Asia's Global Foreign Policy and Security Interests

By M. K. Narayanan | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, April 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

Asia's Global Foreign Policy and Security Interests

M. K. Narayanan, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly

It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to share with such a distinguished audience India's perspective of Asia's foreign policy and security interests. The growing salience of Asia in the global economy, and consequently in the global polity, is one of the key changes underway to-day. The nature of this process, its implications for Asia and for the world, and the opportunities and challenges that it throws up, are a subject of intense debate. Indeed, the very title of this panel begs the question whether there are broader pan-national Asian foreign policy and security interests, and whether they are so perceived by Asian States and the international community.

I propose to divide my remarks into two broad segments. In the first, I would like to lay out some of the characteristics of the current international system with particular reference to Asia's priorities. In the second, I propose to share our assessment on how India is likely to respond to some of the major global challenges.

The primary distinguishing feature of the international situation to-day is the increasing pace of globalization and the close inter- linkages being forged between States. It is an exceptional country that has isolated itself from larger global processes. None of us seriously believe that this is a sustainable position. Equally important also, is the shift in economic activity that is currently taking place - from North America and Europe to Asia., though I would not over-dramatise the changes underway. North America, Europe and Japan will, I believe, still maintain their technology leads for the foreseeable future, and this would balance to a very considerable degree the rapidly rising manufacturing and services' contributions of Asia.

It is perhaps the nature of the changes underway in Asia that are particularly significant. There is a fundamental difference between the simultaneous rise of China and India to-day and the earlier emergence of Japan and the Asian tigers. This is not merely one of scale. By virtue of their history and culture, the power implications of China and India's growth - and their integration into the global economy - are certain to be far more profound for the international system. These are old civilizations that have shaped lifestyles and thought processes well beyond their national boundaries. Their re-emergence as global economic players, consequently, would seemingly have a far-reaching, if not cataclysmic, effect.

Meanwhile, the nature of the challenges faced by the international system has also undergone a major transformation. This is due to a concatenation of several factors and circumstances. Inter-state competition is manifesting itself in a more intense manner as a result of globalization. The world is witnessing a struggle for influence as against attempts to maintain a balance of power as was the case previously. Asia is still grappling with implications of a possible move towards a post-Westphalian world, where inter-linkages and shared stakes could result in a diminution of regional and local conflicts. In much of Asia, therefore, the cost-benefit analysis is only now beginning to tilt in the direction of stability and of conflict avoidance.

Coming to the subject matter of my remarks to-day, I might mention that to be discussing the subject of Asia's global foreign policy and security interests is, in itself, a recognition of the importance of Asia to-day in international politics and security. India, China, Russia and Japan are the four most important countries in Asia, a continent that is home to around two-thirds of humanity. It is also uniquely distinctive that after remaining relatively submerged for around three centuries, the two large civilizational powers of Asia, India and China, should be simultaneously on the rise. It is even more notable that this rise is taking place without any armed conflict or by flexing military muscle, but through the steady build-up of their economic and cultural sinews. …

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