September 4, 2018

As China courts central and eastern Europe, whither India?

The following op-ed, co-authored with Yamini Sharma, originally appeared in The Hindustan Times on 4 September 2018.

In a rare high-level engagement by India in an increasingly pivotal region, President Ram Nath Kovind is on a visit to Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

Long seen as an area of competing Russian and western interests, central and eastern Europe (CEE) has not always featured prominently in India’s foreign policy agenda. Despite trips to 11 western European countries since 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to visit central or eastern Europe. In part, this is because economic and people-to-people links remain weak. The region accounts for only 1.2% of India’s exports. While Indian investment is slowly growing — consider Apollo Tyres’ $557-million investment in a greenfield facility in Hungary in 2017 — it is still modest. Despite these constraints, the CEE countries appear keen to bolster business ties with India in agriculture, energy, transportation, cyber security, and information technology.

While Indian engagement with the CEE to date has been mostly economic, it is natural that it should start assuming a strategic character as well, not least because of China’s sustained outreach. In July, Bulgaria hosted the seventh ‘16+1’ Summit, a meeting of central and eastern European leaders with China that saw participation from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, the Baltic States, Albania, and six former Yugoslav countries.

Since its initiation in 2012, the ‘16+1’ framework has been somewhat controversial. Although Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has stated that the mechanism is not a geopolitical tool, many western European officials have raised concerns about Beijing using the body to drive a wedge between the European Union and some of its member states, 11 of whom are participants.

For Beijing, the region’s true significance lies in Europe being the endpoint of the network of infrastructure projects that comprise China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While many European leaders initially welcomed Chinese investments as part of BRI, some have started to express doubts. British Prime Minister Theresa May recently emphasised that China needs to adhere to global standards. Similarly, French President Emmanuel Macron has argued: “The ancient Silk Roads were never only Chinese…If they are roads, they cannot be one-way.” But despite the considerable coverage — and growing anxiety — over BRI and 16+1 in Europe over the past few years, a few realities need to be kept in mind about Chinese engagement with the CEE.

First, as in other regions, there are significant gaps between the amounts of Chinese investment promised and the amounts delivered. A special $11.15 billion fund established by China has not been tapped, grand plans for a Budapest-Belgrade railway line have been derailed for potentially violating EU tendering rules, and talk of China financing a new airport in Warsaw appears to have lost steam. Meanwhile, China’s economic relations with western Europe dwarf those with the CEE states. Beijing’s largest trade relationship in the region is with Poland, but its exports there are still less than a quarter of its outgoing trade to Germany. The disparity applies equally to investment. In the UK alone, China has been involved in deals worth over $70 billion, compared to just $3.3 billion in the nine CEE states for which reliable data is available.

Nonetheless, regional leaders point to the dire need for infrastructure investment from China, and cite the successful completion of Chinese-backed projects such as the Pupin Bridge in Serbia and highways in Macedonia. Officials from these countries also argue that the 16+1 format is the only means for smaller countries to engage bilaterally with Beijing. In private, diplomats from the region reveal concerns about the impact of Chinese investments on trade imbalances, the levels of associated debt, and political strings being attached. For instance, Montenegro’s debt to China has increased substantially over the course of the construction of a recent highway.

Beyond the gap between promises and delivery, there is also immense variation in China’s economic relations with the CEE countries. As of 2015, Hungary was the largest recipient of official Chinese financing, while other countries had received negligible sums. Among non-EU states, Serbia has been the largest recipient, while Chinese investment in the Baltic States has been relatively insignificant. Similarly, while China’s exports have increased across the region, its trade with the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina or Albania remains marginal.

Finally, despite the relatively modest economic impact of 16+1 and the variation in relations, China is already beginning to demonstrate its political influence in the region. For example, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro have supported China’s controversial claims to the South China Sea. Similarly, Hungary has sometimes been outspoken in calling for China to be recognised as a market economy, a position at odds with the rest of the European Union.

The scepticism of China’s efforts naturally presents opportunities for India. Indeed, in one area in which India is carving out a normative leadership role for itself (in terms of sustainable connectivity), central and eastern Europe may well be an area of promise, one in which India can support efforts by the European Union and others. But the main obstacle, other than scale, is the lack of exposure and knowledge about opportunities in each other’s countries among business communities in India and the CEE states. Greater political engagement can help to rectify some of that.

August 26, 2018

Is India leaning toward the fifth axis of South Korea's diplomacy?

The following interview originally appeared in The Korea Times on 26 August 2018. 

Q: How would you sum up the Indian foreign policy?
A: It is hard to sum up India's complex foreign engagements in a few words, but most of India's objectives can be placed in five broad categories. One: Using foreign policy to accelerate India's domestic development, including through sourcing investment and technology, improved standards, diaspora outreach, security cooperation, and other means. Two: Maintaining a stable periphery by improving neighbourhood connectivity and regional integration. For a variety of reasons, this process is often frustrating. Three: India's Act East Policy is meant to preserve a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region in light of China's rise. A fourth goal is countering terrorism and instability to India's west, including through some difficult diplomacy with Pakistan and efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. And five, creating space in forums of global governance so that India's interests can be adequately represented on such issues as climate change, monetary coordination, institutional lending, international security and nuclear non-proliferation. This extends to involvement at such institutions as the United Nations, the G20, the East Asia Summit and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Q: How do you evaluate India-China relations?
A: India-China relations are complex but consist of four defining elements. Two have traditionally been contentious. On bilateral security, the two countries have a long-standing boundary dispute, and we have witnessed occasional military standoffs along the border. Second, on regional security, India has always had concerns about Chinese influence in its near abroad and the Indian Ocean region, and these have only increased with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India has boycotted BRI, which it sees as traversing territory disputed between India and Pakistan and thus an affront to its sovereignty. More importantly, India sees China's BRI financing as unsustainable, creating conditions for debt to be leveraged for strategic purposes. 

Two other areas of India-China relations have traditionally been more cooperative. Bilateral trade and economic relations have improved significantly since 2000, but the trade deficit has widened in China's favor, and Indian businesses are increasingly frustrated with the lack of market opportunities there. 

