foreign forces in Pakistani territory would almost certainly make things worse, this unstable situation is likely to continue.[81]

As India’s power increases, so will its ability to strategically encircle Pakistan, through relations with Iran and Afghanistan, and via naval power. At the same time India’s patience for Pakistan’s continuing terrorist provocations will probably lessen. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s deterrent capabilities remain, as either unsuccessful or successful attacks on the Pakistani state are likely to result in either nuclear exchange or widespread chaos and bloodshed. However, if India continues restraint, and reaches out to more moderate elements within the military and civilian political parties, it could leverage its growing economic strength to gradually help a more moderate Pakistani state develop.

The Challenge of China:

On a grander strategic level, relations between India and China will be highly significant as India emerges as a great power. There is a growing interdependence between the two Asian giants, as China is now India’s number-one trading partner, with more than $52 billion in bilateral trade, and estimates are that China-India trade will surpass US-China trade by 2020. China’s powerful manufacturing sector complements India’s combination of a raw materials and cutting-edge technology economy.[82] Strategically, a strong and influential India helps create a more multipolar world, consistent with Chinese interests, however China increasingly regards India as its main Asian rival.[83] China is thus involved in a complex game of encirclement with India. China has armed Pakistan with nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, and has built “strong military-to-military ties with Burma, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka as part of what Indians see as a strategy to tie India down, Gulliver-like, in its region”.[84] China is also developing deep-water ports throughout the Indian Ocean to support its projected blue-water naval capacity.

Meanwhile, on the Indo-Tibetan border China continues to press its claims to vast tracts of Indian territory.[85] Over the past year increased friction in the border area between India and China has led to incursions by Chinese troops, the wounding of several Indian border police, and a build-up of military forces on both sides, as Beijing has been uncharacteristically assertive in its claims to sections of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state. The Indians responded by moving 30,000 troops and its latest warplanes into the area, leading some analysts to predict a China-India war within five years.[86]

China rejects the McMahon Line that forms the border between it and India, and places the traditional Sino-Indian border at the base of the Himalayan foothills.[87] For China, control of Tibet is strategically important, providing a barrier with its populous and economically and militarily-advancing neighbour. The high mountain passes of Tibet provide virtually impenetrable terrain which is easy to militarily protect. Along the frontier directly south of this border in India is one of the largest population concentrations in the world. Beijing fears that if China were to withdraw from Tibet this population could migrate into the Himalayas and Tibet could gradually turn into a beachhead for Indian power, which would directly abut Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in central China. The Chinese thus see control of Tibet as a matter of fundamental national security.[88] They also see the 1959 decision by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to give asylum to the Dalai Lama, and the continuing support for the Tibetan government-in-exile, as perpetuating this threat.[89] Thus, “Beijing’s price for a border settlement and for normalisation of ties with India, appears to be that India dismantle the Tibetan settlement in Dharamshala and request the Dalai Lama take up residence in another country”.[90]

Meanwhile, on a broader front, 80 percent of China’s oil and gas supplies transit the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, so the Chinese navy is increasingly making its presence felt in the area in order to secure its lines of supply.[91] Like India, for China the steady flow of imported resources is not just an issue of economic growth, but also of the longevity of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule. Chinese leaders increasingly fear that adversaries could blockade sea lanes and strategic bottlenecks such as the Strait of Malacca, and are thus moving to an offshore defence policy that will include ‘distant ocean defence’. However, China’s actions may impinge upon India’s interests and destabilise relations.[92]

Following ‘defensive realist’ strategies, the nations will attempt to gain power for self-preservation, and each nation will see this move by the other as a strategic threat, thus decreasing collective security.[93] As part of this competition China has been developing a ‘string-of-pearls’ strategy, expanding influence into ports in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. According to a report by US defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), “China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in a way that suggests defensive and offensive positioning to protect China’s energy interests”.[94] China emerged as the biggest military spender in the Asia-Pacific in 2006, and now has the fourth-largest defence expenditure in the world.[95] Meanwhile, China’s navy is considered the third-largest in the world behind only the US and Russia, and it is superior to the Indian navy.[96] In this context, India perceives Chinese actions as power maximisation, and fears that China’s forward-basing strategy will be used to contain India and rapidly achieve hegemony in the Indian Ocean.[97]

