Notwithstanding the internal and external challenges India faces, and the imperative need to focus on economic growth, providing our young population with proper education and appropriate skills for fruitful employment, and raising the quality of life of the less privileged sections of our society, it would be prudent for the governing establishment and the strategic community in the country to dwell on the fact that within the international setting in the first half of the 21st Century and beyond, India will have a role to play both regionally and globally.
A role imposed on us by a number of factors: the size of the country; its geostrategic location straddling the Indian Ocean; the population of over a billion people (and growing) with a demographic dividend in its favour; its established democratic credentials; a significant capability in information technology; a large reservoir of scientific talent including in space technology; acknowledged management expertise; proven military capability; and the large market for consumer goods and services. We cannot and must not shy away from this serious responsibility.
Internationally, the situation is that most countries, including major players like the USA, European Union, Russia, Japan, as also some of the regional organisations, would without much doubt like to see India play a more active role in promoting democratic values and contributing to stability in the region. Primarily because of the perception that India has the ability to do so, as also because of their desire not to be directly involved themselves in many cases. The only factor that could inhibit the Indian establishment in developing the appropriate military capability to support such a role is perhaps some reservation about the ability to build a national consensus in this regard.
If India is to play its destined role in regional affairs and be taken seriously at the global level, Indian diplomacy will need to move into high gear, considering the fact that in the conduct of foreign policy, there is little place for righteousness and moral posturing; it is to be guided solely by sovereign national interests. In the immediate region, it may be useful to get off the high pedestal we have tried to place ourselves on, shed the patronising approach we seem to have mastered over the years, and evolve mutually acceptable working relationships with our neighbours.
There is no gain in saying the fact that India has a vital stake in the developments in the immediate turbulent neighbourhood. Instability and social upheaval will have inevitable adverse “spill-over” effects that will cause us security problems and generate greater stress within our society. A society already somewhat traumatised by the terrorist attacks that take place (or the threat thereof); orchestrated as they seem to be, by groups located and supported by elements in neighbouring countries.
Even so, while there is little doubt that we need to factor the sensitivities of our neighbours into the capabilities we endeavour to develop, it should be made clear that India would be willing to apply its economic and military pre-eminence in pursuance of its supreme national interests, and for the maintenance of peace and security in the region. Conveying such a message would have taken some more effort because we need to first undo the lack of credibility regarding our determination to act decisively in pursuit of national security interests.
Not too many countries took us seriously in the past since we have invariably indulged more in rhetoric that in action. That has without doubt undergone some change following the commando raid across the LoC after the Uri episode, the airstrikes at Balakote after the Pulwama incident, and most recently, the responses to Chinese aggressive actions in Eastern Ladakh.
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Given the potentials as well as the contradictions within the QUAD, India has to maximise its options in order to participate successfully in the great game that is emerging in the Indo-Pacific, writes NINAD D SHETH
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UAVS: INDIA HAS TO MOVE FORWARD
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