China, Pak threat prospect calls for politically guided strategic approach: report

A report by former Indian officials and academics has said that the “increasing prospect of a collusive threat from China and Pakistan demands a politically guided strategic approach that identifies, prioritises and develops pertinent forms of power, which are housed in structures that promote centralised planning and decentralised execution”.

Titled “India’s Path to Power: Strategy in a World Adrift”, the report, released on Saturday, said, “While acknowledging the China challenge, India is the only country with the comparable area, population, history, manpower, and scientific and technological capabilities to not only match, but to surpass China as a parallel civilisational state.”

The report has been prepared by a group of experts, including former NSA Shivshankar Menon, former PM’s special envoy Shyam Saran (both Foreign Secretaries in the UPA government), former military adviser at National Security Council Secretariat Lt Gen Prakash Menon, Centre for Policy Research president Yamini Aiyar, professor of Politics and History at Ashoka University Sunil Khilnani, professor of History and International Affairs at Ashoka University Srinath Raghavan, Takshashila Institution director Nitin Pai, and chief economist of Aditya Birla Group Ajit Ranade.

The report says the centre of gravity of the global economy continues to shift from the shores of the Atlantic to Asia, and the ongoing pandemic is accelerating this shift. “There is an unmistakable trend towards multipolarity in Asia and the world, and it is in India’s interest to reinforce this trend. For this reason, the expansion of India’s strategic autonomy demands a re-orientation of its foreign policy towards mobilising the larger constituency of developing countries and emerging economies with which it has convergent interests and advance them through reinforcing multilateral institutions and processes,” the report said.

It said that globalisation, which is the consequence of rapid technological advance, is here to stay, even though in some respects it may have stalled. Therefore, in order to enhance its economic prospects and improve the welfare of its people, India must maintain an outward orientation of its economy and avoid being pushed to the margins of the regional and global economy, the report stated.

India’s pursuit of an expanded regional and global role will only yield optimal results if it does a better job of managing its subcontinental neighbourhood, becoming a net security provider and a source of public goods, it said.

“India’s domestic politics must not become a constraint on its Neighbourhood First Policy,” it said.

The authors subscribe to the vision of India articulated by its Constitution and believe that this is what must guide the country’s trajectory towards great power status. This must be reflected in inclusive policies and in reducing inequalities, and delivering core responsibilities of health, education and public security to all its citizens.

The report said India’s future as a great power rests on its ability to safeguard the foundational sources of its global influence, in particular, political democracy anchored in a liberal Constitution, and economic advancement with social inclusion. “India’s innate cosmopolitanism derived from its extraordinary diversity is a unique asset in this historic endeavour,” it said.

“The decisive decade ahead opens up opportunities for India to continue increasing her international role and influence, if we do what we should at home and in our immediate neighbourhood,” Shivshankar Menon said at the launch of the report.

The authors of “India’s Path to Power” believe that the current period of rapid geopolitical change and economic transformation carries risks, but also creates spaces for emerging countries like India to expand its strategic autonomy. However, to leverage opportunities and mitigate risks, critical decisions must be taken now to ensure that the coming decade sets the stage for India’s emergence as a front-ranking power in Asia and beyond.

“Strategic autonomy, openness and inclusive economic growth are the key guiding principles. This must go in parallel with the further strengthening of partnerships with the U.S., Japan and Europe, which share India’s security concerns and remain the key sources of capital, trade and technology which will enhance India’s development prospects. India-Russia relations will continue to be relevant in dealing with issues in the region and in responding to global challenges,” it said.

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