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The Century of the Indian Ocean?

I had the pleasure of visiting Symbiosis International University


in Pune, India, last weekend to attend an International Relations
conference. The title of the meeting I dia s Look East, A t
East Poli : A Bridge to the Asia Neigh orhood intrigued me,
as my academic background is in International Relations and my
generation was brought up in the shadow of the Cold War. Can
the two giants, India and China, work out a basis for cooperation
and shared leadership within the emerging multipolar world, or
will their nuclear-armed competition bring the world back to the
brink of disaster?
First, a word about Symbiosis (or SIU). International Horizons
College has recently added a pathway to SIU for those of our
students who do not wish to, or cannot, go to the United States
to complete their higher education. Although Symbiosis is not as famous as the older, public universities
such as the Indian Institute of Technology, it has impressed me on two visits as a serious and credible
academic institution. It is a private, non-profit foundation with an expansive and beautiful main campus
o 200 he tares of hillside o erlooki g the oo i g oder
etropolis of Pu e, a out t o hours dri e
from Bombay. (I use the English name for the city rather than Mumbai because most non-Marathi
speakers do. It will always be the home of Bollywood, not Mumbollywood!) Symbiosis is best known for
its business school, one of the highest ranked in India.
The conference was attended by a star-studded crowd of politicians, diplomats, and military officers
from a dozen countries in south and south-east Asia, plus Japan. It seemed as if everybody had the title
of Minister, General, Ambassador or Admiral although there were two hundred or so seats for SIU
students at the back of the main auditorium. The attendees and speakers were evidence of strong
political connections in New Delhi Cabinet Ministers and senior civil servants mingled with
A assadors of eigh ori g ou tries to I dia, a d A assadors fro I dia to those ou tries. IHC s
Dr. Bill Wechsler and I were the only people of non-Asian descent at the conference. But it was a
cosmopolitan and impressive group.
T o i porta t stra ds of I dia s foreig poli
ere learl isi le. O e is that I dia is de elopi g as the
dominant regional power in the Indian Ocean. The second is its growing rivalry with China, both political
and economic, notably in South-East Asia but which is also evident in its new strategic partnership with
Japan.
As India looks east and west, it sees very different strategic pictures. To the east, it is part of a rapidly,
and mostly pea efull , de elopi g regio that e o passes half of the orld s populatio , a d here
economic growth, robust cultures and strong government institutions offer the prospect of the IndoPa ifi regio s surpassi g the Atla ti asi as the e ter of glo al development and power as the
twenty-first century progresses.
www.ihc-dubai.com

To the west, India faces a broad zone of conflict and actual or potential chaos, starting with its
longstanding opponent Pakistan. Seemingly forever in danger of sliding into chaos, nuclear-armed
Pakistan has for fifty years built military ties to China in order to defend against a perceived threat from
I dia. I dia s respo se see s toda to e si ilar to that of A eri a s strateg u der o ald eaga at
the end of the Cold War: to bankrupt Pakistan by out-spending it, while its internal strife increases.
Be o d Pakista lies haoti Afgha ista , the a zo e of trou les e te di g fro ussia s o fli ts i the
Caucasus and Ukraine, through Iraq and Syria, to the unstable and fragile states of much of Africa. India
can be an important partner for stability and development especially in the Indian Ocean littoral states
of Africa, with their strong connections to India dating from the British Empire. First, though, India must
make up its mind what kind of power it wants to become.
I dia ill o ertake Chi a as the orld s largest ou tr
populatio arou d the ear 2040. It is alread
the 10th largest economy in the world far ehi d Chi a s u er-two position, but growing rapidly
and ranked much higher in terms of purchasing power parity. I believe the rise of Indian power is likely
to be a powerful force for good in the world, as despite all temptations to the contrary, India has shown
itself committed to democracy, a multicultural society and universal human rights. But its demographic
and economic rise raises questions about its international posture. India sometimes plays the role of a
selfish spoiler in multilateral global affairs most recently in the failure of the Doha trade round and at
the Lima climate change talks.
India should accept the responsibilities, as well as claim the privileges, of a great power. For 150 years,
the British centered on their base in India played the role of peacekeeper and policeman in the
Indian Ocean, ending piracy and slavery as well as creating a great Indian diaspora stretching from
Durban to Singapore and beyond. With its new-found strength, perhaps it is time for India to take up
that role again. There are regional problems such as renewed piracy that cry out for regional
cooperation but which need leadership from a significant regional power. India needs to reach out to
those advanced countries which have a major stake in the security of trade in the Indian Ocean, such as
the UAE and Singapore, Australia and South Africa, to build a partnership for security and progress.
Looki g at the U ited Natio s proje tio s for populatio gro th through this e tur , the I dia O ea
will overtake the Pacific Basin as the most populous region of the globe later in this century. (Note that,
of course, some countries such as Indonesia and Australia are counted in both the Indian and the Pacific
Ocean Basins.) Whether this large part of the human race will be peaceful, prosperous and dynamic will
depend in very large part on decisions to be made in India in the next few years.I had the pleasure of
visiting Symbiosis International University in Pune, India, last weekend to attend an International
Relations conference. The title of the meeting I dia s Look East, A t East Poli : A Bridge to the Asia
Neighborhood intrigued me, as my academic background is in International Relations and my
generation was brought up in the shadow of the Cold War. Can the two giants, India and China, work out
a basis for cooperation and shared leadership within the emerging multipolar world, or will their
nuclear-armed competition bring the world back to the brink of disaster?

