On East Asia’s periphery (2)

Why India must accelerate its engagement of East Asia

An editorial in Mint puts it very well.

From the shrunken horizons after the Nehru years, it turned inwards. Even after 1991, when trade and profit became respectable again, foreign policy did not regain its former compass.

This has to change. For two reasons. One, given the current uncertainties around American effort and will to involve itself with the world, such political engagements have to be local. India, South Africa, Brazil and Japan, among other nations, have to take a larger part of this role. Two, the rise of authoritarian capitalist states. China and Russia in their present state fall in that category.

Here, the importance of India cannot but be emphasized in strong terms. The world realizes that but India does not. Writing in the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs, the historian of war and civilization, Azar Gat, underscored the importance of democratic India in the age of American decline. This stems from the authoritarian nature of China and Russia and the importance of India in balancing China and as a model that India represents for other developing countries. Action on this front is more important in Asia than anywhere else. Most countries in the continent have had economic freedom, but are scared of the turmoil that accompanies noisy democracy. India’s experience is heartening in this respect.

For India, meeting the Chinese challenge in Asia is important. Unless we engage with Asia politically, economically and culturally, China will steal a march over us. If these markets are important for us, then getting a foothold in them requires a strategy that is more than mere price-cutting and cheap goods. [Mint]

As in geopolitics so in trade, India needs to shed its strategic myopia.