Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] On the edge of the big league

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India to work on its soft powerd to have better standing at global forum.

 

History of alignments

Post world war

Post World War II, Japan, Germany and the UK were closely aligned to the US and other western European nations were also in the US camp through NATO. India’s non-alignment post Indira Gandhi became Soviet Union-leaning and the US moved closer to Pakistan as a check on the Soviets who had taken control of Afghanistan. One could have argued India made a bad choice, but frankly, we were not very exciting to the US and strong Soviet backing to India after the 1971 war allowed the liberation of Bangladesh.

Nineties Fashion

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union left us weak internationally and our economic policies had taken us into a major balance of payments crisis in 1991.
  • This was a blessing in disguise as it forced us to review both our economic policies and our global alignments.
  • With an IMF assisted structural adjustment programme, many parts of the economy were liberalised.
  • After the initial pain, we slowly moved away from the import substituting industry model we had followed and became a more market-friendly economy.

 

  • Two forces dominated the geopolitical context in the first decade of the 21 century — China and technology.
  • China became the second-largest economy in the world with its GDP going from $1 trillion to $10 trillion dollars in 15 years.
  • At the same time, the progress in technology was transformative on the back of massive computing power, ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, cheap and unlimited storage and the creation and capture of enough data to make machine learning intelligent and powerful.
  • As a result, technological power and cyber capabilities also became a superpower compulsion.
  • These two developments have led to a change in the basis of power and geopolitical alignment in today’s world. It has all happened in 15 years.

Evaluation of Power

  • Power now needs to be evaluated on four levels — military, economic, cyber and soft power.
  • Interestingly, now different countries lead in different areas, making alignment and geopolitics more complicated.
  • Militarily, it is still the the US and Russia in the lead.
  • China is a clear third.
  • In terms of economic power, the US leads followed by China, and Russia does not figure.
  •  Cyber power – In the cyber domain, five countries have established positions – the US, China, Russia, Israel and Iran and others are lagging. Consider the Russian attack on the US elections, the purported cyber-attack by the US on Iran, the banning of Huawei, Iranian cyber-attacks on the Saudis and China’s great strength in digital and artificial intelligence.
  • Soft Power – In soft power, the US leads but China and Russia don’t really feature. In fact, India has a play.

The multilayered strategy of India

  • If we just observe India’s actions, it is comforting to note we are following a multilayered strategy, walking a complicated tightrope.
  • We continue to ally with Russia on arms’ purchases with our purchase of the S-400 Air Missile System, despite the threat of American sanctions.
  • Economically, though, we are trying to get closer to the US and are not fighting their unilateral sanctions against Iran on oil, despite the substantial impact on our balance of payments.
  • It is both sad and ironic that despite our great capability in technology and our big presence in Silicon Valley, we lag in cyber preparedness at great risk to ourselves.
  • India’s movement on data localisation is needed. Even Europe has imposed the GDPR. But overall, we need to act fast.

India’s Soft power Vision

  • With soft power, India is doing better.
  • We are advancing with our music, food and Bollywood and are going beyond West Asia into the affluent Indian diaspora in the US and UK.
  • Getting the UN to recognise a World Yoga day has been a master stroke by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is a great first step but our inbound tourism still lags behind.

Conclusion

If we act, we are well positioned. Faster arms purchases, developing cyber capability and using technology to address major gaps in education and healthcare are needed. We have the opportunity but not the right to become a third major power. No one will give it to us.

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