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. 

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