On global governance, India and China traditionally cooperated on various issues such as climate change and at the U.N., BRICS and the AIIB, but there have been growing differences, in part due to China's self-perception as a power on par with the United States. China has thus not supported India's membership at the U.N. Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Consequently, all four elements of India-China relations have become more difficult over the past five years or so. While this year has seen some tactical efforts at managing differences, the longer-run trends suggest a much more competitive and contentious relationship between two countries with billion-plus populations.

Q: Do you consider the Indo-Pacific strategy substantial?
A: The Indo-Pacific has entered the official strategic vocabulary of several countries ― including India ― in recent years. Essentially, it implies at least three things: that the Indian and Pacific oceans are part of a single strategic space; that the maritime domain is strategically and economically significant, and (indirectly) that India plays an important role in the regional balance of power as the largest economy and military in the Indian Ocean region. These are the common strands to the use of the term Indo-Pacific by India, the United States, Japan, Australia, and others. However, while the United States and Japan have their own "free and open Indo-Pacific" strategies, India views the Indo-Pacific not as a strategy, but as a space in which its Act East Policy will be implemented. 

In essence, this means securing the Indian Ocean, deepening connectivity with Southeast Asia, improving security partnerships with the United States, Japan and others who have shared concerns about China's rise, and managing an increasingly difficult relationship with Beijing. To this extent, the Indian Navy and Indian aid have been playing a more active role in the Indian Ocean, India has increased its diplomatic activity and security relations with ASEAN (including hosting all 10 leaders in Delhi this year), and has also made headway with the United States, Japan, and Australia. If there is a weakness, it has been in India's insufficient economic integration with the region as a whole.

Q: What do you think of Korea's New Southern Policy?
A: South Korea has for many years punched above its weight on economic matters and has a potent military. However, it has been preoccupied with strategic concerns on the Korean Peninsula, resulting in a bit of a mismatch between its capabilities and its influence in the broader region. Insofar as the New Southern Policy marks a willingness to engage strategically with that wider region, it is a very welcome sign. President Moon Jae-In's visit to India earlier this year was a step in the right direction.

Q: Would you share your thoughts on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, including the denuclearization?
A: I'm no expert on Korean Peninsula issues, but have naturally been following developments there for many years. India had historically played a very active role on the Korean Peninsula, including through the provision of military aid during the Korean War under a United Nations banner and in the repatriation of prisoners of war in the 1950s. India has since maintained diplomatic ties with both Seoul and Pyongyang, although economically, politically and in terms of values, India shares much more in common with the Republic of Korea than with the DPRK. Recently, while welcoming diplomatic efforts between the two sides, New Delhi has become more overtly critical of the North's development of nuclear and missile technology and has participated in international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Q: Please suggest the direction for India-Korea relations to be developed to another level.
A: Economically, relations are quite strong. Korean companies have performed well in the Indian market and a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed in 2009, although trade could still improve. In terms of security, relations have been taking off from a relatively low base. The fact that Korea was one of the first overseas destinations of the previous Indian defence minister is indicative of that fact. Two areas, however, are deserving of much greater attention. One is improving people-to-people ties and contacts. This would mean increasing the incentives and opportunities for the exchange of tourists, students, businesspeople and other visitors. Two, there is scope for improving the strategic component of the relationship by sharing lessons learned. After all, both India and the Republic of Korea are involved in difficult negotiations with nuclear-armed neighbors whose leaderships are not always interested in engagement. Yet there have been few efforts by New Delhi and Seoul to systematically learn from each other's experiences. In these domains, India-Korea relations stand to improve tremendously.

August 9, 2018

Ladakh: The third, and most overlooked, part of J&K

The following article originally appeared in DailyO on 9 August 2018.
Over the last year, and for the first time in its thousand-year history, the village of Sumda Chun in Ladakh gained access to a motorable road. Only a handful of families inhabit this tiny hamlet, nestled at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters on a tributary of the azure Zanskar River. 
The azure Zanskar is one of the many treasures of Ladakh. The azure Zanskar is one of the many treasures of Ladakh. (Photo: Author)
Thanks to the new motorway, the approximately 60 kilometre journey to the Ladakhi capital of Leh — which would have earlier begun with a two-hour trek to the nearest paved highway — is now just a 90-minute drive.

The village has already begun to reap the fruits of this new development, sometimes quite literally. Watermelons, once a rare delicacy that had to be transported by pack animals across high-altitude desert terrain, are now proudly served to guests.

But with the arrival of modern comforts that include road access and reliable solar power, Sumda Chun also faces new challenges.
Modernity comes at a price: Development, though welcome, is threatening Ladakh's traditional lifestyle. Modernity comes at a price: Along with connectivity, highways have brought threats to Ladakh's traditional lifestyle. (Photo: Author)

The local monastery (gompa) dates from between the 11th and 14th centuries and boasts gorgeous clay and wooden sculptures and painted murals. For art historians who specialise in the Himalayan region, the specimens are unique and therefore invaluable. Despite its having been listed among the most endangered sites by the World Monument Fund, the monastery’s treasures have long caught the eyes of antiquarians and art thieves — the wooden ceiling in one chamber reveals a gaping hole, from which a rare painting had been plundered about 25 years ago. 

With greater accessibility, locals are concerned about greater threats of this kind to their cultural heritage.

Land of High Passes
Ladakh, the sparsely populated region of Jammu & Kashmir, is less than a two hour flight from Delhi — but it feels like half a world away. Its blue skies and stark landscape set it apart, as well as its distinct culture. For travellers, though, it is the high altitude — 3,500 meters upon landing in Leh by aeroplane — that requires the most getting used to.

Despite its small population of less than three lakh people, the strategic importance of Ladakh for India cannot be underestimated.

To its east lies territory occupied by China, including the desolate Aksai Chin. The Indian and Chinese militaries regularly patrol along the disputed boundary, with stand-offs sometimes resulting in fisticuffs. 

To the west lies land claimed and contested by Pakistan, including Kargil and the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground, beyond which lies Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Indian armed services consequently boast a sizeable presence in Ladakh, and military trucks regularly rumble over the region’s roads, duly maintained by the Border Road Organisation.
For art historians who specialise in the Himalayan region, the specimens are unique and therefore invaluable. For art historians, statues such as this one, from Sumda Chun monastery, are invaluable. (Photo: Author)

But as the people of Sumda Chun are discovering, modernity — while often welcome — is beginning to challenge Ladakh’s traditions in various ways. This contradiction affects almost every aspect of day-to-day life, including governance. 

