Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order

Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order

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India faces a defining period. Its status as a global power is not only recognized but increasingly institutionalized, even as geopolitical shifts create both opportunities and challenges. With critical interests in almost every multilateral regime and vital stakes in emerging ones, India has no choice but to influence the evolving multilateral order. If India seeks to affect the multilateral order, how will it do so? In the past, it had little choice but to be content with rule taking—adhering to existing international norms and institutions. Will it now focus on rule breaking—challenging the present order primarily for effect and seeking greater accommodation in existing institutions? Or will it focus on rule shaping—contributing in partnership with others to shape emerging norms and regimes, particularly on energy, food, climate, oceans, and cyber security? And how do India's troubled neighborhood, complex domestic politics, and limited capacity inhibit its rule-shaping ability?

Despite limitations, India increasingly has the ideas, people, and tools to shape the global order—in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, "not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially." Will India emerge as one of the shapers of the emerging international order? This volume seeks to answer that question.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780815725152
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
Publication date: 08/01/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 358
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu is a senior fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation and a regular columnist on international strategic issues for the Mint newspaper in India.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is president of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

Bruce Jones is a senior fellow and director of the Managing Global Order project under the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution.

Read an Excerpt

Shaping the Emerging World

India and the Multilateral Order

By Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Bruce Jones

Brookings Institution Press

All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8157-2515-2



A Hesitant Rule Shaper?

A Defining Period

India faces a defining period. As the world's biggest democracy with an economy among the world's ten largest, India's status as a reemerging global power is being not just recognized but increasingly institutionalized, with a seat on the G-20, increasing clout in the international financial institutions, entry into the club of nuclear-armed states, impending membership in the various technology and supply control regimes, and impressive peacekeeping credentials under the United Nations. As India reasserts itself economically on the global stage for the first time since the 1500s, it will inevitably wield greater international political and, possibly, military influence.

At the same time, geopolitical shifts create simultaneous opportunities and challenges: the opening with the United States, the rise of China, the global financial crisis, the so-called Arab Spring, the mounting crisis between Iran and the West as well as key Gulf states, and the growing international tussles over energy, climate, food, cyber security, rivers and the oceans. India has experienced rapid growth through participation in the multilateral order, and its development strategy and energy requirements make it dependent on stable globalization. India has growing economic, trade, and energy stakes in literally every corner of the globe. Much of that trade and energy flows via the Indian Ocean, where India is an established maritime player but also faces enormous new demands and challenges. At this stage in its history, India has critical interests in just about every major multilateral regime and vital interests in several emerging regimes. The boundaries between Indian self-interest and the contours of the multilateral order have blurred. In short, India might have no choice but to influence the evolving multilateral order if it is to sustain its own interests.

Does India have the will to shape the changing multilateral order? If so, does it have the people, the tools, and the ideas to do so? How much do India's troubled neighborhood and complex domestic politics inhibit a forward-leaning stance on the multilateral order? Or do they demand it? How do India's elites—old and new—shape India's political options? How do the rising middle class and the growing urbanization influence India's multilateral outlook?

Many commentators on India's posture with regard to the multilateral order have argued that it has often been little more than a defensive crouch: that nonalignment was rooted in a geopolitical strategy, but Indian policy has neither fully reacted to changing geopolitics and geoeconomics nor genuinely sought to shape the resulting global order. To some extent, this is a caricature, although, like many caricatures, it contains an element of truth. What is certainly true is that India's posture on the multilateral order has not changed as quickly or as dramatically as the order itself.

Jawaharlal Nehru reportedly argued, as echoed by John F. Kennedy's famous charge to the American people, that states must ask not, what can the world do for us, but what can we do for the world?2 This is the necessary question for a power that would seek to shape the order in which it finds itself. The history of the multilateral order is one of change from within driven by states willing to bear the costs. While India has been a key international actor since its independence in 1947, it practiced, according to one observer, "universalism of the weak." This was evident during the early decades in its leadership of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) and the G-77 countries and its championing of the cause of decolonization in Africa and Asia, which reflected a principled and ideological, but ineffectual, approach to multilateralism.

