When the border stand-off with China deepens, India will need to think of all potential diplomatic solutions in this crisis that will lend it leverage. New arrangements with a variety of foreign powers is one such factor which is often discussed in this sense. Most military analysts salivate at the possibility of an ever stronger coalition with the United States.
It is a good moment for mobilizing public sentiment on China. As China under Xi Jinping regime has seen an unprecedented degree of global alienation. But can that be translated into concerted global action to bring real pressure to bear on China? India should pursue every avenue possible. Yet we would always have a thorough understanding of the limits of what can be achieved for India through new partnerships or agreements.
It’s important to remember that in the context of the development paradigm of a country , international relations are formed. India’s primary goal, if it can possibly articulate one, would be to maintain the optimum space for its growth model. In that way, India isn’t special. The alliance between the US and China may have arisen in the diplomatic effort to establish a break between the Sino-Soviets. But for decades this relationship was sustained not by a strategic logic, but by the logic of the developmental political economy in both the US and China, where they depended on each other reciprocally.
The technology model ‘s diplomatic prestige waned, and it is this fact that will be essentially the catalyst of the relationship between the US and China. The question for India is not just whether the US has any stake in the development of India, which it could have. Yet it is more a matter of how India’s infrastructure needs can fit into the evolving model of US growth. Will the very powers of the political economy which establish a disengagement with China also come in the way of closer relations with India? Some sections of American big business could be batting for India; but the underlying dynamics of the political economy are less favorable.
Would the US grant India the space it wants for commerce, intellectual property, legislation, agriculture, labour mobility, the very domains where democracy is essential to the economy of India? Can an American hell-bent on getting industrial jobs back to the U.S., comfortably fit with a Bharat “atma nirbhar?” To see what’s at stake, we need only look at how friction over the development paradigm drives tensions between the US and the EU on trade, taxation and regulatory issues.
There is sometimes a complaint in the US about India being invited but refusing enthusiastically to come to table. Given the salutary cultural and political impetus in this relationship there is some reality to this. Yet the causes of this, including climate change, have also been genuine disagreements in growth. It was also that this question was antithetical to the other strategic commitments of India at various points. India was wise to stay out of the Iraq war, it was wise not to completely spurn Russia, and it is wise not to throw its weight behind the US policy on Iran.
There’s more wisdom in the US to comprehend the role of India. But there is a section of India ‘s strategic community that sees India ‘s reluctance to go in with the U.S., hook line and sinker, as a sort of ideological wimpiness, not a sign of deeper-thought-out realism that it was.
It is a strange moment in global affairs, where a common challenge emanating from China is recognised, but there is no global appetite for concerted action. The global response to the BRI could be an interesting example. Many countries struggle to meet their debt obligations to the BRI. Most loans from China have been a millstone around the necks of the debtor countries. But it’s hard to see the rest of the international community help all these countries wean their regimes away from Chinese finance dependence. Similarly, there are now considerable concerns about frontier conflict areas such as cyber security and space.