GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Situating Gulf in India’s Engagement with Emerging Asia
Paper Proposal Text :
Situating Gulf in India’s Engagement with Emerging Asia
Girijesh Pant
From wealth to power Asia is in transition. Consequently, the rising powers from the region are renegotiating their mutual engagements and relations with external powers. India is one of the key drivers of this historical shift. At global space it is positioning assertively on wider issues like environment, development and terrorism. On Asian canvas it intends to play defining role in making of Asian century. It needs be pointed out that in Indian imagination, Asia is much wider and inclusive construct from Suez to Pacific. What is equally important that India also recognizes co existence of diversities of the Asian culture and civilizations as source of strength and resilience.
In this backdrop, India is building bridges with its South Asian neighbors and expanding presence in its extended neighborhood both on east and west. ‘Look East Policy’ is the manifestation of it. However a corresponding thrust on western flank is not yet visible. The possible explanation could be that India’s greater participation in regional affairs is relatively more acceptable in east due to the apprehension of Chinese projection in South East Asia; hence the regional countries do see a role for India as counter balancing force. It is argued in this paper that India does need an active engagement in Southeast Asia however it is the west Asia in general and the Gulf in particular where it could leverage its presence on the strength of what Nye calls the smart power.
During last four decades of rentier regime in the Gulf region, India has been able to successfully reinforce its historical relationship by redefining it in terms of energy supplies, the huge presence of Indians in diverse sectors and the growing volume of trade. In the next five years, the dynamics of the Gulf region is going to be determined by restructuring of oil based economy, expansion of political space, technologically driven social stratification and cultural differentiation. The region surely is looking for experiences from its history and from the contemporary stories of the countries with whom it can relate. It can safely be argued that the region will be looking towards Asia. In Asia the competing profiles are of India and China, one show casing growth in democratic space the other demonstrating growth buoyancy in authoritarian regime. China may charm the ruling regimes while Indian path could be source of attraction for the democratic aspirations of the street. However in the context of global restructuring, Indian proximity to the USA makes it favorite of the ruling regimes but puts on disadvantage in the popular milieu where anti American sentiments are high. China being on margin in Gulf region provides India a distinct opportunity of expanding its engagement. However growing Chinese clout cannot be ignored either. Similarly Pakistan does have its sphere of influence but the regional aspiration for democratic governance undermines its shine. Given the construct of the region and its huge dependence on the Western security regime, the Asian powers have to seriously do their sums to work out alternative architecture to strengthen regional power quotient. Obviously that will include legitimate positioning of Iran and Iraq as regional players. In other words the essay would like to explore of the possibility of India taking initiatives of defining Asian approach to the Gulf security.
Indian mainstream foreign policy discourse indicates that while India would like to intensify its engagement with the Gulf region yet it will be wary of graduating this engagement to strategic partnership because the fault lines within the region deter its positioning. The paper argues that given the high stakes, India cannot be fence sitter when the region is on move. Perhaps stand alone profile may not be adequate. It needs a well defined nuanced framework of engagement that contributes in promoting autonomy of the region by inducing local capacity building processes to help the region to what Rami Khouri calls rewrite its sovereignty.