India and the changing global power structure

New Delhi must adopt a system to exploit the potential of its ancient civilisation and culture, rather than simply import economic and social models, especially from the West.

Published: 12th January 2013 11:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th January 2013 05:53 PM   |  A+A-

Two recent reports—Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds by the US National Intelligence Council, and US Strategy for a Post-Western World: Envisioning 2030 by the Atlantic Council—give a clear indication that 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the world is under a new form of global governance. Although Washington remains the only superpower in the world, US hegemony has declined globally. New centres of political power have emerged in new economic centres which are gradually developing in Asia and Latin America.

Today, Asia could return to have a leading role, especially thanks to the rise of China and India at a regional and global level. This has already resulted in a paradigm shift in the US foreign policy which is more focused on the Asia-Pacific region. China is emerging as a leading global power and represents the most important country in the world in manufacturing, production and commerce. As an emerging economy, India, too, is set to become an important centre in the new multipolar world order.

To play its role effectively, New Delhi must adopt a system to recognise and exploit the potential of its ancient civilisation and culture, rather than simply importing economic and social models, especially from the West. In case of Asian giants, their increased clout should be seen as their re-emergence since the territories corresponding to the current states of China and India were characterised during the 16th century by the existence of vast empires, economically and militarily more advanced and also more populated than European kingdoms of the same period.

While stepping up its economic growth, both India and China also need to address many negative aspects of the growth. There are social inequalities between the population of big cities and the countryside. Millions of Chinese still live below the poverty line. India too has palpable social imbalances and internal inequalities as well a high proportion of poor. India must appropriately face its internal political issues, often based on collisions between different identities—a price of the Indian democratic system and sometimes a brake on its growth.

During 2012, there was an attempt made by the BRICS nations to reform the current system of representation inside the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the last G20 meeting in Los Cabos (Mexico) in June.

This was also a very important summit because the emerging countries allocated billions of dollars to the IMF emergency fund to provide additional support to eurozone economies in the event of a worsening of the debt crisis. BRICS nations have called on the IMF to push through reforms of quotas agreed in 2010 in order to recognise the contribution of emerging economies and increase representation of BRICS in the vote system. Current configuration of IMF vote system is anachronistic and fails to reflect the enormous changes that have occurred in the global economy during the last decade.

Another significant contemporary element of the changing global power relations is the emergence of geopolitical and geo-economical groupings. Organisations such as the Group of 7 or Group of 8 cannot effectively decide for everyone like in the past. They do not represent the current system of power.

Not only the BRICS, but also the ASEAN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the SAARC provide India a platform to enhance its role and relevance.

A particular and concrete pattern of regional cooperation can be offered by the current foreign policy of India, which is characterised by a “unilateral appeasement” facing small countries of South Asia, without expecting reciprocity in exchange. A free trade agreement between India and ASEAN is expected to raise India-Southeast Asia trade to $200 billion by 2022 and could be the beginning of concrete dialogue in the economic field with other countries such as China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand.  drsatishmisra@gmail.

Misra is a senior fellow with Observer Research

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