India Cleans Up Its Act

By Kahn, Jeremy | Newsweek International, November 16, 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

India Cleans Up Its Act


Kahn, Jeremy, Newsweek International


Byline: Jeremy Kahn

Manmohan Singh's new stand on Copenhagen is just part of a plan to reposition India as a global power.

Until very recently, India seemed to pride itself on poking a finger in the eye of rich superpowers, particularly the United States. Beginning in the mid-1950s, India was the leader of the group of poor, postcolonial nations that banded together in what they called the nonaligned movement, but which routinely tilted to the Soviet Union and bashed American imperialism. To Washington's consternation, New Delhi voted against the U.S. at the United Nations time and again. Relations between the United States and India soured further when it refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and then tested a nuclear device in 1974. Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when India began to abandon Soviet-inspired economic planning, New Delhi retained a reputation for obstructing America at every opportunity. It opposed NATO intervention in Kosovo, and the establishment of no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq in the wake of the first Gulf war. As recently as last spring, the highest profile Indian voice on the world stage arguably belonged to Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who set himself up as a defender of all poor nations against the trade machinations of the conniving rich. Many in Washington saw Nath as the man who killed the Doha round of global trade talks. Western diplomats continued to describe India's

negotiating style as a series of attempts to score debating points before "getting to no."

Now, as he prepares to make his first summit visit to see Barack Obama in Washington later this month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is repositioning India as an emerging power that can say yes. In place of the resentful leader of poor, postcolonial nations, Singh is defining India as an emerging powerhouse that can sit at the table of rich nations, with fewer chips on its shoulder. This new stance has been evolving for some time, and led to the landmark 2005 deal in which America agreed to help India with civil nuclear technology--and at the same time essentially conferred legitimacy to India's nuclear-weapons program. Partly in return, India has in recent years twice voted at the International Atomic Energy Agency to condemn Iran's nuclear program, siding with Washington against a former Third World ally, and a major energy supplier. Now the transformation of Indian foreign policy is gaining pace. Nath was shunted off to the Ministry of Roads in May, a move that has helped revive hope for the Doha round. Then in August, according to sources who attended the session, Singh said in a closed-door address to foreign ambassadors and senior Indian diplomats that India would work to drop its image as an obstacle to progress, particularly in talks on trade and climate change, and instead "play a role in the international arena in a manner that makes a positive contribution to finding solutions to major global challenges."

Singh's speech signaled a growing realization in New Delhi that India can have greater influence as a player inside the G20--the group of large economies of which it is now a member--than merely as a leader of the outsiders. Though still controversial at home, the new tone acknowledges that if India wants to exercise the political clout that is its due as one of the world's fast-growing economies, it needs to accept certain responsibilities. "You can't [be] a global player and just obstruct all attempts at cooperation," says Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. It also revealed the increasing sense in New Delhi that India is being outmaneuvered by its regional rival China, which has been earning plaudits as a stabilizing force amid the global financial crisis as well as for offering concrete action to combat climate change. Singh's former spokesperson, Sanjaya Baru, says Singh aims to position India as a "consensus builder and a bridge" between rich and poor nations, rather than a spokesnation for the poor.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

India Cleans Up Its Act
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?