The US-Japan-India-Australia video summit and the upcoming visit of the US Secretary of Defense to India have made observers once again focus on the issue of India’s positioning in the Indo-Pacific and even the global structure. Those familiar with the history of India know that India has never lacked the dream of being a great power. From a “remarkable power” to a “global leadership”, all of India’s great power ambitions are revealed; India is also not short of politicians with the dream of a great power. Prime Minister Nehru to Prime Minister Modi are all typical. However, it is difficult for people who understand the development process of India to deny that due to the lack of an accurate grasp of the national development tasks and the deviation from the pragmatic path of realizing the dream of a great power, India will experience strategic overdrafts and even strategic losses from time to time. The most obvious manifestation is the blind pursuit of the so-called dream of a great power even through strategic adventures and strategic speculation without achieving stable domestic economic and social development.
The ideologicalization of India’s foreign policy in the past few years seems to be repeating the mistakes it has made in history. Over the past few years, India has actively played up its status as a “democratic country,” proactively clinging to and even joining the so-called “democratic camp” led by the United States, while exaggerating its ideological competition with China. During the Trump administration, the United States rapidly and substantially upgraded its strategic competition with China. It defined Sino-US competition as a dispute between “two systems and two systems”, launched a “political war” against the Chinese system and the Chinese model, and used the so-called “Democracy” and “order based on values and rules” are used as an excuse to win over other countries to jointly check and balance China. India responded to this, and even tilted towards the “value camp” dominated by the United States.
The sharp deterioration of Sino-Indian relations in 2020 has further stimulated some people in the Indian strategic circles to discredit the Chinese system. Former Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, Shyam Saran and other high-ranking civilian officials also clamored about the “ideological war” against China, which is really shocking. After the Biden administration came to power, it emphasized the position of the United States as the leader of the democratic world more than during Trump’s time. It planned to invite India to participate in the “Global Democracy Summit”, and attached importance to the role of the US, Japan, India and Australia four-sided mechanism in safeguarding the “free and open Indo-Pacific” , Indicating that the United States still hopes to draw India into its “democratic camp.”
However, in order to truly achieve its own rise, this ideological foreign strategy is not for India.
First, “Indian-style democracy” is by no means equivalent to “Western-style democracy.” The “democratic rift” between the United States and India is difficult to conceal. Democratic values were once considered to be an important driving force for US-Indian relations, and the governments and public opinion of the two countries have repeatedly declared the “like-minded” between the “most powerful democracies” and the “largest democracies.” However, with changes in the domestic politics of the United States and India, the cognition differences between the United States and India on “democracy” are increasing.
Especially since the second term of the Modi government, it has strongly promoted the ruling agenda and suppressed opposition forces, which has aroused concerns about the “authenticity” of the Indian democratic system in the United States. India’s strong control over the Indian-controlled Kashmir region since August 2019, the nationwide demonstrations triggered by the Citizenship Law (Amendment) at the end of 2019, and the farmers’ protests that have continued since the end of 2020 are the most typical examples. According to the “2020 Global Democracy Index” released by the British “Economist Intelligence Unit” (EIU), India’s ranking dropped from 27 to 53 when Modi came to power. According to another report, India is the country with the largest number of disconnections and the longest duration in the world. Its disconnection in parts of India-controlled Kashmir for 213 days is the world record for the longest disconnection duration globally.
Not long ago, in response to farmers’ demonstrations in India, a number of heavyweight members of the “India Group” of the US Congress emphasized when meeting with the Indian ambassador to the United States that “democratic norms must be maintained and farmers have the right to peacefully demonstrate and obtain the right to the Internet”. When Biden spoke with Modi for the first time after he took office, the information bulletin issued by the White House emphasized the joint statement of the “leaders of the two countries” throughout the article, and only pointed out that “the President of the United States emphasized his desire to defend democratic mechanisms and norms globally. , Pointed out that the common commitment to democratic values is the cornerstone of US-India relations”, without mentioning Modi’s statement, the overtones are worthy of attention. The US “Time” magazine recently pointed out in an article entitled “Biden pretends that India under Modi is the League of Democracy, how long can I pretend?” The relationship may be as Kissinger described at the beginning, like a couple who can’t separate and can’t live.”
Second, development is the primary task facing India’s rise, and China is one of India’s most important development partners. After the end of the Cold War and when the Indian Party came to power in 2014, India’s positioning of its own identity attributes was more from the perspective of economic development, namely: India is a large developing country, an emerging economy, and an important force in a multi-polar world. It is hoped that the existing international system will develop in a direction that is beneficial to developing countries.
China also regards economic and trade cooperation as an important starting point for stabilizing China-India relations, and when President Xi Jinping visited India in 2014, the two sides clearly emphasized that “closer development partnership is the core content of the strategic partnership between the two countries.” Since then, China’s investment in India has increased significantly, especially the rapid growth of Internet technology companies’ investment in India, which has played a positive role in promoting India’s economic development. Statistics show that from 2016 to 2019, China’s investment in Indian start-ups has soared from US$381 million to US$4.6 billion. At the second informal meeting of leaders in 2019, the leaders of the two countries also reached consensus on establishing a high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism and discussing the establishment of a “manufacturing partnership”.
However, with the rise of domestic economic nationalism and the deepening of strategic doubts about China, India has gradually deviated from the track of development and cooperation with China, and even adopted many discriminatory economic and trade policies against China. However, the structure of China-India economic and trade relations determines that India is more dependent and vulnerable. India’s discriminatory policy is tantamount to shooting itself in the foot, and it is impossible to achieve the expected results.
Finally, the “democracy card” may be a “stepping stone” for India to cater to the United States, but it is difficult to become a “letter of commitment” for the United States’ strategic assistance to India. Except for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s “state of emergency” period, India has been in the period of “democracy” defined by him for most of its independence after independence, but the relationship between the United States and India is not always harmonious. In fact, India’s greatest strategic value to the United States is its position in the United States’ China strategy, not India’s own democratic system. On the contrary, China is one of India’s unmovable neighbors and one of the most important economic and trade partners. A closer development partnership with China will also help India’s own rise.
Menon, the former national security adviser of India, pointed out that “Only by becoming a powerful, prosperous, and modern India, India can become a world power, otherwise it will put the cart before the horse. In the case of domestic people’s hardship, the so-called world power has no meaning.” Therefore For India, the best foreign policy is an 8% economic growth rate. “