Given India’s population and status as a nuclear power, Indian Prime Minister Shri Modi’s efforts to mend strained ties with adversaries and to strengthen cooperative relationships can help India rise as a global power. In turn, growing influence gives India greater access to everything it needs to address the economic and social needs of its growing population. This includes influence over adversaries of the West, which will make India an increasingly valuable partner to the West.
While the US and Europe have long ago isolated rogue states like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, the Ukraine Crisis has lead to a partial regression of the International Community toward the polarized power structure of the Cold War.
Due to the ongoing conflicts of interests between the US and China, as well as a whole host of issues related to China’s rise as a global power, China’s influence is increasingly seen by a number of countries, including North Korea, as a force to be combated. This puts Russia and China on the opposite side of the more influential West.
Unfortunately, the fallout of diplomatic polarization on a global scale is intensified competition between nation-states that are vying for global and economic power. China, for example, competes against the US, thus China has a greater immediate interest in diminishing the influence of the United States. While China has a similar interest when it comes to India, China has a far greater interest in ensuring a socially stable and economically healthy India.
Aside from the national and economic security threat a weak, failing India would pose, especially as environmental issues like climate change increase demand for limited natural resources, India’s population will continue to grow as China’s population decreases. This means India will have a younger population when China has an aging population, thus India will eventually have the world’s largest workforce.
As such, Indian workers would have an increased chance to play a role in supporting the needs of aging Chinese People. On the other hand, India might be positioned to eventually take over the industrial and manufacturing role China now fills. Although this means increased competition for jobs, China’s failure to help implement a solution for India’s growing employment and economic needs, as well as its own, would result in self-destructive competition. Alternatively, an economically broken India would devastate China as well.
Furthermore, increased Chinese-Russia economic, diplomatic, and military ties may bode well for both countries, but too much reliance leaves both global powers vulnerable to the influence of each other. If the US can successfully pivots its economic reliance on Chinese goods and capital to favor countries like India, China and Russia would be forced to favor either US or Indian interests in order to combat their dependence on each other.
At the same time, all four nations are reliant on each other as the world’s largest nations, thus they must always balance their interests with each to some extent. Due to this dynamic, efforts on behalf of Russia and/or China to assert their influence by distancing themselves from the US and the West result in increased Indian influence. This influence can then be used to resolve the very conflicts, which fueled the increase in Indian influence, in order to blunt escalating crises.
Furthermore, Russia’s unwillingness to play the role of a junior partner to China and its efforts to undermine Chinese influence by catering to Chinese allies like North Korea, as well as India, means there are points of conflict between Chinese and Russian interests. If India can manage to remain friendly to these major powers of the world, India will also have increased influence whenever these power conflict flare up.
Looking at a current opportunity to utilize Indian influence, India currently owes Iran nearly nine billion dollars for oil. Because Iran is isolated from the international economy due to sanctions, the debt actually gives India, as a major consumer, increased leverage over Iran, i.e. India can easily withhold payment.
Although seen in a negative light by Western powers, India’s choice to consume oil from a source that would normally be unavailable for consumption can help support the Western goals behind sanctions.
Despite the fact India is not one of the six-powers negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran for the International Community, India actually serves as an honest broker between the West and Iran on many issues the West finds unpalatable that had vested interests in resolving the conflict.
Not only does India’s choice to buy Iranian oil, including how much it buys, heavily impact the Iranian economy, how it chooses to pay for that oil does as well. Because India pays for 45% of its Iranian oil by giving Iran its dollars, so it can purchase Indian goods, India has the power to determine what goods Iran can access, i.e. what industries they can pursue.
Consequently, India has some power to determine if its payments benefit the Iranian People or the sanctioned government. As India is a democracy and the Indian government must become increasingly responsive to the interests of its People, the Indian government has an interest in ensuring Iran does not use its monies for purposes that will hurt India’s status on the global stage.
Clearly, India does not necessarily not want to play games with Iran’s money for fear of backlash, but the West can use its influence over India to pressure India to put conditions on the funds it pays Iran are used. As the West already inadvertently does this to some degree, the West can offer Iran indirect economic benefits for improvement on the human rights front, even if nuclear negotiations continue to stall or fail.
In a practical sense, poor and heavily populated India cannot afford to shun the economies of countries that engage in internationally unacceptable behavior, thus India cannot side completely with Western countries nor side with nonwestern countries over the West.
Consequently, India must continually balance the interest of powers that often find themselves in conflict while there is a power in that need. In serving India’s broad interests, India must balance Western interests with Chinese, Russian and Iranian interests; therefore, India is a natural bridge between disputing global powers. This status, in turn, offers India growing global influence, which could eventually lead to its emergence as a true global power with all the benefits that come with that status.
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