Meanwhile, China and India have adopted nuclear ‘assured retaliation’ postures (what they sometimes refer to as “credible minimum deterrence”), which rely on small but secure and survivable nuclear forces that assure a retaliatory strike against their primary opponent’s targets.[98] In many ways this seems like the most stable aspect of the competition between India and China, though it is yet to be seen what reaction a new generation of Indian Surya missiles might provoke. Meanwhile, many analysts expect that China will follow a consistent but non-provocative build-up of its military capabilities and diplomatic alliances over the long-term, aiming to gradually edge the United States out of a hegemonic position.[99] India is likely to mirror this build-up, so tension and possible low-level confrontation may result on the India-China border and in the Indian Ocean region.

Conclusion:

India’s rise to great power status is inevitable and will occur quickly over the coming decades, especially as the United States believes this will assist it in maintaining a global strategic balance. This will lead to a greater exertion of India’s power outside of its borders, and especially into the Indian Ocean region, which it sees as being essentially for its economic and social stability. The two states that India’s ascent will have the greatest strategic impact on will be its neighbours Pakistan and China, however, for contrasting reasons, this impact may not change the fundamental power balance that exists today. Pakistan is already overwhelmed by the military strength of India, and thus its primary defences are the threat of nuclear exchange, or state disintegration – neither of which will definitely be undermined by rising Indian power. In contrast, China and India will have increasingly complex and intertwined relations, but the economic and strategic issues that bind them, and the evenly-matched nature of their conventional and nuclear forces, are likely to maintain relative peace and strategic stability. India sees itself as an emerging great power in a multi-power world, which will maintain a strategy of poly-alignment. With the balance of forces developing as they are, that projection is likely to become a reality.

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[21] Pant, “Indian Foreign and Security Policy”, p226.

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[65] Robock and Toon, “Local Nuclear War”, p77.

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[85] Twining, “Diplomatic Negligence”.

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[91] Hallinan, “China and India Battle”.

[92] Blazevic, “Defensive Realism”, pp59-60.

[93] Blazevic, “Defensive Realism”, p61.

[94] Blazevic, “Defensive Realism”, p63.

[95] Pant, “India in the Indian Ocean”, p286.

[96] Pant, “India in the Indian Ocean”, p287.

[97] Blazevic, “Defensive Realism”, p64.

[98] Narang, “Posturing for Peace?”, p44.

[99] Walt, Stephen M. “China’s new strategy”, Foreign Policy, 26 April 2010,

http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/04/25/chinas_new_strategy

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7 Comments on “India’s Rise as a Great Power”

  1. Emil.Lexa Says:

    You are a born Reporter.
    BTW: Are u a History teacher? ;)
    Salut!


  2. That’s an amazing post. Thanks a lot

  3. Sherry Hall Says:

    I am looking for the qualifications for the author, David Robinson.

  4. Andrew James Says:

    Great piece, but I notice that you don’t really cover India’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific, which is generally an overlooked story. You can find some good coverage (though a year old) in:

    Walter C. Ladwig III, “Delhi’s Pacific Ambition: Naval Power, ‘Look East,’ and India’s Emerging Role in the Asia-Pacific,” Asian Security, Vol. 5, No. 2 (June 2009). http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a911807319~db=all~jumptype=rss

  5. harjit ( london Uk ) Says:

    Great Read. Fits very well with what i know about India and Pakistan, From growing up in the UK traveling around india and reading / watching content over the last 30 years. The 1991 Kargil war . I remember what Pakistani coverage on TV was saying “ so may Indian solders were getting kill than India was running out of wood to burn the body’s “ I have watched any recent Pakistani TV . just hope it lot less miss leading. A modern and open Pakistan will be safer for everyone . Closer trade link and artist exchange may make the 2 country realise they have more in common than differences. In the same way most NRI and NRP experience of living in the Europe have realised over the last 20 years.

  6. mahesh guruvelli Says:

    hi sir your very good sir


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