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Xi’s Loss Can Be Modi’s Gain
India is the “flavour of the month”. With world leaders wooing Modi and targeting Xi, it sure looks like “our moment under the Sun” has come. The reasons for this newfound “love” for India are many. They include a West that is both weary and wary of China’s rise, Xi’s “personal support” for Putin and the Ukrainian war, as well as another 1930s moment, with a looming recession and a revanchist Russia, making the US and its European allies look askance at China. In the backdrop of these geopolitical and geoeconomic events, India finds much favour with Biden and his fellow Western leaders, both as a counterbalance to China and as a supposedly “neutral” party in the Ukrainian war.
More so, when the West is looking to “reshore” and “reconfigure” the global supply chains that underpin world trade, partly in response to the post-pandemic realities and China’s slowdown, due to its harsh Zero Covid lockdowns. It is worth noting that Modi’s foreign policy has placed India in a “sweet spot” on the world stage; hence, China’s loss should translate into India’s gains.
Why The West Is Weary And Wary of China
The West has every reason to “fear” China. Decades of overlooking its abysmal human rights record have made China “hoodwink” the West on multiple occasions, most recently in Hongkong and its treatment of the Uighurs. Moreover, China, which always insisted that its “rise” would be “peaceful” has increasingly become bellicose and belligerent, especially concerning Taiwan, and more so, in its “encircling” of the world with its “Belt and Road” initiative, thereby “encroaching” on the Western sphere of influence.
Among these, Taiwan deserves a special mention as things are literally “heating up” there, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit this week threatening to become a geopolitical earthquake with far-reaching consequences. Also, China never really “bought into” Taiwan’s place as an independent entity, with its One China policy, in the background for a long, but now it is out into the open.
So, there we are, with the West wanting a counterbalance to China, and finding India as the best bet in this respect. This new realpolitik reflects in the formation of the Quad gathering, where the US has assembled its Indo-Pacific partners as a way of counteracting Chinese influence in this theatre.
Modi’s Foreign Policy Can Help India Beat China’s Xi
Given these aspects, it is in India’s interests to convert them into gains on the economic front, in addition to geopolitical benefits. Indeed, for much of the last three decades since liberalization, India had consciously developed a foreign policy approach that revolves around the economic aspects, or the geoeconomics, thereby marking a “break” from Nehruvian “ideals” of solidarity and universal brotherhood of peace.
In other words, we are now prepared to “cut deals” with other nations as long as they result in economic gains, and this “realist” approach, along the lines of what the West has been doing for so long, can now be put to good use. For instance, as the West “reconfigures” its supply chains, Indian firms can benefit from the “reshoring” of manufacturing and services businesses away from China and into India.
In addition, we can leverage our standing with the US and the EU to make it easy for the free movement of goods, services, and people. These include faster visa processing times, increased immigrant quotas, more bilateral trade, and, most importantly, more “business” for Indian firms from their Western counterparts.
The Economist Calls This Decade Ours To Lose! Some Ways in Which India Can Gain from a Partnership with The West
At this time, Modi must not let “Atmanirbharta” come in the way of realising India’s gains from China’s losses. The Western media is already mainly optimistic about India’s economic prospects, which The Economist magazine calls this decade “India’s to lose”. In addition, we should make hay while the Sun shines. While India has been “behind” China except for its upcoming “overtaking” of the latter in terms of population, there are some “convergences” which can actualize “synergies”.
For one, we are the world’s largest non-Western nation with English fluency and a shared history of democracy and institutions to support and resolve business disputes and enforce contractual obligations. Of course, there are some concerns in the West about the decline in democratic norms, as well as about India’s crackdown on multinationals and its increasing preference for nationalistic business practices. Moreover, we seem to be harming ourselves in corporate conflicts such as the Vodafone and Amazon cases. So, this is where we can do better and ease Western worries about India being the destination of choice.
Modi Should “Seize The Moment”
Last, since 1991, India has made great strides in both the economic and geopolitical spheres, and our “tryst with destiny” should be actualized in this 75th Year of Independence. Modi should “seize the moment”, and Indian businesses should “raise their game” to take advantage of the Western outreach. After all, such moments do not come often, and with the West moving to contain China, this can be the catalyst for India’s rise. To conclude, there are times when history happens, and I do believe that we are living through one such transformational phase, and as the Economist says, it is ours to lose.
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