However, since the end of the cold war (which coincided with dramatic economic and political changes within India), New Delhi has exhibited "internationalism of the strong," which is apparent in its membership in the G-20, its quest for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), its desire to provide leadership to international financial institutions, and its role in trade and climate negotiations, which has often been at odds with its membership in the G-77 and the NAM (although India's instinct to switch between the G-77/NAM and the G-20 limits its influence in both). In addition, India's tacit endorsement of the "responsibility to protect" principle (though dampened by the Libyan experience) also indicates a shift from its traditional notion of unchallenged state sovereignty. Post–cold war India has started to reflect a more pragmatic, realpolitik approach to multilateralism and multipolarity—which is evident in its multiple-alignment policy. While India continues to pay lip service to "nonalignment," its current articulation of the concept of "engaging with all with different degrees of proximity, but allying with none" and its insistence on maintaining "strategic autonomy" are unrecognizable from the original idea of a coalition of the third world as manifest in the NAM.

Today, India increasingly has the financial strength to bear costs, as a rapidly growing middle class generates private and public resources. But what does it mean, politically, that India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is not just the lowest in the G-20 but more than 50 percent lower than that of the next lowest member, Indonesia, and a mere 3 percent of that of the United States? Or that only 32.4 million of its total population of 1.2 billion pay taxes and that the total tax revenue collected as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest in the G-20? Or that it has fewer doctors and nurses than even the World Health Organization benchmark of at least 23 medical personnel per 10,000 population? Or that India's Human Development Index (HDI) ranking of 136 (out of a total of 186 countries) is the lowest among all the G-20 countries. Or that it also comes in last among the G-20 in all of the other HDI indicators, except two—women's participation in national parliament and maternal mortality ratio. Or that India ranks last among the G-20 in the number of police officers per capita and that only 77.1 percent of all police positions are filled nationally? Or that India's 900-odd diplomats are around the same number as those of Singapore or New Zealand and about the same number as personnel employed by the U.S. embassy in New Delhi alone? How will these constraints affect India's ability to influence the evolving multilateral order?

Despite these constraints, if India does focus on shaping the multilateral order, how will it attempt to do so? Will it be content with rule taking—adhering to the existing and emerging international norms and institutions? Will it focus on rule breaking—challenging the existing order primarily for effect and seeking greater accommodation for itself in existing global institutions? Will it be inclined to rule making—establishing new norms and institutions? Or will a more realistic strategy be one that focuses on rule shaping—contributing in partnership with others to emerging norms and building nascent regimes—for example, on climate, maritime security, and cyber security? Does India have the normative claims and the arguments with which to make them? Over the past few years, India has shown greater propensity as a rule taker and rule breaker than as a rule maker (an unlikely option in a multipolar world) or even a rule shaper.

Rule Taker: The Original Instinct

The rule-taker instinct is most apparent in India's unquestioning adherence to the dominant Western liberal economic and democratic model, albeit with Indian characteristics. India is unlikely to jettison parliamentary democracy or return to the state-dominated "license raj" economy, even if its practice of democracy remains imperfect and its efforts to dismantle the overbearing regulations that curtail economic growth are inept.

