India is going to be the next super power. 21st century is going to be Asian Century. We have demographic dividend with us. We are 3rd largest country in GDP(PPP) in the world and so on and so forth. Seems like everything was so good for us.
But when I started to think deeper on this… we are going to be super power. But are we clear on what we wanted to be? Or what is our target? I think we are still daisy and not clear on what we wanted and how we wanted to do it. Especially in the IOR or on countering China in this region. In this article I will try to present the need to be more objective in our ambitions. The ideas were influenced by book Why India is Not A Super Power (yet)- Bharat Karnad. The idea of Monroe doctrine and need for us to develop our own doctrine is talked about.
What is it?
This was a policy of United States of America in 1823, put forward by its President James Monroe, where he stated that Latin America, Caribbean and all the western hemisphere are the American sphere of influence. Any efforts by European colonial powers to take control of North & South America would be viewed as ‘manifestation of unfriendly disposition towards the United States’.
To put it simply, James Monroe says- USA is the boss in this region (western hemisphere) and any effort by outsider to intervene here would be seen as aggression and be taken seriously. And they have to deal with USA.
Asian Monroe Doctrine
The geopolitical and economic importance of Indian Ocean Region needs no mention. This is going to increase further more with India being at center of world growth engine, China’s outreach here in the IOR area, great growth possibilities in Africa etc… This brings to the point that who keeps it safe and peaceful for all the countries to have level playing field.
It can’t be anyone except India. Here comes the Asian Monroe Doctrine- though was roughly thought by Jawaharlal Nehru, could not be implemented to our advantage. Due to whatever reasons, we were not active in the region and China has very swiftly taking seat in the region through its cheque book diplomacy. We can feel it in Maldives and Sri Lanka.
I think it’s time for us to be clearer with what we wanted to be future, be objective. We need to formulate something in the lines of Monroe Doctrine for IOR (though we can tone down to suit present situation). We need to tell the world, especially China, clear and loud that- We are the peace keepers in this region and we are responsible for bringing fair level playing field. Any effort to change the status quo which destabilises the region would be viewed seriously and that country or force will have to deal with India to do so. Basically to say we are the boss here. (Just like Chinese are saying to USA and world about South China Sea)
Will It work?
The general worry is will it work today? Can India match up with Chinese navy, and can India alone do it? Does India have that economic might? The world today is different than what was at 1823 of USA.
Yes for sure it can do. When USA declared its Monroe Doctrine in 1823 it even didn’t have any navy. But they dared the European powers. Because they understand that Britain would help them with naval power. Because Britain (Royal Navy) has interests in not letting any other European power to get control over Western Hemisphere. Britain is happy to let it go to USA but not any European power.
Now fast-forward to 2018, Indian navy is top in IOR, but can it take alone against China? We don’t need to do it. Just like Britain then, we have USA which is interested in containing China. They are happy to concede this region to India but not to China. Surely USA would be there to back up India till we can deal independently. The time has changed but the dynamics and polity remains same. It was USA then and it will be India now. The only thing is to tone it down to better suit the present world polity.
We can bank on the support from like-minded countries like Japan, Australia and Vietnam. And pressure in IOR region and some pressure from South China Sea region countries would put aggressive China under some restrain. This will allow us to develop our internal capabilities in terms of economy, navy, military etc..
What should we do?
I believe we cannot rely on any external agent for a long time. So it is imperative that we strengthen our defense forces, especially navy and army in the buffer time. This is so important that we should develop indigenous defense industry. We cannot be a great power with most of our defense equipment coming from other countries. The other area I think we need to work on is to engage with other countries in IOR region, be able to get bases there or able to use their ports in emergency times etc… need to have bigger presence in this region.
The other area we are good at is the soft power and capacity building in nearby countries. It is obvious that we cannot match the big pockets of China. But surely we can do things like Asia Africa Growth Corridor and engage with locals. Need to focus more on this aspect. Most importantly, we need to grow our economy fast. China is 5 times our GDP. They don’t respect us till we have decent economy to match them, at-least 10 trillion USD.
In the end….
In the end, its our mentality at first that matters. The Chinese in 1962 not just defeated our military but, our minds and the way we thought. For last 2 generations we were living with a mentality of fear and awe towards Chinese might.
Noo…, lets stand up to them and be clear and see how far they can go …lets understand this basic fact- we will always be bullied unless we stand up and reply. Let’s leverage on the support from USA and stand up. There is no power that is stronger and bigger than India.