India Positioned as Global Major Power by PM Modi in September 2019
India undoubtedly stands positioned as a global Major Power by PM Narendra Modi in September 2019 evidenced by PM Modi’s ‘blitzkrieg’ diplomatic forays in United States and UN General Assembly and preceded by PM Modi presiding as Chief Guest over the Far Eastern Economic Forum Summit at Vladivostok in Russia.
India even under its first iconic PM Nehru did not enjoy so much global recognition extending from France to Japan and from Russia to United States as what has been achieved by PM Modi in the last five years and manifested more optically in September 2019.
Significantly, September 2019 will also go down in history when India triumphantly under PM Modi finally broke out of the shackles of being closeted to South Asia confines by China and Pakistan with their respective disruptive strategies of containment of India. India’ “Break-out Moment” had occurred.
Digressing a bit but required to be emphasised contextually initially, India at large, especially its Opposition parties, need to recognise, that borrowing Bismarck’s assertions in 1863 that “The position of Prussia in Germany will not be delivered by liberalism but by its power”. The same can be applied to India’s aspirational goals of emerging as Major Power of consequence.
To that end, PM Modi’s diplomatic forays from Europe to Russia to United States and United Nations were aimed at that end—-recognition of India’s National Power in global political dynamics, its economic strengths attracting FDIs and its new strategic and military assertions/ ripostes against military provocations by its adversarial neighbours.
Noticeable at major diplomatic events stated above was that India and Indian PM Modi dominated the global stage and at the United Nations and that India’s conflictual adversaries China and Pakistan were not diplomatically visible. Analytically, what emerges is that in global calculations of United States and Russia, the Global Powers that matter, India had displaced China in American and Russian power calculus.
The major significance of these two major diplomatic events coupled with Indian PM Address to UN General Assembly was not limited to geopolitics and geostrategics only. India had not only emerged as Major Power of substantial geopolitical weight but that Indian PM Modi emerged as a global statesman in his own right, much that India’s Opposition parties may decry.
India’s status as Emerged Major Power was on full display when in a historically unprecedented act US President Donald Trump decided to honour India and Indian PM Modi by his hour long presence at the ‘Howdy Modi’ massive rally of over 50,000 Indian Americans and expatriates at Houston Texas.
Geopolitically and geostrategically, multiple messaging was heralded by significant presence of US President Trump and Indian PM Modi teaming up at an Indian Community event. It can be fairly asserted that it marked the public validation of US-India Strategic Partnership and also messaged that Indian Community —four million strong in US—had emerged as a significant force in US domestic politics with all its attendant connotations. India’s ‘Soft Power’ was now manifesting itself in United States.
India’s status as global Major Power was evident when Russian President Putin invited Indian PM Modi to give the keynote address at the Far East Economic Summit at Vladivostok in Russia. Significance emerges in that Russia was signalling a reset of its decades-old Russia-India Strategic Partnership allowed to wither by Russia’s gravitating towards a strategic nexus with China at India’s cost.
The geopolitical and geostrategic significance lay in the fact that this major event was being conducted on China’s doorsteps in a region where Russia fears sizeable illegal migration by Chinese. Significance also surfaces in that present at the Russian-conducted event were Asia’’ two Major Powers—India and Japan—both Powers in contention with China. It may have been an Economic Summit but the underlying geopolitical messages were unmistakeable.
Shifting the scene to the UN General Assembly in New York what was manifested abundantly was that India’s PM Modi, in marked contrast to Pakistan PM Imran Khan uttering war threats over Kashmir, adopted the moral high ground of rising above the recurring Pakistan conflictual jargon and focussed global attention on global challenges like terrorism and climate changes. Significantly, here too, US President turned up at United Nations to hear PM Modi’s address to UN General Assembly.
Indian PM Modi also made full use of his presence at the UN General Assembly for bilateral discussions with a vast cross-section of leaders of Nations assembled at New York to expand India’s diplomatic reach and standing.
Striking during the United Nations proceedings this year around in Indian PM Modi’s diplomatic drive was that optically India was emerging as the global leading voice on dangers of Islamic Jihadi terrorism and global climate changes. That was the other side of India’s power strategies.
This analysis would be incomplete if a brief examination was not done on the sizeable geopolitical and strategic impact on China and Pakistan of India’s moves to position India as a Global Major Power, and their options so arising.
China which till recently loomed large over Asia unchallenged with its aggressive brinkmanship against its neighbours now has to contend with India recognised as an Emerged Major Power by both United States and Russia and so factored in their respective power calculus. In other words, India as an existential counterweight viewed so far in potential terms has now emerged with appreciable power attributes.
United States and Russia would continue to invest heavily in India’s emergence as an existential counterweight to China for their respective national security interests.
China with its uncanny foresight had been sensing this eventuality and was adapting its foreign policy approaches to India by being more amenable and less public hostility. Would September 2019 developments analysed above change China’s India-policy formulations significantly?
China is unlikely to do so as China has gone too far down the road in terms of the solidifying the China-Pakistan Axis aimed at containment of India. Stated in my writings earlier was the reality that even if Pakistan wishes to escape the Chinese colonial embrace, China would forcibly ensure that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and its Gwadur Naval Base projects are not endangered.
China’s ‘Sweet & Sour” India engagement policies will persist with the only difference that China will now seek containment of India less by direct military means but more by proxy strategies. China would continue to intensify use of Pakistan for its indirect containment of India strategies. Indian Ocean confrontations between China and India could intensify notwithstanding China’s reluctance to avid direct military operations against India.
Pakistan in the changed geopolitical scenarios in South Asia heavily weighted in favour of India has only two options available to it and these are either to adapt and adjust to India’s growing power asymmetries over Pakistan or to continue with its hostile military confrontations, border clashes and intensifying its Islamic Jihadi terrorist strikes and suicide bombings on India.
Pakistan is unlikely to adopt the first option as Pakistan Army would fight provocatively to sustain its self-perceived status of ‘Strategic Equivalence’ with India. Pakistan continuing on the second option carries the dangers of a possible extinction and being consigned to pages of history by its own self-destructive compulsions.
Pakistan today despite all the war-mongering indulged by its PM Imran Khan at the United Nations including nuclear war threats must be frustrated and saddened by lack of global support for Pakistan’s Kashmir-obsession and more tellingly from its traditional patrons in the Islamic World.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that PM Narendra Modi has in abundant measure has given shape to India’s aspirational ambitions to emerge as a Global Major Power through his deft diplomacy coupled with modernisation of Indian Armed Forces combat capabilities and war preparedness. India’s war-preparedness was criminally neglected by previous regime during 2004-14 periods.
India to attain and sustain its goal of Major Power with global influence can do so with a judicious mix of ‘Hard Power’ and ‘Soft Power’ but with emphasis on ‘Hard Power’ and the ‘Will to Use Power’ when provoked.
India’s political leaders and policy establishment need to be alive to the inescapable reality that India’s rise to Global Major Power would at each step be check-mated by the China-Pakistan Axis where an imminent divorce of the two authoritarian States seems unlikely in the foreseeable future. India’s conventional and nuclear deterrence needs exponential additional defence funding to cope with a ‘Two Front War’.
By Dr Subhash Kapila