India Insight

Is India really the world’s fifth most powerful country?

India is the world’s fifth most powerful country, according to a New Delhi-authored national security document, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, as Indian analysts placed the emerging nation above major European powers.

Outranking traditional global powers such as the UK, France and Germany, India’s ballooning population, defense capabilities and economic clout were cited as reasons for its position behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in India’s National Security Annual Review 2010, which will be officially released by the country’s foreign ministry next week.

Its statistical foundations in terms of population numbers and GDP aside — in terms of purchasing power parity, it should be noted — India’s experience of wielding power on the global stage of late, boosted by its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, has been less encouraging.

India has failed to cultivate a wholly reciprocal relationship with the United States, despite warm rhetoric in recent years between New Delhi and Washington and a number of big-ticket diplomatic and industrial agreements.

New Delhi appears to struggle to assert itself in the face of growing Chinese influence in south Asia, has dithered on formulating a firm approach to states such as Iran, and risked appearing naive and out of its depth during the lead-up to international efforts to protect civilians in Libya.

India’s Iran double-speak could shed light on its Libya muddle

India’s Congress-led government has a “flimsy” relationship with Iran, and holds a far more U.S.-centric view of Tehran despite a number of public statements clashing with Washington’s stance towards the country, a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable said.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) toasts alongside India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi November 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Jason Reed

The diplomatic double-speak alleged in the cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu on Saturday, shows Congress’ ability to address diplomatic pressures while maintaining bigger geopolitical relationships, and could shed some light on India’s decision to abstain from supporting a no-fly zone to thwart attacks by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on civilians, seen by some as a rebuttal of Western influence on New Delhi.

The cable, authored by the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, describes a 2008 statement rejecting U.S. demands for India to urge Iran to suspend its nuclear programme as “mere tactics in the UPA’s domestic political machinations.”

Obama reminds India of its global responsibility

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address to India's parliament in New Delhi, November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed
On Monday evening, addressing a joint session of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, U.S. President Barack Obama granted India the holy grail it had hoped for from the President’s landmark visit, as he gave his support to Indian demands for a permanent seat on a reformed and enlarged U.N. Security Council.

But Obama’s endorsement was followed by some subtle warnings for India, which won election to the executive high table for a two-year term beginning in January last month, a position that alone will pose some difficult questions for the South Asian giant.

“Let me suggest that with increased power comes increased responsibility,” Obama said after the applause from the assembled lawmakers for his show of support had died down.

India’s Iran stance will be crucial at the U.N.

India took its deserved place at the world’s most powerful table on Tuesday, winning a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council with the resounding support of 187 of the assembly’s 192 countries. India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) speaks with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Immediately, the country’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri began talking of his intent to use the tenure to push for reform, with an eye on a permanent berth for the Asian giant.

But the perennial issue of sanctions against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran and its nuclear ambitions are a more pressing — and complex — issue for India in its new role.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

China, Pakistan and India

 

According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan's decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.

The Daily Times noted that earlier attempts to target the Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the Security Council had been vetoed by China. "It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came," the newspaper said. "One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken..."

This is intriguing, all the more so given how much attention has has been focused on what the United States has been doing to lean on Pakistan to curb militant groups blamed by India for the attacks on Mumbai.  So what has been going on? Has China, with its growing economic power, become a pivotal player in global diplomacy even as the United States continues to hog the limelight?

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