Foreign Policy Blogs

Dreams for the new year

As India steps into a new decade it seems ready to take on the world. But this process will not be without some big challenges. While terrorism and internal security are crucial concerns, sustaining the rapid economic growth and making India easier and safer to do business with are also huge challenges. With the India-US civilian nuclear deal and subsequent waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, India is starting to make its presence felt on the global stage. But it seems to fall short of standing out as a power to reckon with in the future.

In a thought provoking piece in the Indian Express, K.S. Bajpai tackles how India currently handles its foreign affairs and says that it needs to “learn to pursue commonalities alongside managing differences.” He is very critical of how security issues are handled by the Indian government because of having being a part of it at the ambassadorial levels.

The unbelievable ways in which we run ourselves are frightening enough; worse still is our indifference to the consequences for our security. Unless we organise ourselves to function as an efficient, purposeful state, we will get neither the influence nor the respect which can pre-empt conflict.

Another insightful and critical piece comes from Harsh Pant at the LiveMint. He asks what the purpose behind India’s ambition to be a global player is, since it does not seem to project a definitive purpose or ideal as a country. He points out that

India does not yet have the capacity to project what it stands for. The French philosopher Raymond Aron has suggested that the legitimacy of a great power diminishes if that power is not associated with a vibrant set of ideas. The global reassessment of India is primarily predicated on its recent economic rise. But India’s rise will remain incomplete in the absence of a credible vision with a larger purpose. India not only appears to be devoid of big ideas backed by assertive political conviction, but also continues to lack the intellectual infrastructure essential to debate and achieve clarity on what being a great power means for India.”

C.V.Madhukar at the Indian Express also points out the important shortcomings in Indian governance and gives three areas which require maximum attention. According to him the Indian Parliament needs to be thoroughly evaluated as “our Parliament as an institution of governance has failed to live up to the expectations of a nation of a billion people.” It is time to look at how it works and makes changes for better governance. Madhukar also hopes that the future belongs to young members of Parliament who can bring in a modern perspective and ideas to the working of the government and political parties.

He touches upon what is seriously lacking in Indian policy making, public engagement. He rightly points out that “beyond the sensational, there is little informed discussion of politics or policy. Many existing “think tanks” appear to be more focused on producing research output than in engaging more widely with policy makers.”

It has been my personal experience as a student of political science and part of the media in India, that serious policy discussions are hard to come by. In a country where everyone has an opinion about cricket and politics, the lack of informed debate on matters of importance is appalling. As pointed out by the three writers mentioned earlier, India has the ambition and the potential, what it lacks is the intellectual and political backing to achieve it. As information technology opens up the world and connects people, it is my hope that we will see more constructive public participation from Indians in the next decade. The Manmohan Singh government and the Prime Minister himself, inspire confidence that the political will to propel the country onto the world stage will not be far behind.



Manasi Kakatkar-Kulkarni

Manasi Kakatkar-Kulkarni graduated from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. She received her degree in International Security and Economic Policy and interned with the Arms Control Association, Washington, D.C. She is particularly interested in matters of international arms control, nuclear non-proliferation and India’s relations with its neighbors across Asia. She currently works with the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC).