Southeast Asia under the New Balance of Power

By Sudershan Chawla; Melvin Gurtov et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
INDIA: A BALANCER POWER?

D. R. SarDesai

Very few governments will admit that their international behavior and policy are governed by the concepts of power politics and balance of power. To the Third World countries, these represent dirty and dangerous games played by the empire builders of the nineteenth century on a European chessboard with helpless Asians and Africans as pawns. Indian foreign policy pronouncements during the last quarter century, particularly during the Nehru era, reflected the distaste of a former subject people for international power politics.1 Not all have, however, accepted such Indian disclaimers; some detractors of Indian foreign policy have gone as far as characterizing the policy of nonalignment itself as an exercise in the balance-of-power politics.2 Further, although the practitioners of Indian diplomacy have, for the most part, frowned upon the relationship between power and politics, they have privately assumed such a connection underlying the policies of all powers. Consequently, whether India likes it or not, she too has played for some time the role of a "balancer" and is likely to emerge in the 1970s either as a constituent or as a balancer in the emerging balance of power in Southeast Asia.

In a sense, a kind of balance was holding in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, from 1954 to 1961, in which India played a balancer's role. The subsequent decade saw Indian international posture greatly damaged after its military debacle at China's hands in 1962, even as the Southeast Asian balance was rudely shaken up by one of the bloodiest wars in history. The new policy of détente between the United States and China and between the United States and the Soviet Union might perhaps have brought about a new equation in Southeast Asia in which India would not have figured. However, a whole chain of totally unrelated happenings on the Indian subcontinent during 1971 have introduced an additional dimension to the international politics of the region and have propelled India into what may be characterized as an emerging balance of power in South and Southeast Asia. If the fifties saw India's active involvement in Southeast Asia and the sixties marked a low point for her prestige in the international world, it is likely that during the seventies, India

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