Ladakhis constitute only a fraction of the population of Jammu and Kashmir, and often complain of neglect by state authorities — many support the creation of a separate union territory that could be administered directly from New Delhi, a wish complicated by Article 370 of the Constitution that determined the terms of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession.

In 1995, a compromise of sorts was reached, with the creation of an Autonomous Hill Development Council in a bid to improve direct self-governance.

Questions of economic development are just as fraught. The lack of higher educational and employment opportunities has required some Ladakhis to move to other parts of India, including Delhi, Punjab, and parts of South India, which they casually refer to as “the plains” or, simply, “India.”

In the rest of the country, Ladakhis often confront racism and general ignorance: Not long ago, a union minister of the Indian government innocently inquired if Ladakhis required visas to travel to the rest of the country.

Because formal employment opportunities remain limited, the sizeable presence of the Indian armed forces is vital. The Army is by some distance the largest contributor to Ladakh’s economy. It remains popular among many Ladakhis, not simply for its maintenance of roads and security, but for its provision of both subsidised goods and — more importantly — jobs.  

The Army is by some distance the largest contributor to Ladakh’s economyThe Army is the largest contributor to Ladakh’s economy, though tourism is catching up. (Photos: Author)

Tourism is the second-largest contributor to the economy. In 1974, foreign tourists began to visit Ladakh for the first time, but their numbers have now been surpassed by domestic travellers, drawn to the region’s spectacular vistas, adventure sports and monasteries.

By contrast, agriculture remains underdeveloped, and subject to the availability of Ladakh’s scarce water resources. Agricultural processing, distribution and marketing also remain modest, to the point that some Leh merchants even source higher-quality packaged apricots — a fruit widely grown on local farms — from Pakistan. At the same time, the national and international demand for Ladakh-grown products, such as sea buckthorn, which has become popular for nutritional and cosmetic purposes, has significantly increased.

Old Monks, New Problems
But beyond politics and economic development, it is in the social and cultural realm where the clash of modernity and tradition in Ladakh is becoming most pronounced. 
Monks at Gotsang, above Hemis MonasteryMonks at Gotsang, above Hemis Monastery. (Photo: Author)

Contrary to popular perceptions in the rest of India and overseas, Ladakh is not ‘little Tibet,’ although there is significant cultural overlap. Ladakhis remain proud of their distinct identity, including their language, dress and art forms. Religion remains an important part of the indigenous social fabric. Among Buddhists, who constitute the majority, four sects retain a presence in Ladakh: the Drukpa (the largest sect, as whose guest I visited), the Gelugpa (whose most influential figure is the Dalai Lama), the Sakya and the Drikung Kagyu. These sects, and their many monasteries, still play important roles in the day-to-day customs of many Ladakhis, including festivals, marriage rites, traditional medicine, education and local dispute resolution.

In addition to Buddhists, Muslims constitute a minority, mostly Shi’a with a smaller number of Sunnis. As in other parts of India, tensions between religious groups are discernible, particularly on matters concerning conversions and intermarriage 

Ladakh is bound to become more exposed to the outside world with the influx of higher numbers of tourists and better connectivity — including by air and road — with the rest of India.

But in a variety of ways, the people of this sheltered region are already confronting contradictory pressures. On the one hand, they seek the benefits of a modern world, from employment and advanced agricultural techniques to better education and healthcare. On the other hand, many want to preserve their traditional ways of life, from village-level governance to religious customs and traditional water-sharing mechanisms. The people of Ladakh — including the villagers of Sumda Chun — face a challenge in preserving a careful balance between these competing forces.

July 27, 2018

It’s time India got real about its ties with Russia

The following article originally appeared in The Hindustan Times on 27 July 2018. 

In India, we often poke fun at Pakistani depictions of their relationship with China. The two countries’ ties — including nuclear and missile cooperation after the 1970s and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — are regularly described in baroque termsby them: “iron brothers” whose friendship is “higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans.” Yet it’s clear that China has rarely bailed Pakistan out from a tight spot. During the Kargil War in 1999, Beijing criticised Pakistani adventurism and recklessness and has subsequently snubbed Pakistani requests for financial bailouts, as in 2008.

While Pakistan’s faith in China may at times seem na├»ve, there are sometimes echoes of it in Indian characterisations of relations with Russia. Diplomatic niceties aside, India-Russia ties have always been transactional.

India’s relations with the Soviet Union were slow to take off after independence. Anxiety about Soviet support for domestic communist revolutionaries led to an Indian wariness that only began to subside in the mid-1950s. Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953 paved the way for Moscow to provide economic and technical assistance to non-communist countries such as India. At the same time, the US and UK roped Pakistan into the Baghdad and Manila Pacts. Only then did India begin to align with Soviet positions on international diplomatic matters, such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. (At the time, Indian journalists lambasted New Delhi’s position as shameful sycophancy to the Soviet rulers and kowtowing.) After some initial Russian defence purchases in the late 1950s, India agreed to buy MiG-21 aircraft in 1961, facilitated by technology transfers and mindful of deterring China. Indo-Soviet defence ties accelerated after the United States suspended military assistance to both India and Pakistan during the 1965 war.

But despite this growing bonhomie, Moscow’s support for India was never unconditional. After some hints of neutrality, the USSR eventually leaned towards Beijing during the 1962 India-China war, in part to ensure its support during the Cuban missile crisis. After 1965, the Soviet Union positioned itself as a neutral broker between India and Pakistan, hosting the summit at Tashkent and even supplying military assistance to Pakistan in 1968.

Relations assumed a clearer direction with the 1971 Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation (modelled on a similar arrangement between the USSR and Egypt), which was prompted by the US-China rapprochement and their support for Pakistan. As a consequence, India’s defence ties with the USSR deepened and cooperation eventually extended to the war in Afghanistan. The relationship also broadened: by the early 1990s, the Soviet Union was India’s largest trade partner and Indian students of medicine and engineering had gone in sizeable numbers to the Soviet republics. Still, ties remained business-like: India regularly rebuffed Soviet attempts at closer military contacts. Later, in the 1990s, Russia initially joined the United States and China in condemning India’s nuclear tests.