However, while practicing a vibrant multiethnic, multicultural democracy itself, India has not sought to promote democracy or to strengthen the rule of law as a strategic tool. In fact, its support of democracy in its immediate neighborhood has been uneven. For instance, India's 1971 intervention in Bangladesh set that country on the long and winding road to democracy, while its 1988 role in the Maldives helped to prolong the life of an authoritarian regime. More recently, New Delhi cozied up to the military junta in Myanmar, while voting against Sri Lanka's human rights record in the UN's Human Rights Council.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon's rumination on democracy promotion sums up the Indian dilemma:

Do we not have a responsibility to spread democracy and fight for our values abroad? Yes and no. Yes, if we have the means to actually ensure that we are able to spread them. And yes if having democrats as our neighbours contributes to the peaceful periphery that we need. But please remember that a people cannot be forced to be free or to practice democracy. They have to come to these values themselves if they are to be lasting. Such a crusade for one's values is often mistaken by others as the pursuit of self-interest couched in high-tone words. We have seen how high-sounding phrases like the "right to protect" are selectively invoked and brutally applied in the pursuit of self-interest, giving humanitarian and international intervention a bad name.

However, as India's economy becomes inexorably intertwined with countries out of its immediate areas of regional influence, its comfortable policy of masterly inactivity is likely to become detrimental to the promotion of its own national interests. Thus there is a need to recognize the strategic import of democracy promotion (beyond just increasing the contributions to the UN's Democracy Fund) for strengthening the economy and furthering the national interests, particularly in areas undergoing profound political changes, such as the Middle East (a significant trade partner). For instance, while promoting democratic practices and the rule of law might be of limited relevance to the Indian economy in the short term, such practices are likely to benefit the country's economic interests in the long term as opposed to the interests of undemocratic powers, such as China.

India's rule-taker (indeed rule-defender) instinct is also evident in its unstinting support of the peacekeeping and peacebuilding principles of the United Nations. In fact, India has adhered to the existing Western liberal democratic norms, notably in Africa, even though these have been found to be wanting. At best India has sought to have a greater say in the peacekeeping mandates but has not challenged the established norms behind the UN's peacekeeping and even peacebuilding efforts. In fact, in the United Nations India has been an absent-minded peacekeeper—deploying troops because it could and not because it needed to. Ironically, India's peacekeeping also benefited former colonial powers that did not contribute as many troops and whose interests Indian peacekeepers ended up defending through the various UN missions. This undermined not only India's own interests but also its principle of protecting the sovereign interests of the states where the peace operations were conducted.

Clearly, then, India has not challenged the dominant Western liberal paradigm for peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In fact, it has staunchly defended this model, seeking the UN imprimatur for multilateral armed interventions. While some experts have called for India to reduce, if not entirely cut off, its contributions to UN peacekeeping, this is unlikely to happen for several reasons. Instead, given India's economic rise and the growing risks of peace operations, which are now tasked with protecting civilians, among other duties, there is a need to align participation in UN peacekeeping operations with New Delhi's evolving strategic interests. While India's increasing economic and political stakes in many of the countries that host UN peacekeeping operations further highlight the need for a strategic shift, New Delhi has sought only tactical adjustments so far.

Rule Breaker: Seeking Greater Accommodation

There are some international organizations and institutions that India neither is a member of nor is interested in joining or associating itself with, even though it could do so. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the security sphere is one such institution and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in the economic realm is another. There are other international institutions and arrangements where India either is an outsider or is seeking to have a greater role. India has displayed the rule-breaker trait toward the latter set of institutions. Perhaps the preeminent example of this is the quest for membership in the UNSC and reform of the international financial institutions, notably the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The rule-breaker approach is also evident with regard to various nuclear nonproliferation instruments, where India has sought to establish its exceptionalism by challenging the norm of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and by seeking recognition as a nuclear weapon state. Recently, however, India has taken the rule-breaker route by seeking membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control Regime, which it had previously dismissed as "technology cartels." In doing so, India reflects a curious dichotomy of being a rule breaker only to become a rule taker eventually.

