Is this India’s finest hour?
Travelling around India this month, in blinding contrast to the evident levels of stark poverty that can be seen in a great number of its citizens, something in the air tells one that India is pulsing with energy for change. For throughout the next half a century India will be seen to emerge as one of the worlds most successful economies and will rightfully seat itself as a new world power. The economy is one driving force of this change, projected to grow at over seven percent for the fourth year in a row – something previously unseen since its independence is 1947. Another driving force is the startling achievement of maintaining democratic rule in a country riddled with abject poverty. Prime Minister Singh and his government are currently enjoying a decoration of compliments at the diplomatic table of foreign powers, with everyone jostling for a position of favour as the country takes its larger seat. Who could deny then the motives of the other powers currently doing the complimenting? The rise of China in economic terms, and so in military might, will certainly one day challenge the US worldwide hegemony, and so there is a geopolitical rationale to the US’s actions at present, by far the most obvious of all the foreign powers efforts.
Whilst India did drift towards the Soviets in cold war times, and its neighbour and long term enemy Pakistan sidled up with the US during the latter’s war with Afghanistan, India has not chosen sides just yet. So what to expect for the coming year? Well what the US is bringing to the table is the promise of full cooperation on the civilian nuclear programme, even with the absence of India’s signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This doesn’t go with boundaries however, and one major boundary is likely to be an overlooking on India’s part of its close ties with Iran, as the US heats up its concerns publicly over nuclear matters in Iran. What India may lose as a result of cosying up to the US is its good seating in the proposed building of a gas pipeline running from Iran, through Pakistan to India as part of an effort to secure its future energy needs. As the country accelerates economically, its large population to low natural oil and gas resource ratio will be harder felt.
The project also offers an extended handshake of peace and cooperation to neighbouring Pakistan. Something which, if not achieved soon, will loom large over any potential growth in diplomatic ties to the world’s wealthy powers, regardless of its economic success.
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