Today, the relationship has become one-dimensional, centred on arms sales by Russia to India. Between 2000 and 2014, 73% of India’s imported military equipment came from Russia. But India’s imports from Russia halved overnight following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and have remained lower at about 50-60% amid international sanctions. Meanwhile, overall India-Russia trade has been slight, rising from $6 billion in 2014 to $10.7 billion this year. Although energy relations are deepening, the overall economic relationship remains narrow, not helped by the poor performance of the Russian economy. Just five years ago, Russia’s GDP was 20% larger than India’s; today, India’s is 70% larger than Russia’s.

Under these circumstances, what explains India’s high-profile and sustained engagement with Russia this year? One, India still needs Russia for military spare parts just as Moscow needs New Delhi for revenue. Two, there are certain technologies that Russia is willing to provide — such as nuclear-powered submarines — that the likes of the United States never will. The defence relationship will therefore remain vital for the foreseeable future. Three, as in years past, Russia wields a powerful veto at the UN Security Council, and multilateral cooperation extends to BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Four, there are deep and abiding concerns in New Delhi about Russia’s post-2014 relationship with China and its exploratory ties with Pakistan. For all these reasons, engaging with Russia at the highest levels is absolutely necessary. Major deals — including last year’s multi-billion dollar deal involving Rosneft and Essar or this year’s negotiations towards the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system — are likely to continue, even if they risk attracting the ire of Europe and the United States.

But India-Russia ties would also benefit from a dose of realism, a Bulgakovian realisation that no one’s fate is of any interest to you except your own. There is little indication that Putin views India in sentimental terms, unlike an earlier generation of Russian officials exemplified by former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov or the late Russian envoy Alexander Kadakin. India’s high-profile and sustained outreach to Moscow in 2018 is not a reversion to an imagined past. It is a hard-nosed attempt at managing a transactional relationship over the medium-term future to secure vital Indian security interests and preserve a favourable balance of power.

July 17, 2018

India rising: Soft power and the world’s largest democracy

The following essay originally appeared in the 2018 Soft Power 30 report, the full text of which is available here.

Arguably, few phrases are as misused in international relations as “soft power.” When he coined the term, Joseph Nye captured the important and (at the time) poorly-studied phenomenon in international affairs of “getting others to want the outcomes that you want,” predicated on the attractiveness of one’s culture, political values, and foreign policy. As the world’s largest democracy that is also home to the world’s largest number of impoverished people, India is variously described as a model soft power or a country that makes remarkably poor use of it. For some, its rich culture and democracy stand in contrast to other authoritarian and revisionist great powers, and indeed many Indian leaders speak positively about the country’s soft power potential. By contrast, as implied by its absence from The Soft Power 30 Index, India evidently does not yet benefit as much from international awareness, positive associations, or investments in cultural diplomacy as many other countries.

In reality, the picture is mixed. Indeed, there are many ways in which India fares poorly in terms of elements of national attraction. It has a widespread (and often justified) reputation for corruption, endemic poverty, and hostility to business. Reports in the international media of pollution in urban areas, child labour, and violence against women have also detracted expatriates, tourists, businesspeople, and other visitors. At the same time, India’s associations have started to change over the past quarter century from a land of poverty and Mother Theresa to a source of software programmers and techies.

As the world’s largest democracy that is also home to the world’s largest number of impoverished people, India is variously described as a model soft power or a country that makes remarkably poor use of it.

However, despite these contrasting trends, there are several reasons that may explain why India fares worse on objective metrics of soft power than it perhaps should. Firstly, any measure of soft power that compares countries on a per capita basis is bound to favour developed states over developing ones such as India. India may be home to more top 30 unicorns (billion dollar start-ups) than any country other than the United States and China, but its digital penetration remains low, with millions still without access to electricity, let alone basic digital technologies. Similarly, India has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than all but five other countries and more public policy think tanks than any country outside the United States, China, and United Kingdom, but still fares poorly on tourism and education on a per capita basis.

Secondly, India rates badly on any measure of state-driven cultural diffusion rather than more organic and natural private sector and citizen-led efforts. For example, India’s national airline – Air India – is in such woeful shape that the government struggles to find buyers or investors. But four of the fastest growing airlines in the world by aircraft orders (Indigo, SpiceJet, GoAir, and Jet Airways) are Indian, all privately owned and operated. Indeed, most Indian cultural diffusion to overseas audiences – from yoga to Bollywood – has occurred without the involvement of the Indian government, which has made only belated attempts at reclaiming these phenomena as national contributions. In a similar vein, the Indian government has made no more than modest efforts at promoting the study of Hindi abroad in large part because of its linguistic diversity at home. Recent efforts at doing so have been controversial and hotly debated within India.

Thirdly, there are Indian contributions that are not necessarily associated with the country. The most successful export of India’s largest car manufacturer Tata Motors is Jaguar Land Rover, manufactured primarily in Britain. To give a very different example, Buddhism has hundreds of millions of adherents around the world but very few in its birthplace in India. While Buddhism has become indigenised in such places as Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia, India has only recently made efforts at appealing to these countries as the fount of Buddhism, by facilitating pilgrimages and sponsoring religious renovations, in China and Myanmar.

Finally, in many cases India’s appeal is to others in the developing world rather than to high-value or prestige markets. For example, despite their many evident shortcomings, India’s universities continue to attract a large number of students from across the developing world, including Nepal, Afghanistan, and Africa. Indian food is popular around the world but is often seen as a cheap eat rather than worthy of a Michelin-starred fine dining experience. Indian popular films may not be rewarded at the Academy Awards or at Cannes but have massive followings in China, Central Asia, and the Middle East. There are recent signs that Indian culture may be moving up the value chain: consider the establishment of luxury Taj Hotel properties in Boston, San Francisco, and London, or the New Delhi fine dining establishment Indian Accent opening up a branch in New York City in 2016.

