chapter  10
The EU, the US and India: strategic diplomacy and great power politics
Pages 17

The target – India as an emerging great power Like the European Union, India is a multi-state, multi-ethnic democracy whose role in the evolving international system has been transformed by the end of the Cold War. The loss of the Soviet Union as its major diplomatic ally served mainly to inspire India towards the economic reforms that delivered 8 per centplus growth in recent years and led India realistically to aspire to Great Power status (Wagner 2010: 63). With a population size (similar to that of China) of over one billion people, a large conventional army, a nuclear weapons capability, a space programme and a reformed economy of enormous potential India has moved seemingly inexorably towards Great Power status in the 20 years that have passed since the end of the Cold War. India’s rise to that status is thus the result both of domestic change and of the new distribution of power in the contemporary system as the bipolar structure which underpinned India’s role as a leader of the non-aligned movement has given way to one that encompasses many more centres of power – both established and emerging. In this context, it is important to contemplate what sort of Great Power India might become – a question that has been at the centre of much domestic debate in India itself as well as in the broader international community (see for example The Economist 2011; Mohan 2006; Wagner 2010). Much of this debate has been about the extent to which India can be seen as a ‘normal’ power with material interests and a predisposition to act pragmatically in pursuit of them, or whether it is in some ways ‘exceptional’ through its dedication to a certain vision of its own role and of the way in which the global arena should work. A number of commentators have drawn attention to this tension, between what have been termed the ‘pragmatic’ and ‘traditional nationalist’ views of Indian foreign policy (see for example Bava 2012; Ollapally and Rajagopalan 2011), and have related it to the uncertainties that have been generated by India’s emergence into the world arena. In effect, there is a curious but pervasive ambiguity about India’s international role, since at one level it is based very firmly on the defence of Indian independence and sovereignty, but at another level it centres on the distinctiveness of the Indian approach to mutual coexistence as the basis for world order. This form of Indian exceptionalism is different in form and content from that of the EU and the US (for a discussion of the EU and the US see Smith 2011), but it is possible to see a very strong fundamental resemblance between them. What is clear is that this leads to a strong sense of contestation about the actual and the appropriate role for India in world affairs, and its relationship to other major powers. There are those like Praful Ridwai (2010) who have argued that instead of kowtowing to the West, India should use its position on the global stage wisely to continue its support for the underprivileged (a logical extension of its former non-aligned status) and there are those like Philip Stephens (2009) who have argued that India faces a choice between being a big power or a great power, and are critical of India’s own reluctance to accept the responsibilities that go with the global status that it now demands.