Is India, or Will it Be, a Responsible International Stakeholder?
Xenia Dormandy; Washington Quarterly, Summer 2007, Volume 30, No. 3
Xenia Dormandy is executive director for research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and former director for South Asia at the National Security Council.
It has become a cliché that the key strategic challenges facing Washington and the wider international community, such as energy, water, terrorism, economic development, and nonproliferation, cannot be solved by the United States alone. Although the United States unarguably retains its post–Cold War preeminent position, events since the September 11 attacks have shown the limitations of Washington’s hard and soft power. Meanwhile, the power of Europe and Japan are waning as they face internal distractions that limit their influence, while China’s is rising globally and in Asia, arguably the most important region to the United States strategically. China’s increasingly high military spending has built strong and capable armed forces, and its economic power is developing swiftly, with annual growth averaging nearly 10 percent over the past 20 years. From a low following Beijing’s crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, China’s influence is growing as well.
These power fluctuations compel the United States to seek out like-minded allies that will proactively help to resolve global as well as Asian challenges. In September 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick asked whether China would rise peacefully to become a “responsible stakeholder” that “recognize[s] that the international system sustains their peaceful prosperity, so [that] they work to sustain that system.” He went on in the speech to solicit China’s cooperation on a number of global issues, including North Korea, nonproliferation, and terrorism. Considering India’s significant rise over the past few years, the same question could be asked of India. Largely unnoticed by the global community, India has ascended to the world stage over the past 15 years, building on its economic reforms of the early 1990s and nuclear tests in 1998. In addition to an economic growth rate second only to China’s, at 8 percent annually over the past three years, New Delhi continues to retain its position as leader and cofounder of the Non- Aligned Movement (NAM) and unofficial head of the developing world. India has the third-largest army, fourth-largest air force, and seventh-largest navy worldwide and is eagerly lobbying to be considered a global player, actively seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Both President George W. Bush and then–Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have described the bilateral relationship as that of “natural partners.” The United States has made India one of its central foreign policy foci and a powerful success story, especially since President Bill Clinton’s triumphal five-day visit in 2000. Considering its capabilities, will, interests, and values, India would seem to make an ideal partner in the region and even globally. Will India live up to the U.S. definition of an “international stakeholder”? What might be the constraints on its desire or ability to do so?
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