Despite the evident shortcomings – both in terms of actual soft power and in ways in which metrics capture India’s soft power capabilities – India has a reasonably good track record of leveraging its culture, political values, and foreign policy for national objectives. In the 1950s, India benefited from significant aid from both the United States and Soviet Union. Democrats in the US Congress saw India as a darling of the developing world even as Soviet leaders perceived the country as a foothold for their engagement outside the Communist bloc. India benefited in very real terms from these associations and relationships, resulting in the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology, which formed the backbone of India’s software boom in the 1990s, and the Green Revolution in the 1960s that helped make the country agriculturally self-sufficient.

There was also a strong moral streak in India’s external engagement during the Cold War, helped in part by its self-perception as a pluralistic but postcolonial democracy. In 1959, it was in India that the Dalai Lama sought refuge, and the presence of the Tibetan spiritual leader and his followers in India continues to attract visitors and supporters from around the world. Similarly, India’s principled boycott of South Africa for its racist Apartheid policies won it respect from post-colonial states across Africa. In 1971, despite overwhelming opposition from the US and United Nations, India created international acceptability for its intervention in East Pakistan (which resulted in the independent state of Bangladesh) by calling attention to the morality of its actions. It was assisted in no small part by the appeal of Indian culture among the likes of former Beatles member George Harrison, who organised a sold out concert for Bangladesh in New York’s Madison Square Garden that featured Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, and helped bring acceptability to India’s military intervention and creation of an independent state. India’s soft power appeal manifested itself even after the end of the Cold War. In the 1990s, India was brought into Asian institutions by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), who saw the appeal of its growing economy and democratic values. Similarly, in the 2000s, the US worked to gain India an international waiver from nuclear sanctions, effectively recognising it as a de facto nuclear weapon state, a process that was enabled by mostly positive associations of India as a democracy, growing market, and responsible steward of nuclear weapons. Even more recently, governments and dissidents in India’s neighbouring countries – from Bangladesh and Nepal to the Maldives and Afghanistan – turn to India for assistance in conducting free and fair elections, drafting their constitutions, and developing welfare schemes.

As these examples suggest, the metrics of soft power – particularly those that capture state-led efforts, high-end cultural exports, or per capita capabilities – may understate India’s record of utilising its soft power for national objectives. India has found soft power to be a necessary but insufficient ingredient in its engagement with the world. As a democracy with a rich culture and a modicum of principle in its international engagement, it has often benefited in real, tangible ways from its soft power. Clearly though, it has its work cut out in better projecting its culture and values to international audiences. As India builds upon a range of ongoing political and diplomatic efforts – from improving its ease of doing business rankings, unveiling its Incredible India tourism campaign, getting International Yoga Day recognised by the United Nations, or investing in Buddhist diplomacy – we can expect its soft power to gradually grow.

July 10, 2018

The World Cup exposes the limits of globalization

The following post appeared on the Brookings Institution's Order from Chaos blog on 10 July 2018.

International soccer, often known around the world as football, is undoubtedly a beneficiary and a symbol of globalization. Over 70 percent of players at this year’s FIFA World Cup play professionally for clubs outside their native countries. Chinese sponsors have shelled out $835 million on the event, contributing more than a third of its advertising revenue despite China not qualifying for the tournament. In many ways, the transnational nature of soccer has helped diminish differences and prejudice: Two decades after the Nigerian-born Polish star Emmanuel Olisadebe was subjected to monkey sounds and bananas thrown at him by his own fans, Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa—who thrived at the club CSKA Moscow—characterizes playing in Russia as “playing at home.” Meanwhile, Egypt’s Mohammed Salah—who celebrates each goal for his club Liverpool by kneeling in prayer—was voted 2018 player of the year in England, just as the British government grapples with thorny questions of immigration and Islamophobia.

However, amid these feel-good stories, there are plenty of signs that nationalism, ethnic tensions, and racial prejudice are alive and well in international soccer. This year’s World Cup has been no exception. While the tournament has fortunately been immune to the worst excesses of tribalism, several incidents reveal the limitations of its globalizing influence.

Questions of nationalism were already manifest in the run-up to this year’s tournament. Last year, Spain defender Gerard Pique was booed by his national team’s fans for his outspoken support of Catalonian independence. During the last European Championship in 2016, Russian and English soccer hooligans fought in the streets of Marseille. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin initially indulged in taunts (“I don’t know how 200 fans could hurt several thousand Englishmen.”) before the Russian government belatedly distanced itself from the violence, mindful of its responsibilities as 2018 World Cup hosts.

In addition to stoking nationalism, soccer has a long history of bringing out some of the worst in ethnic and religious stereotypes. For example, opposing fans of traditionally Jewish soccer clubs—Tottenham Hotspur in England or Ajax in the Netherlands—have been known to make hissing sounds that are supposed to mimic gas chambers. In Germany, certain soccer hooligan groups reportedly cooperate with neo-Nazi groups, including on weapons training.

To their credit, soccer authorities have acknowledged racism as being a major problem, and have taken some steps to address it. But casual racism nonetheless continues. Last year, the star of France’s team, Antoine Griezmann, posted a picture of himself online dressed as a Harlem Globetrotter for a 1980s themed party, complete with blackface. Following the predicable outrage, Griezmann swiftly deleted the picture and made a perfunctory apology. The controversy was all the more striking given that Griezmann plays for one of the most racially and ethnically diverse national teams in Europe, to the extent that French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen once called it “not a real French team.”

Fans have been as guilty of insensitivity as players themselves. Mexico’s advancement to the second round of this year’s World Cup was a direct result of South Korea’s defeat of Germany. Many Mexicans, wishing to express their gratitude to South Korea, posted pictures of themselves online with their eyes pulled to their sides. Although these fans may not have intended to offend, their racial stereotyping of Asians was apparent.

Beyond questions of race, ethnic and national demonstrations have been on occasional display during this World Cup. In a group stage match, two Swiss players of Kosovar descent made an Albanian nationalist gesture while playing Serbia, recalling the ethno-religious conflicts that scarred the Balkans in the 1990s. That Switzerland has one of the most diverse squads in the tournament—composed of five African-born and three Balkan-born players, as well as seven second-generation immigrants—only contributed further to the incident’s many ironies. And while he quickly distanced himself from his comments, Croatian defender Domagoj Vida—who played for many years with Dynamo Kiev—celebrated his country’s quarterfinal victory over hosts Russia by shouting “Glory to Ukraine,” a slogan associated with anti-Russian protests.