India has also proved to be a rule breaker or norm challenger even in international institutions where it has been a long-standing member. This is best exemplified by India's role in the collapse of the July 2008 World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on the Doha Development Round of trade liberalization. Speaking on behalf of the poor and subsistence farmers in the G-33 group of developing countries, India insisted on a "special safeguard mechanism" to protect them from the sudden surge of cheap food imports. India's stance was prompted in part by the domestic opposition of thirty-five farmers groups. Besides, for the Congress-led coalition in power then, "Farm subsidies remain a crucial electoral clutch. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives in the countryside and the vast majority of Indians [about 700 million] derive their income directly or indirectly from farming, even though agriculture makes up less than a fifth of India's ... economy." As the noted Indian agronomist and director of the National Commission on Farmers, M. S. Swaminathan, cautioned, "If the government were to agree to something which will kill our agricultural sector, then their political futures will be finished."

Some Indian scholars have argued that India's posturing at the WTO was the result of New Delhi's assessment that the United States would not be prepared to make a deal in an election year. However, the U.S. trade representative, Susan Schwab, argued that India's impending election in April 2009 was, perhaps, more consequential in India's rule-breaker posture than the 2008 U.S. election. She noted, "It turned out that we were worried about the wrong election when we were negotiating Doha." Yet other scholars have revealed that India's stance was inevitably the result of the lack of the Indian state's capacity for multilateralism. While India's blocking of the negotiations can certainly be justified, it is not evident that this benefited either India or poor farmers. As the head of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, observed, the breakdown allowed a package of about $130 billion a year in tariff savings to "slip through their fingers."

Despite the negative connotation of rule breaking, India is not seeking to destroy or even replace the existing international governance institutions with alternative or new institutions; it is merely knocking on the door to gain entry or have a bigger say or protect its interests. In fact, New Delhi has consistently argued for preserving, reforming, and strengthening these institutions and claims that its membership in these exclusive clubs will contribute toward those efforts. Were India to have a greater or permanent role in these institutions, it would most likely fall back into a rule-taker position rather than become either a rule breaker or a rule maker.

Excerpted from Shaping the Emerging World by Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Bruce Jones. Copyright © 2013 THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION. Excerpted by permission of Brookings Institution Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments....................     vii     

Part I. Introduction....................          

1 A Hesitant Rule Shaper? Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Pratap Bhanu Mehta,
and Bruce Jones....................     3     

Part II. Perspectives on Multilateralism....................          

2 The Changing Dynamics of India's Multilateralism C. Raja Mohan..........     25     

3 India and Multilateralism: A Practitioner's Perspective Shyam Saran.....     43     

4 India as a Regional Power Srinath Raghavan....................     57     

Part III. Domestic and Regional Drivers....................          

5 The Economic Imperative for India's Multilateralism Sanjaya Baru........     75     

6 What in the World Is India Able to Do? India's State Capacity for
Multilateralism Tanvi Madan....................     95     

7 India's Regional Disputes Kanti Bajpai....................     115     

8 From an Ocean of Peace to a Sea of Friends Iskander Luke Rehman.........     131     

Part IV. Multilateral Policy in Practice....................          

9 Dilemmas of Sovereignty and Order: India and the UN Security Council
David M. Malone and Rohan Mukherjee....................     157     

10 India and UN Peacekeeping: The Weight of History and a Lack of Strategy
Richard Gowan and Sushant K. Singh....................     177     

11 From Defensive to Pragmatic Multilateralism and Back: India's Approach
to Multilateral Arms Control and Disarmament Rajesh Rajagopalan...........     197     

12 Security in Cyberspace: India's Multilateral Efforts Sandeep Bhardwaj..     217     

13 India and International Financial Institutions and Arrangements Devesh
Kapur....................     237     

14 Of Maps and Compasses: India in Multilateral Climate Negotiations
Navroz K. Dubash....................     261     

15 India's Energy, Food, and Water Security: International Cooperation for
Domestic Capacity Arunabha Ghosh and David Steven....................     281     

16 India and International Norms: R2P, Genocide Prevention, Human Rights,
and Democracy Nitin Pai....................     303     

17 From Pluralism to Multilateralism? G-20, IBSA, BRICS, and BASIC
Christophe Jaffrelot and Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu....................     319     

Contributors....................     341     

Index....................     343     

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