Recently India has become a global heavyweight, both in economic and political terms: a Global Player. Despite its domestic challenges, the country exhibits an amazing degree of political stability. Opening up economically and politically, India has also become a regional and global growth locomotive and has been able to improve relations with other states and organizations considerably. Not only does the country enjoy renewed recognition internationally, but also its ties with the “great powers” have improved.
Enormous Potential Despite Domestic Challenges
The relatively tight coalition under the leadership of Prime Minister Singh—who is popular both at home and abroad—now faces daunting domestic challenges, particularly in the areas of education and health. Democracy works in India, and the constitutional state, along with its institutions, functions reliably. An open society and free market are the engines powering change from below, which is the sharpest point of distinction between the Indian development model and the Chinese one. A clear competitive advantage for India is its demography: the average age is 25, and every third Indian is under the age of 15.
India’s Growth Locomotive is Set in Motion
As a result of the economic opening and reforms begun in 1991, India is well on its way to a social market economy. It boasts the largest population of any state with a democratic market economy. Still, its economy lags considerably behind China’s. Be that as it may, experts on economic development postulate that the growth rate of the Indian economy will double in size within the next 15 years. On the other hand, the country still faces many hurdles: a high budget deficit, a very weak infrastructure, and problems in rural areas. If India can overcome these, however, by 2020 it will be the third largest economy in the world. The subcontinent is home to one of the world’s most interesting emerging markets.
India has for some time been aware of the potential of international cooperation in promoting its economic growth. After distancing itself from the policy of the Non-Aligned Movement, India has conscientiously forged political-strategic alliances in deference to its own political-economic interests. Trade between Germany and India alone has seen a twofold increase since 2003. The free-trade agreement between the European Union and India is expected to stimulate both the German and Indian economy substantially.
Regional Embedding Through Strategic Cooperation
Political relations between the former adversaries China and India have improved greatly, thanks to the development of bilateral economic relations with China since the early 1990s. China is currently India’s second largest trading partner. As a result of the “Look East Policy,” India has forged economic partnerships with Japan, South Korea, and the countries of Southeast Asia. India’s political-economic motives have also fostered its interest in regional organizations such as ASEAN, the East Asian Summit (EAS), Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Especially noteworthy are the recent positive developments in Indian-Pakistani relations. Since the beginning of the “Composite Dialogue” in 2004, interaction between the two countries has significantly improved.
A Global Player in the International Arena
The historic difficulties that have characterized relations between the United States and India have been fundamentally improved. Here too, India’s position among the “great powers” has benefited enormously. This has occurred in the context of a new strategic direction adopted by the US in Asia: Some US strategists would like India to become a counterweight to China, the growing competitor and rival of the United States. With the American-Indian nuclear deals, the U.S. has de facto recognized India as the first atomic power outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Yet, India has managed to avoid being cast in the role of the junior partner. India’s distinctive self-confidence, as well as the continuation of independence as its predominant political principle, preclude it from accepting such a role at this time.
Indian self-confidence extends into the multilateral sphere. Long before the initiative of the G-4, India had requested a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, been part of the core group of the WTO Doha Round, and confidently entered into the discussion of a possible enlargement of the G-8.
India is a country with enormous economic power and internal strengths, as well as a growing will to promote democracy and the rule of law beyond its borders. India’s evolution symbolizes a paradigm shift in world politics: in the 21st century the economic and geopolitical center of gravity has moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific realm. The attention being paid, in political, economic and technological fields, to the German Chancellor’s recent trip to India shows that in the 21st century, India is an important global player. And we want to be India’s partner.
Eckart von Klaeden is a Member of the German Parliament as well as the foreign-affairs spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group and a member of the CDU Steering Committee. Mr. von Klaeden also serves on the Atlantic Initiative Advisory Board.
Translated by Christian Morris
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