If a key question of our times is whether the forces of globalization or nationalism will prevail, international soccer could well be the canary in the proverbial coalmine. There are certainly many reasons to take comfort in the World Cup as a celebration of globalization. But there has also been enough to dent the widespread assumption that globalization would lead inevitability to greater cosmopolitanism, tolerance, and understanding. If international players—part of a rarefied elite that travels the globe, speaks multiple languages, and plies its trade in several countries—can fall back so easily on nationalism or racial stereotypes, perhaps it is time to dismiss with gauzy notions of inevitable universalism.

June 29, 2018

2+ 2 Delay Does Not Mean India-US Ties Are In Trouble

The following article originally appeared on on 29 June 2018.

The postponement, for the second time, of the first '2+2 Dialogue' involving the foreign and defence ministers of India and the United States is being projected by some as a setback in India-US strategic relations. The previous postponement related to the absence of a US Secretary of State following the firing of Rex Tillerson. The latest reason is the unavailability of his successor Mike Pompeo due to North Korea-related travel. While disappointing for India, and indicative of US political priorities at the moment, citing this as evidence of a reversal or setback in India-US security relations is short-sighted.
It is remarkable to consider how much the India-US strategic and security relationship has evolved over the past quarter century. A visit by the Indian Air Force chief to Washington in 1995 and a 1997 trip by the US Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to India were ground-breaking at the time. After India's 1998 nuclear test, the US led the imposition of strong sanctions on India, suspending all defence sales, lines of credit, international financial institution loans, visas for Indian scientists, and non-critical aid. Even after the repair in ties between 1999 and 2005, India had justifiable reservations about US intentions, including its continued relationship with and dependence on Pakistan.
Today, the India-US security partnership encompasses a large variety of activities, from information sharing and joint exercises to defence sales and emerging industrial cooperation. Even after Donald Trump's election, developments in security relations over the past 18 months have surpassed expectations in several areas. The first is in terms of bilateral engagement. In 2017 not only did Trump meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and agree to a joint statement that reflected many Indian concerns, but cabinet-level officials - Secretary of Defence James MattisTillerson, and National Security Adviser HR McMaster (the latter two no longer in office) - all made their way to New Delhi. Less noticed, but no less significant, is the almost constant two-way traffic of working level security officials, both from the armed services and among civilian bureaucrats. Not surprisingly, the US National Security Strategy and still-evolving 'free and open Indo-Pacific' strategy reflect considerable alignment with Indian positions on key issues. And while purely symbolic, the emphasis on the Indian Ocean inherent in the renaming of "US Pacific Command" to "Indo-Pacific Command" is evident.
Second, cooperation and coordination involving third countries has also increased. India-US-Japan conversations have been upgraded to the ministerial level. A working-level quadrilateral dialogue has been resurrected, and has now met twice. A new trilateral infrastructure working group involving India, the US, and Japan has also been established. India, US and Afghan officials converse more today than they did a few years ago. Country-specific coordination in third countries has increased, as in Sri Lanka. Differences on Pakistan have also been moderated, including by a sharp decline in US aid to Pakistan.
Third, a host of bilateral security agreements have been advanced in recent years. A logistics supply agreement - which had been under negotiation for a decade - was finally concluded, as was an agreement to facilitate helicopter operations. While not yet finalised, negotiations towards an agreement to facilitate secure communications are underway.
Fourth, there has been some movement on arms sales and defence industrial cooperation, although important roadblocks remain at both ends. The US recently approved the sale of additional attack helicopters to India, and the possibility of the sale of armed drones has been broached. The manufacturing of defence components in India by US companies is already underway with Hyderabad emerging as a nascent hub as India slowly integrates into global defence supply chains.
Fifth, military exercises have continued apace between the two countries' armiesair forces, and navies, and are increasing in complexity. India recently participated in the United States' multilateral RIMPAC exercise and tri-service amphibious exercises are now on the horizon with the U. armed forces. The only precedent for the latter is a tri-service exercise that India conducted last year with Russia.
Despite this convergence, which has only accelerated in the past few years, India-U. defence relations have been the subject of constant criticism, a combination of unrealistic expectations and doubt. Sceptics in both India and the United States regularly raise the canard about a budding alliance. India has been consistently clear that an alliance is not the objective of improved India-US military cooperation. This is not out of any fidelity to non-alignment, but rather a well-grounded belief that alliances are constraining, politically unrealistic, and somewhat anachronistic in today's world. However, a much deeper defence partnership that facilitates information exchanges, interoperability, and capacity building efforts is certainly feasible, and arguably necessary given India's daunting strategic challenges. Many in Washington - accustomed to formal alliance structures - struggle to comprehend this, although that too is gradually changing. Meanwhile, inflated expectations coexist with criticism in both countries by those who are against the very idea of India-US defence cooperation on political or ideological grounds.
Certainly, India and the United States will continue to have their differences. The US Congress has imposed tough sanctions against countries engaging economically with Russia, despite reluctance by the White House and concerns by the Pentagon and State Department about its impact on ties with India. While the wiggle room afforded the executive branch in pending US legislation remains to be seen, the imposition of sanctions would definitely harm defence relations with India, which has made it clear that it will continue major arms purchases from Russia. Similarly, the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal risks American sanctions on Indian entities engaged in commerce with Iran, a move that will particularly affect India's energy sector. An escalating trade war between the United States and China has already begun to affect India, which has retaliated by giving notification of increased tariffs on select imports from the US In all three cases, from Washington's standpoint, India is a secondary target to Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing. Nonetheless, it is natural that India should adopt a tough negotiating position with Washington in a bid to resolve these differences in its favour. Barring severe escalations in these three areas, which are still possible if they are not carefully negotiated in the coming weeks and months, such differences will not fundamentally alter the broad trajectory of India-US defence relations.

June 5, 2018

India and the Indo-Pacific balance at Shangri-La

The following article originally appeared in The Hindustan Times on 5 June 2018.

