NEW DELHI: The reference to India’s “emergence as a leading global power” in the US National Security Strategy unveiled by US President Donald Trump Tuesday has led to some analysts claiming that it raises India’s status from a regional power to the international top table.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, however, chuckles at the thought. “That would be a bit of an exaggeration,” he says. “What the US is talking about is the US, Australia and Japan and India getting together in the Indo-Pacific, in the context of a rising China. To that extent, India is being looked upon as a player outside South Asia and even outside the Indian Ocean. Because the whole idea is to push us towards taking security responsibilities in the western Pacific. Then there is some conversation about India and America teaming up in Africa.”
However, “if you are looking at a global power, or some global responsibility, there is a whole wide world beyond this, including the trans-Atlantic region and Latin America. Then, they are negative about Russia in the national security review. We on the other hand have a very important relationship with Russia. Similarly, we differ over Iran. When they talk about a global power, it means a convergence of interests at the global level, but that is not there,” he argues.
“Plus, they have to make up their minds about Pakistan,” says Sibal. “While they are making strong noises, they also say they want some kind of partnership. It’s like half threatening and half appealing to Pakistan. Then there’s all these totally irresponsible nuclear threats that the Pakistani NSA has unleashed recently. What is disquieting about this national review is that they talk about their concern over a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan. It’s a very neutral formulation, as if both sides are responsible. This is not a satisfactory formulation. Yes, there is a very clear cut support for India’s role in the region and Asia, clear desire to publicize India as a partner of the US, this is not unimportant. But we should be clear headed and not get taken in beyond a point.”
“First of all, who are they to certify us as a power, great or otherwise?” asks another former diplomat, MK Bhadrakumar. “If this is their national security strategy, where they see China as a revisionist power and India as a great power, then why couldn’t they have opened their mouth over Doklam?” Referring to the mention of US concerns over a nuclear conflict in South Asia, he says: “It is a complete contradiction to call us a great power and then say they will pressure us to avoid a nuclear war."