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Seize the lead in global affairs

first_imgIn my new book, Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century, I argue that our foreign policy must serve the interests of our domestic transformation. At the same time, much of what we are in the process of accomplishing at home-to pull our people out of poverty and to develop our nation-enables us to contribute to a better world. This is of value in itself, and it is also in our fundamental national interest.A world that is peaceful and prosperous, where trade is freer and universally agreed principles are observed, and in which democracy, the coexistence of civilisations and respect for human rights flourish, is a world of opportunity for India and for Indians to thrive.ChallengeIf this century has, in the famous phrase, made the world safe for democracy, the next challenge is to make a world safe for diversity. It is in India’s interest to ensure that the world as a whole must reflect the idea that is already familiar to all Indians-that it shouldn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, the kind of food you eat, the sounds you make when you speak, the God you choose to worship (or not), so long as you want to play by the same rules as everybody else, and dream the same dreams. It is not essential in a democratic world to agree all the time, as long as we agree on the ground rules of how we will disagree. These are the global principles we must strive to uphold if we are to be able to continue to uphold them securely at home.advertisementBecause the distinction between domestic and international is less and less meaningful in today’s world, when we think of foreign policy we must also think of its domestic implications. The ultimate purpose of any country’s foreign policy is to promote the security and well-being of its own citizens. We want a world that gives us the conditions of peace and security that will permit us to grow and flourish, safe from foreign depredations but open to external opportunities.Whether global institutions adapt and revive will be determined by whether those in charge are capable of showing the necessary leadership. Right now many of us would suggest that there is a global governance deficit. Reversing it would require strong leadership in the international community by a number of powers, including the emerging ones. India is an obvious contender to provide some of that leadership.In March 2012, the authors of a report entitled ‘Nonalignment 2.0’ put it well when they argued that ‘India must remain true to its aspiration of creating a new and alternative universality. . . . India already has enormous legitimacy because of the ideological legacies its nationalist movement bequeathed to it. But this legitimacy, once frittered away, cannot be easily recovered. India should aim not just at being powerful: it should set new standards for what the powerful must do.’AnalogyThis is a huge challenge, and one to which India must rise. An analogy from another field is not encouraging; many would argue that India has not acquitted itself well when given the chance to have a global impact in one domain – that of the sport of cricket, where India accounts for more than 80 per cent of the game’s revenues and perhaps 90 per cent of its viewership, giving it an impact on the sport that no country can rival. According to a tough editorial by Lawrence Booth, the editor of the “cricketers’ bible,” the 2012 Wisden Cricket Almanack, international opinion does not believe that in its domination of world cricket, India has set new standards for what the powerful must do. Broadening the analogy to global geopolitics, one could well say: India, your world needs you.So India must play its due part in the stewardship of the global commons (including everything from the management of the Internet to the rules governing the exploitation of outer space). We can do it. India is turning increasingly outward as a result of our new economic profile on the global stage, our more dispersed interests around the world, and the reality that other countries, in our neighbourhood as well as in Africa, are looking to us for support and security. The ‘problems without passports’ that consume the world need blueprints without borders-blueprints that require rules which India can contribute to making. The creation of global public goods is a new challenge, and it is one that a transforming India can rise to.advertisementExampleIndia has the ability and the vision to promote global partnerships across the broad range of its interests; it only needs to act. In a recent speech, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon stated that ‘As a nation state India has consistently shown tactical caution and strategic initiative, sometimes simultaneously. But equally, initiative and risk taking must be strategic, not tactical, if we are to avoid the fate of becoming a rentier state.’ He provided an instructive example of what this would mean in practice:It means, for instance, that faced with piracy from Somalia, which threatens sealanes vital to our energy security, we would seek to build an international coalition to deal with the problem at its roots, working with others and dividing labour. Today the African Union has peacekeeping troops on the ground in Somalia. We could work with others to blockade the coast while the AU troops act against pirate sanctuaries on land, and the world through the Security Council would cut their financial lifelines, build the legal framework to punish pirates and their sponsors and develop Somalia to the point where piracy would not be the preferred career choice of young Somali males.This is an intriguing idea, one which so far remains in the realm of ideas rather than of implementable policy. But it is an encouraging indication that responsible Indians are already thinking beyond the established prisms of conventional policy-making to a broader and more effective Indian internationalism in the twenty-first century.- The writer is a member of Parliamentlast_img

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