Each year, the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore convenes defence ministers and military commanders from across Asia, Europe, and North America, along with representatives of defence companies and assorted academic experts and journalists. Over the past two decades, it has evolved into Asia’s premier security conference, where matters such as tensions on the Korean peninsula, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation are deliberated. Keynote speakers in recent years have included the prime ministers of Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and Australia. This year’s keynote address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, therefore, proved an important opportunity to highlight India’s perspectives on regional security dynamics.

Not surprisingly, Modi’s address was filled with a laundry list of India’s regional partnerships and activities. He mentioned India’s ties with Japan (“the cornerstone of our Act East Policy”), “momentum” with South Korea, “fresh energy” in partnerships with Australia and New Zealand, and engagement with Pacific Island nations. He also highlighted New Delhi’s “special and privileged” partnership with Russia and a multi-layered relationship with China. He discussed various ways in which India was engaged with the region, including military exercises, trade agreements, and assistance. And he scored points with his hosts by drawing special attention to Singapore, a country that Modi characterised as India’s “springboard to Asean” and “a gateway for India to the East.”

But Modi’s main message was his articulation of India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region. The idea of the Indo-Pacific as a single strategic space is an outgrowth of China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. It signifies the interconnectedness of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the importance of the oceans to security and commerce, and India’s role in the broader region. But it has come to be seen by sceptics as a byword for a strategy to balance China by other countries, including India. Critics in China argue alternatively that the Indo-Pacific concept adds to tensions and lacks substance, while in Southeast Asia concerns have grown that it could contribute to divisions within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Modi clarified that for India the Indo-Pacific was neither a strategy nor an exclusive club. He described it as a “natural region” ranging “from the shores of Africa to that of the Americas” and argued that it should be “free, open, and inclusive”; grounded in “rules and norms…based on the consent of all, not on the power of the few”; and characterised by respect for international law, including on the issue of freedom of navigation and overflight. It was not lost on many observers that his language closely mirrored that used by the United States and Japan, both of whom have begun to articulate their own “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategies. Modi’s veiled message was directed at China, and reflected a more widespread concern about how Beijing is wielding its economic and military muscle.

But just as important, Modi gave a reassuring message to the Southeast Asian delegates. He characterised the Indo-Pacific as consistent with Asean unity and centrality, a sentiment that US and Japanese leaders have inadequately communicated. Modi pointed out that Asean had in fact “laid the foundation of the Indo-Pacific Region” and key Asean initiatives embrace its geography by including India. Therefore, rather than being divisive or dismissive, India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific further reassures and reinforces an Asean whose unity continues to be undermined by Chinese influence.

If Modi’s speech did not explicitly highlight the roots of the primary challenges to regional security, US secretary of defense James Mattis was less circumspect in his address at Shangri-La. “China’s policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness of our strategy,” Mattis said, pointing to China’s deployment of missiles, electronic jammers, and bomber aircraft in disputed islands as an act of “intimidation and coercion”. His description of the US free and open Indo-Pacific strategy included an emphasis on the maritime domain, naval capacity building, interoperability, and investment in infrastructure and connectivity. This too aligns with Indian concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which New Delhi perceives to be resulting in unsustainable debt and political leverage over vulnerable economies.

While Chinese officials continue to downplay the Indo-Pacific as a concept, a number of developments have concretised. The number of strategic dialogues, intelligence sharing mechanisms, military exercises, and defence compacts involving large and medium powers in the Indo-Pacific — including India — have rapidly multiplied. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in Modi’s prior stop in Indonesia, where a range of recent and imminent India-Indonesia defence mechanisms were highlighted. In a region where tensions are growing, Modi has laid a clear marker of India’s orientation. The Indo-Pacific is a multipolar region that is increasingly contesting the notion of one state’s potential hegemony.

May 18, 2018

To be a great power, India’s political weaknesses need to be redressed

The following article originally appeared in The Hindustan Times on 18 May 2018.

Following India in international affairs is a lot like following its cricket team. In the media and among the general public, successes are met with unquestioned adulation, and flag-waving. Just as easily, and often quite suddenly, setbacks result in woeful laments and self-flagellation. Meanwhile, old timers wax nostalgic about gentler days when India successfully held out for a stalemate. The reality is, of course, a mixed picture. As in cricket, India boasts considerable strengths relative to others in international relations. But its weaknesses need to be appreciated, understood, and — whenever possible — addressed. Despite the difficulties of such an exercise in a more polarised political environment, an objective assessment of India’s international power is necessary.

Fortunately, the Lowy Institute, a think tank in Australia, now provides a helpful resource in its online Asia Power Index. The Index painstakingly compiles data on 25 Asian powers — from the United States to Pakistan, Russia to New Zealand — along eight measures, 27 sub-measures, and 114 indicators. The impressively researched and delightfully presented online interactive effort offers some useful insights on comparative international power, although I would personally quibble with some of the indicators used. (Full disclosure: I was one of the dozens of experts consulted by the Lowy Institute on some of the qualitative assessments used in the index.)

What does the Asia Power Index tell us about India’s resources and influence? Overall, India ranks fourth in Asia in power (with a rating of 41.5), marginally behind Japan (42.1), but well behind the United States (85) and China (75.5). India also comes across as a relatively well-rounded power. It features fourth on overall economic resources, military capabilities, and diplomatic influence, and third in cultural influence.

Not surprisingly, most of India’s positive attributes relate to its sheer size and large population. India clearly benefits from having a large military force, conventional military capabilities, and nuclear and strategic missile programmes. India also fares positively in future projections, based on its economic trajectory, military spending, and growing workforce. Its large size also translates into military, diplomatic and cultural influence. India’s military partnerships — reflected in defence consultations, joint training and arms procurement — stand it in good stead. India also benefits from a wide diplomatic network, membership of major multilateral institutions and political leadership. Its cultural influence is also rated highly, largely as a result of its sizeable diaspora, English-language media and rich cultural heritage.

But the Index exposes some glaring weaknesses, primarily in three areas. The first concerns its anaemic economic influence. Barring overall gross domestic product, India fares poorly on most economic indicators such as international leverage (6th), connectivity (7th), and technology (14th) as a result of such factors as the lack of rupee reserves and transactions, poor productivity and low R&D spending. India ranks 6th in geo-economic security due to a high dependence on energy and raw material imports. And it features a woeful 11th in economic diplomacy due to a paucity of free trade agreements.

