India’s emergence as a great power in Asia and as the second largest economy in the world by 2020 would be based on its ‘cultural diplomacy’ and values rather than on military might, says an analyst.
According to Dr John Lee a Foreign Policy Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, India has defied expectations of the western world.
“India’s power is ‘soft,’ as the country increasingly influences through culture and foreign policy rather than through military and economic force.
His analysis included India’s military capability over the years.
It has the world’s fifth largest Navy, accounting for a fleet of 57 surface combatants (including the British-built INS Viraat) and a highly professional force, he said.
As well as building designed aircraft carriers, India has plans to construct its own nuclear-powered carriers. It boasts of a home-designed and built nuclear-powered submarine.
“Military spending has been increasing by 10% each year and currently stands at $US26.6 billion, driven by the ambition to develop a sphere of influence that extends across ‘The entire maritime swath from the Western Pacific Ocean to the Straits of Malacca in the Indian Ocean,” Mr Lee said.
If India can come to grips with the challenge of “cultural diplomacy” and develop more “hard power” to bolster its cultural influence, it would be well placed to be one of the principal leaders in, and shapers of, the Asian Century,” he said.
Mr Lee said India has come a long way since its Independence from Britain in 1947.
“It is a remarkable feat for a country that was mocked, ignored or dismissed as a ‘Geographical Expression’ (by the late Sir Winston Churchill).
“According to the investment bank Goldman Sachs, the Indian economy will quadruple in size between 2007 and 2020 and surpass the size of the US economy to be second only to China’s by 2043,” he said.
The annual growth has averaged around 7.5% since early 1990s, to reach 9%. Despite the current global downturn, the Indian economy will grow by about 8% this year, he said.
According to Mr Lee, the emphasis on ‘soft power’ has added to the credibility of India and its increasing influence around the world.
India’s attractiveness and ‘soft power’ potential lie not in its Nehruvian traditions of socialism or non-alignment but in the fact that its rise (unlike China’s) complements rather than challenges the preferred strategic, cultural and normative regional order.
But the country can realise its ‘soft power’ only if it can demonstrate to the world of the ability to continuously pursue the reforms needed to build on its ‘hard power’ potential.
“Success in this direction will place India as a principal leader in the Asian Century.”
India is no more a victim of the international system, he said.
“Indian elites are becoming more confident in India re-emerging as a great power in Asia. But, like China, India will remain a relatively poor country (in terms of GDP per capita) for decades. Therefore, just as Beijing wisely measures its progress in terms of building ‘comprehensive national power,’ New Delhi now seeks to measure its progress by its reserves of both hard and soft power,” Mr Lee said.