India 2047: A New Delhi-Led Asian Security Arrangement
If the last 25 years were about making India visible on the global stage, the next 25 years would be about developing its geopolitical and economic might.
A New Delhi-led Asian security arrangement is the best way forward.
In March 2020, India announced its first national lockdown, a phenomenon both unheard and unimagined. In the following months, across the West, similar measures were introduced as the healthcare infrastructure collapsed and the death count went up as COVID-19 pandemic raged.
Between March and October 2020, the West was all about holding China accountable, moving the supply chains away from the world’s largest factory, sanctions and tariffs, and a global investigation into the lab leak at Wuhan. Two years later, nothing happened. This was India’s critical lesson in geopolitical might and consequent economic dependency.
If Doklam and Galwan were lessons in defence indigenisation, the swift political takeover of Hong Kong by Beijing, and the unplanned exit, rendering all the American efforts in Afghanistan in the last two decades futile, were reminders of the receding Western supremacy in global affairs.
The colossal failure of the West, especially countries within the European Union, in projecting a unified response against the invasion of Ukraine only affirmed the obvious. Further, with the attack on Taiwan almost imminent after October, India, going forward, must imagine a security order in Asia that is not entirely dependent on the White House.
There are lessons in economic management from India’s four key neighbours, starting with China. Post-2008, Beijing relied on real estate and infrastructure to artificially inflate growth. Today, with supply outnumbering demand by a factor of a few, 20 per cent of the real estate groups are nearing default.
The economies of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, narrowing their exports to a few sectors, mainly textiles, were vulnerable enough to be taken out by the pandemic and a phase of inflation. Pakistan is a lesson in what a young nation must not aspire to be. Fortunately, India has prevailed, and its economic thinking has moved with the wheel of time. Well, almost.
The next 25 years will witness a shift in the global order. The events in Ukraine and the Taiwan Strait earlier this month have only accelerated the shift. The question now, before India and before the leaders in New Delhi, is quite simple. How does the world’s largest free market prepare for a global order led by an ageing China while the Western society dwindles around its societal follies?
For the Narendra Modi-led government, the writing on the wall is clear, and that is to build the foundation of a New Delhi-led Asian security arrangement that encompasses the Indo-Pacific, and counters Beijing. It’s not a choice; it will be necessary 10 years later, maybe earlier.
A few scenarios are plausible.
One, China takes over Taiwan militarily and politically, controls the Taiwan Strait, critical for global supply chains and trade, and challenges the Yankees in the Korean Peninsula through North Korea.
Two, an ageing China implodes under the weight of its economic faults while it continues to be the export factory of the world, given its hold on rare-earth metals and semiconductor supply chains, but with diluted military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
In either of the scenarios, the West, from America to Japan and from Europe to Australia, would rely on India to play a crucial role in any security arrangement.
India, however, has a lot of catching up to do, and while the process is underway as the government invites companies to build for and from here, the room for complacency is zero.
Compared to China’s global exports of $2.65 trillion, India’s exports are less than one-eighth, with a negative trade balance. The foundation for any security arrangement 10 or 20 years from now would depend on India’s economic partnerships with key nations, especially Russia and Japan, to begin with. The economic integration must be intensified with other South-East Asian countries, for no security arrangement is complete without them.
The path to India’s geopolitical might passes through its economic assertion, so some reimagination on that front is warranted. For the next 10 years, India must be obsessed with the idea of wealth creation, not just for its big industries but for the smallest entrepreneur in the remotest corner of India.
Today, the West failed to question India’s oil imports from Russia. As a $10 trillion economy, say in 2035, the world’s third-largest, India will run its unchallenged and unquestionable sphere of influence in a multi-polar world and be the only counter to China in Asia, thus becoming a key ally for the West. Soft power will also have a key role to play here, as it did for the US after the Second World War and China after 2008.
India@100 will not be about ensuring toilets, houses, or tap water connections for all but will be a tipping point for a civilisation that would have completed a hundred years since colonial rule, and would now be looking to assert itself in a multi-polar world, competing with an ageing China, weakened Japan and Russia, a divided European house, and who knows where the new found wokeness of American society may take their country.
If the last 25 years were about making India visible on the global stage, the next 25 years would be about developing India’s geopolitical and economic might. The revival of the QUAD was a step in the right direction, but learning from Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Taiwan, India must imagine its security considerations without entirely relying on the White House.
Our time has come. Rise and shine.
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