Second, while India’s military resources are undoubtedly vast and reasonably sophisticated, its military influence is limited in some respects. India fares particularly poorly in terms of arms transfers (7th), as a consequence of a feeble military-industrial base. Additionally, despite its large military capabilities, India’s ability to deploy them in Asia is ranked only 6th, a testament to its limited force projection capabilities. In one area in which Indians might differ considerably with the Index’s assumptions, considerable importance is attached to military alliances, which India eschews and perceives as limiting. Instead, India compensates in a growing network of robust military partnerships, where it rates far better (5th).

Third, India features particularly poorly in terms of institutional stability, which reflects such elements as government effectiveness, public health and civil unrest. Taken together, the fact that its measures of influence are less impressive than its aggregate resources means that India is deemed an underachiever by the Power Index. However, this applies equally to other large Asian countries whose per capita indicators are low, including China, Indonesia and Pakistan. It should be no surprise that countries that are well-resourced on a per capita basis — such as Japan, Singapore, Australia, and South Korea — are among the overachievers, that can more effectively translate resources into influence and thereby punch above their weights.

Just like its gifted batsmen and crafty spinners in cricket, India should appreciate and exploit its relative strengths. It boasts a sizeable military, is more resilient than in the past and is on a positive economic, military, and demographic trajectory. It wields reasonable diplomatic clout, benefits from a growing network of military partnerships and has an influential diaspora and media. But just as Indian cricket realised the need for a dedicated pace academy to produce fast bowlers, its international political weaknesses need to be redressed. This will require creating greater economic leverage through better connectivity, trade negotiations, and R&D investments; improving its military industrial base and power projection capabilities; and improving resilience through administrative, law and order, and public health reforms.

May 10, 2018

The India–China summit in Wuhan was no reset

The following article originally appeared in the Lowy Interpreter on 10 May 2018.
The “informal summit” in Wuhan, China, between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping last month generated a wave of commentary in India, China, and further afield.
The Chinese media played it up, heralding a major breakthrough in which India had “chosen” China.
The Indian media was more circumspect, and often critical. Some veteran observers of India–China relations saw the summit as a reversal, even capitulation, of India’s recent hardening approach to China. Others welcomed it as an overdue course-correction, implicitly laying the blame for the deteriorating relationship at New Delhi’s door.
The reality was much more prosaic. There are two reasons that the Wuhan summit did not represent a reversal of Indian policy, much less a reset.
First, despite the surprise announcement, the summit did not come out of the blue. According to China’s Ambassador to India, it was first proposed by Modi in June 2017 at a bilateral with Xi in Astana, Kazakhstan. An informal summit was therefore in the works even before the Doklam military confrontation last summer.
Plans continued even as China’s foreign minister Wang Yi and state councillor Yang Jiechi visited India in late 2017. The Wuhan summit was stood up because of longer-term geopolitical trends, rather than any short-term crisis.
Second, although Modi and Xi exchanged perspectives on a variety of issues, based on the official read-outs from both governments there is no evidence that either side made any serious concessions.
Some commentators have speculated that New Delhi altered its approach to the Tibetan government in exile, ceded influence to China in the Maldives, or kept Australia out of the Malabar naval exercises as part of a general compromise with Beijing.
Such links are misleading. An Indian memo recommending that officials not appear publicly with the Tibetan government in exile was not without recent precedent, and was in any case not adheredto. Similarly, the Maldives political crisis has given riseto exaggerated reporting (contradicted here and here) concerning China’s military role.
If anything, there has even been some alignment in Beijing’s and New Delhi’s approaches to the crisis. Meanwhile, India–Australia military cooperation, rather than being put on hold, has accelerated.
But India made it clear a year ago that a resurrection of quadrilateral cooperation would not be linked to Australia’s inclusion in the Malabar naval exercises. This helps to ensure the sustainability of both the “Quad” and Malabar. 
If India has not made any serious concessions to China, neither has China to India. China’s inroads in the Indian Ocean and in South Asia – which have caused India a great deal of discomfort – are unlikely to reverse. China has not indicated support for an Indian leadership position in such forums as the Nuclear Suppliers Group or UN Security Council. The trade deficit remains gaping at $52 billion. Beijing’s recent offer to exempt import tariffs on some Indian pharmaceuticals has in fact been made previously, to little effect.
The differences between India and China are therefore still as wide as they were before Wuhan.
Some broad areas of cooperation did emerge from the summit. One was a welcome reiteration to better manage differences along the disputed boundary. Another, IndiaChina cooperation in Afghanistan, was in fact mooted more than a year earlier, even before the Belt and Road Forum in 2017 which India boycotted. As such, it cannot represent a softening of India’s stance on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as some have interpreted it.
Aspects of India–China cooperation have also continued throughout, despite differences, including in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. To give but one example of recent tactical cooperation, China dropped its hold on Pakistan’s return to the Financial Action Task Force’s “greylist” in return for Indian support for a Chinese leadership position on that body.  
Consequently, rather than a reset, the Wuhan summit was primarily the product of a more fluid geopolitical landscape, in which both sides saw an interest in hitting the pause button on a steadily more competitive relationship. In that sense, it is not dissimilar to Japan’s ongoing “thaw” with China.
Despite a forthcoming general election, India must use the resulting time and breathing space wisely, because its effects will be temporary. 
It will have to continue securing the Indian Ocean by maintaining year-round deployments from the Gulf of Aden to the Straits of Malacca; operationalising military agreements with, among others, the USFranceSingapore, and Oman; and working with Indian Ocean island countries to improve its maritime domain awareness.
New Delhi must also further deepen its engagement with Southeast Asia, improving airground, and maritime connectivity, enhancing its security role, and preserving its diplomatic momentum. And India must continue to enhance its strategic partnerships with other countries that share its concerns about China’s rise, including (but not limited to) the USJapan, and Australia.
The longer the India–China timeout lasts, the better it will be for both countries. But it would be unfortunate if in the meantime New Delhi succumbs to either complacency or defeatism.