India in a global perspective is becoming an increasingly important area of study. Not only for academics theorizing the potential impact India as a world power will have in the geopolitical dynamics of Asia, but for policymakers who have to govern their relations with India in practice as it reaches its full potential stature. The set of problems the international community is facing, from climate change to terrorism, cannot be managed nor solved without India being part of the equation. This point was driven home at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, 2009. The U.S. President Barack Obama, fresh from electoral victory, a successfully legislated stimulus, and a Nobel Peace Prize award, sought a global game changer that would regulate on an international level carbon emissions production and reduce the rise of temperatures. To have success at the summit required that the U.S. coordinate an accommodation between the developed and developing world. This proved impossible, and the developing world, including India, had a great deal to do with that. By arguing that the manmade effects of climate change were largely the result of rich, western nation’s industrialization, it would be unfair to hinder poor nation’s growth and prosperity through regulations that weren’t sought during the industrial revolution.
India, with China, Brazil, and the many robustly developing nations resisting the agenda at Copenhagen, were successful, and global action on climate change has been prevented since. What does this anecdote tell us about the manner in which International Relations will be handled in the 21st century? More importantly, how will this new style of International Relations reconfigure power relations in Asia from the south to the Far East? On the former question, we are already seeing the changes major powers have made in crafting solutions to what are global problems. The United States and China have signed a separate agreement on climate change; the two have bilaterally agreed to reduce their emissions based on 2005 levels of production. Global problems, rather than fester, will be solved on the bilateral and multilateral level, where smaller, more unified coalitions can agree to changes in the status quo with less contention. This principle is also on display in economics, where the U.S. is moving ahead with a regional trade agreement after the failure to create a global free trade agreement. Could this agreement stretch out of the Pacific to India? Or may India tie its future trade relations to other nations, like the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP) being discussed by China-ASEAN? From Jagannath Panda, the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis:
While the success of TPP hinges on the global economic authority of the US and how the negotiation process unfolds, the future dynamism of RCEP will depend heavily on how China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) conduct their negotiation process and accommodate the interests of other regional powers, including India.
India could complement a United States hedge of a growing China in Asia’s regional order, as many U.S. policymakers would like. Or it could be nonaligned, in the image of Nehru, but undertaken in an entirely new language, of economics and peace, rather than anti-colonialism. A last speculation: China could reach out to India, through its strengthening relations with Russia and Iran, as a quartet partially cordoning the U.S. from a comprehensive Asian order. India has much to gain, regardless of the path it chooses to take. Each strategy requires a different foreign policy path for India. As a Democratic state, where decision-making can be loose, India will have to overcome domestic hurdles if it is to craft a global foreign policy, and chart a successful path to its full potential on the international stage.