Dr. Manmohan Singh, while concluding his Budget speech of 1991-92 as Finance Minister said:
“….. Let the whole world hear it loud and clear. India is now wide awake. We shall prevail. We shall overcome.”
And, the veteran minister hit the bull’s eyes. Came fall of 2010, India showed its ever increasing economic & political clout in different global platforms, be it in WTO conferences, Copenhagen, Cancun, and the most important of all, surviving the post-Lehman Collapse crisis, thanks to some prudent policies of government with a share of credit to Left as well !!
What goes around always comes around, and Asia, which was driving engine of world economy before Industrial Revolution is all prepared to ‘snatch rather receive’ the baton from the mighty west after a gap of nearly two centuries. And leading the pack are China and India, with their consistent GDP growth rates and agile capital markets with sound economic fundamentals behind them. Shifting the focus on India, a trillion and quarter dollar economy, with nearly all major factors favoring its growth, and productive demographic quotient, arguably the most important among them, India is poised to take its well-deserving seat in world pecking order in coming decades. And heads and leaders of different countries have started accepting this bitter pill, while at the same time, leaving no stone unturned in nurturing new economic ties with India, allowing their respective native companies to book a share of expanding Indian markets, be it in defence deals or nuclear reactor and fuel supplies.
A visit to India by head of states of five permanent members of UNSC (United Nations Security Council) popularly known as P-5, in just over 6 months, should be seen in similar lights. But what is more important is the delicate timing at which this has come. Make no mistake, they all came to India with business intentions and out of diplomatic concerns and formality, voiced against terrorism emanating from our neighborhood and discussed other issues like climate change, bilateral ties etc. However, a highlight of all of the five visits and music to our ears was a dormant acceptance of India’s claim to permanent membership of UNSC, which should give clear boost to India’s diplomatic relationships with other countries.
Dawn has arrived for India and it is high time for both our government as well as for the business entities and lobbies to bargain hard and achieve the status of being an equal partner. After all why should the Indian government and bureaucracy should look forward to few words of sympathy on Mumbai Terror Attacks and hinge its hope on very carefully-chosen words where they eulogize India’s effort in maintaining world peace and order and its growing economic power. Well, it would not be prudent enough to accept that we have gained nothing out of these high profile visits. But compared to what has been received at the other end, it really looks miniscule.
Lets turn our face to some interesting facts which might strengthen our claim. Only 3 US presidents visited India between 1947 and 2000. Both Clinton and Bush visited India in their second term at the office, unlike Obama. Obama also gifted India another exception by spending 3 days over here, his longest stay outside America after suffering a humiliating defeat of Democrats at House polls. He kept himself busy primarily in two things: creating business and jobs for Americans, which was his prime agenda apart from keeping India happy by offering countless lip-services. He signed multi-billion dollar defence deals apart from creating over 50,000 jobs in America. In a very important and strategic movement, China upgraded the rank of its ambassador to India to vice-minister in Chinese government, at par with other P-5 countries, during high-profile visit of Obama to New Delhi, an event definitely not mere coincidence. Wen Jiabao visit to India, as expected went nothing much beyond some trade pacts and both countries reiterating their respective stance on controversial issues like Tibet, issuance of stapled-visas to Kashmiris, border disputes among them. France was more considerate than other countries in terms of sharing benefits of inked-deals. Since, Sarkozy is incumbent head of G-20, reforms to be introduced in international financial institutes like IMF as well as G-20 is likely to be slightly more favored towards India. It seems that French President has prudently chosen India as his first foreign destination after assuming rotational presidency of G-20. Cameron also led a delegation of several ministers and over 30 business executives to sign new trade contracts but highlight of his visit was his stern words against terrorism originating from Pakistani soil. Medvedev’s visit was also historic as over 15 pacts in key areas of civil nuclear co-operation and defence were inked including one on fifth generation fighter aircraft.
Now, the question for India is to take a gauge of entire fold of events in past six months and ask itself, what next? Without any doubt, India is seen as the next big potential market for multi-billion defence and nuclear deals. Global consultancy firm KPMG report says that India will spend over $112 billion over defence purchases between now and 2016. Every country wants to have its share in satisfying insatiable energy and technology demands of our country. But shouldn’t we have lobbied for something beyond these business deals? After all we are helping US, French government to create some tens of thousands of jobs, offering several billion dollars trade benefits to China and Russia. Why don’t Indian delegation meeting foreign heads & their entourage persuades them to invest in long-term infrastructure projects, transfer growth-fostering technology rather than just helping us to make some aircrafts and reactors? Why should we take antiquated technology from them and promise them in return that we will not develop these technologies for our own sake? Why should we amend our laws on nuclear liability allowing them to set up nuclear reactors on our land with virtually null-liability and humungous profitability? And most important of all, why should we open our domestic market for them when US is continuously slapping new sanctions on visa-policy on our ever lucrative IT sector. Probably for the first time in history, India can exploit some bargaining chips at its disposal while negotiating pacts with other countries. Can we expect a similar diplomatic and business acumen from our Himalayan neighbour, China? I guess we all know the answer!!
Probably we should become matured enough to recognize the fact that a mere warning and virtually no action against Pakistan has become the new fashion of foreign heads visiting India, leaving few scope to read along those lines. The same applies for a permanent membership of India in UNSC, where every P-5 country uses the same rhetoric, although this time rather in sugar-coated words. There has hardly been any change in China’s stance over this and even Obama’s gesture was just a clever play of words with hardly any substance in it. Time has come for India to move on from these flimsy promises and sit on the table while flexing its economic and political muscles.
India should realise that that the west and specially The US sees India as a potential long-term strategic partner and would leave no stone unturned in assisting India to counter the mushroom-growth of Chinese. World has already realized that the 21st century belongs to Asia and putting your money where your mouth is likely the best option available to them. India also reaps benefits due to its unique geographical position being close to Afghanistan, where US has strong stakes and would love India’s presence not just in infrastructure development works but also in its political development, where as Pakistan’s intentions are already seen in bad light. US is already wary of increasing ties between China and Russia and with both these countries cementing their ties with India, which US is very well aware of, India was in a strong position to play its cards. The respect and regards that our top ministers pay to US and always play subservient to their demands and pressures is shameful to us citizens if not to our leaders.
The power equations of world are changing and definitely changing for the better as far as India is concerned and its different permutations and combinations may lead to different consequences in coming decades. If India is unable to take advantage of this crucial juncture in timeline of world politics, our future would further be pushed back due lackluster policies at the top. Our diplomatic stock is at an unprecedented high, so, let us all pray that as the new year dawns upon us, we promise to ourselves a more respectable position in world, where India is once again portrayed as the golden bird.
I would to like to conclude at the same point where I started this discussion, quoting Dr. Manmohan singh from his budget speech of 1991-92:
“….But as Victor Hugo once said, “no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea.”