Sunday, December 30, 2012

Brazilian perspectives on India

India’s foreign policy strategy has been unique from the outset and given the country’s peculiarities it is unlikely to adapt to outsiders’ expectations and adhere to traditional categories, continuously confounding, surprising and frustrating foreign observers – particularly those in the West.

India’s role in today’s international context abounds with paradox. At first sight, there are many reasons to be optimistic about India. However, India’s global aspirations are starkly contrasted by the enormous difficulties it faces both at home and outside of its borders.
India's rise constitutes one of the most fascinating and important stories of the past two decades, symbolising, along with China, the fundamental shift of power towards Asia. Yet while many acknowledge India’s newfound importance, the country remains one of the most misunderstood actors in the international community. The need to understand India’s perspective has never been greater, and today no global challenge – be it climate change, nuclear proliferation or poverty reduction – can be tackled successfully without India’s active contribution and engagement.

Whenever two rising powers sit next to each other, the chance for conflict greatly increases as their spheres of influence grow quickly. This unfortunate constellation now becomes increasingly visible in Asia, where a rising China and a rising India have begun to claim influence over the same regions.

Despite India’s traditional focus on multilateralism and strong support of the United Nations during the Cold War, its performance on the multilateral level today is surprisingly thought to be less effective than in the bilateral realm. India’s performance in the G20, the IMF and the World Bank is widely thought to be exemplary.  

India’s foreign policy is likely to become more pragmatic. For example, rather than in engaging in fixed partnerships, India will pursue its national interest in its growing sphere of influence, and align with whomever it deems convenient – be it other emerging countries such as Brazil in one moment, and the United States in the next.

By the middle of this decade, India’s role is set to vastly exceed its current place in global politics. 

These are some of the points made by Oliver Stuenkel, the leading Brazilian expert on India in his 38-page article on " India’s National Interests and Diplomatic Activism: Towards Global Leadership?" in the LSE publication " India: The next super power?" released in March 2012. Oliver is professor of international relations in FGV, the most influential think tank of Brazil. He writes a blog " Post Western World- How are emerging powers changing the world". He was one of the speakers in the conference I had organized in Buenos Aires in December 2011 on the theme " The New India and the New Latin America – synergies and complementarities". He presented a non-western and unconventional and fresh perspective saying that India defies the conventional norms of measuring the rise of global powers.

This Brazilian perspective on India could be food for thought for Indian policy makers. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

La Nueva India ( The New India ) - book by Jorge Heine

La Nueva India ( the New India) is the first Latin American book on the rising of India in the twenty first century in spanish language. It was launched on 4 December at Santiago, Chile. 

There are lots of  Latin American books on the millennial culture, tradition and philosophy of ancient India. There are many thousands of ardent followers of Sai Baba, Ravi Shankar, Brahma Kumaris and Hare Krishna. Nicholas Maduro, the Venezuelan vice president and chosen successor of Chavez is a Sai Baba devotee. It is against this background that the author has drawn the attention of the Latin Americans to look at the new entrepreneurial culture as well as the market and mindset of the New India.

The author of the book Jorge Heine, a Chilean, represents the New Latin America, which has emerged in the last three decades with a new paradigm of growth and development with a promising future. Jorge chaired the academic panel in the seminar I had organized in Buenos Aires in December 2011 on the theme, " The New Latin America and the New India- synergies and complementarities".

The New Latin America is curious about the secrets of the rise of the New India. It is inspired by India's development model based on democracy despite the enormous challenges of huge population and mind-boggling diversity.  The New Latin America is keen to intensify engagement and partnership with the New India. Conscious of this historic coincidence, the author has given a Latin American perspective about India, based on his direct experience of having lived in India, interacted with the policy makers and business leaders and witnessed the transformation at the time of " India shining". He has pointed out the areas in which Latin America can learn from the experience of India. He has given facts and figures on the growing Indo-Latin American business and Indian investment in Latin America. He has related the story of how India came to the rescue of Argentina with increase in imports of soya oil when China stopped the imports from Argentina to retaliate against Argentine restrictions on imports from China.

The fact that La Nueva India is a publication of El Mercurio/ Aguilar ( a joint imprint of the oldest daily in the Spanish language and a leading publisher in Spain) adds prestige to the book, which was launched at El Mercurio's headquarters in Santiago.

The book gives a comprehensive overview of India after the economic liberalisation of 1991. It covers the economic growth, business boom, IT revolution, the achievements of Indian diaspora and the functioning of the biggest democracy amidst so much of contradictions, diversity and challenges. The title of the first chapter is " India takes the world by assault" and starts with the story of the assault of the Mumbai sky by the multistoreyed residence of Ambanis. It illustrates with the success stories of Bharti Airtel, Wipro, Aravind eye hospital, E-Choupals and Tata Nano. There is a chapter " Indovation" in which the author talks about the typically Indian innovations, Jugaad and "frugal engineering". There are chapters covering the foreign policy of India and the threats to India arising from terrorism. The last chapter is " Mumbai Consensus" talking about the harmonization of the vision of the various stake holders about the future of India. The word Consensus is etched in the memory of the Latin Americans who had suffered the consequences of the imposition of neoliberal policies of " Washington Consensus" in the ninties. But now the region has found its its own development model called as " Brasilia Consensus", which is a balanced and pragmatic mix of Inclusive Agenda and market-friendly policies. 

Jorge Heine was Chilean ambassador to India in the period 2003-7. He was not a conventional ambassador confined to the cocktail circuits of " Cheers" and " Your Excellency".  He had interacted extensively with business, academics, media and political leaders of India. He had given lectures on Latin America in Indian universities, think-tanks, chambers of commerce and management institutes. He wrote articles in Indian newspapers and magazines. Even now he is a regular contributor to The Hindu on Latin American and global affairs. No other Latin American Ambassador of the past or present has ever had such an extensive reach out in India as Jorge has accomplished. I used to call him as the Blackberry Ambassador since he was known to communicate and respond instantly making use of the Blackberry popular in those days. Coincidentally, the Blackberry company Research in Motion is the one which funds his position as CIGI Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie Schoolof International Affairs, Canada.
Jorge has enriched the book with his diverse background and expertise. By profession, he is a political scientist. He was a cabinet minister in the Chilean government before his ambassadorial postings to South Africa and India. He is author of several books and articles. He is visiting professor in several European and American universities. He has also worked as consultant to UN and some global foundations.
This book is not just an academic exercise by Jorge Heine. He is a genuine believer in India and has been talking about India's promise in seminars and conferences held in US, Europe and Latin America and also writing about India in global newspapers and magazines. He got me to coauthor with him an article in the prestigious America's Quarterly on India-Latin America relations. 

This book is a reflection of the new trend of direct dialogue and interaction between Indians and Latin Americans. In 2008, a Brazilian journalist Patricia Campos de Mello wrote a book " La India- de miseria a potencia ( India – from misery to potency ) after her two week visit to India. Last month, Florencia Costa, another Brazilian journalist published a book " Os Indianos" ( The Indians ). She had lived in Mumbai for five years and has married a Times of India journalist Shoban Saxena, who has now moved to Sao Paulo and has started writing articles on Brazil and Latin America. 

La Nueva India is a contemporary version of the famous Octavio Paz's book " Vislumbres de la India" which had introduced the India to the Latin Americans. Octavio Paz was also ambassador to India, like Jorge Heine. Given the extensive and passionate promotion of India in Latin America with his book, articles and lectures, Jorge Heine can be described as the Latin American Ambassador of India.