www.ihc-dubai.com

First, a word about Symbiosis (or SIU). International Horizons College has recently added a pathway to
SIU for those of our students who do not wish to, or cannot, go to the United States to complete their
higher education. Although Symbiosis is not as famous as the older, public universities such as the Indian
Institute of Technology, it has impressed me on two visits as a serious and credible academic institution.
It is a private, non-profit foundation with an expansive and beautiful main campus on 200 hectares of
hillside o erlooki g the oo i g oder
etropolis of Pu e, a out t o hours dri e fro Bo a . (I
use the English name for the city rather than Mumbai because most non-Marathi speakers do. It will
always be the home of Bollywood, not Mumbollywood!) Symbiosis is best known for its business school,
one of the highest ranked in India.
The conference was attended by a star-studded crowd of politicians, diplomats, and military officers
from a dozen countries in south and south-east Asia, plus Japan. It seemed as if everybody had the title
of Minister, General, Ambassador or Admiral although there were two hundred or so seats for SIU
students at the back of the main auditorium. The attendees and speakers were evidence of strong
political connections in New Delhi Cabinet Ministers and senior civil servants mingled with
Ambassadors of neighboring countries to I dia, a d A assadors fro I dia to those ou tries. IHC s
Dr. Bill Wechsler and I were the only people of non-Asian descent at the conference. But it was a
cosmopolitan and impressive group.
T o i porta t stra ds of I dia s foreig poli
ere learl isible. One is that India is developing as the
dominant regional power in the Indian Ocean. The second is its growing rivalry with China, both political
and economic, notably in South-East Asia but which is also evident in its new strategic partnership with
Japan.
As India looks east and west, it sees very different strategic pictures. To the east, it is part of a rapidly,
a d ostl pea efull , de elopi g regio that e o passes half of the orld s populatio , a d here
economic growth, robust cultures and strong government institutions offer the prospect of the IndoPa ifi regio s surpassi g the Atla ti asi as the e ter of glo al de elop e t a d po er as the
twenty-first century progresses.
To the west, India faces a broad zone of conflict and actual or potential chaos, starting with its
longstanding opponent Pakistan. Seemingly forever in danger of sliding into chaos, nuclear-armed
Pakistan has for fifty years built military ties to China in order to defend against a perceived threat from
I dia. I dia s respo se see s toda to e si ilar to that of A eri a s strateg u der o ald eaga at
the end of the Cold War: to bankrupt Pakistan by out-spending it, while its internal strife increases.
Beyond Pakistan lies chaotic Afghanistan, then a zone of troubles e te di g fro ussia s o fli ts i the
Caucasus and Ukraine, through Iraq and Syria, to the unstable and fragile states of much of Africa. India
can be an important partner for stability and development especially in the Indian Ocean littoral states
of Africa, with their strong connections to India dating from the British Empire. First, though, India must
make up its mind what kind of power it wants to become.

www.ihc-dubai.com

I dia ill o ertake Chi a as the orld s largest ou tr


populatio arou d the ear 2040. It is already
the 10th largest economy in the world far ehi d Chi a s u er-two position, but growing rapidly
and ranked much higher in terms of purchasing power parity. I believe the rise of Indian power is likely
to be a powerful force for good in the world, as despite all temptations to the contrary, India has shown
itself committed to democracy, a multicultural society and universal human rights. But its demographic
and economic rise raises questions about its international posture. India sometimes plays the role of a
selfish spoiler in multilateral global affairs most recently in the failure of the Doha trade round and at
the Lima climate change talks.
India should accept the responsibilities, as well as claim the privileges, of a great power. For 150 years,
the British centered on their base in India played the role of peacekeeper and policeman in the
Indian Ocean, ending piracy and slavery as well as creating a great Indian diaspora stretching from
Durban to Singapore and beyond. With its new-found strength, perhaps it is time for India to take up
that role again. There are regional problems such as renewed piracy that cry out for regional
cooperation but which need leadership from a significant regional power. India needs to reach out to
those advanced countries which have a major stake in the security of trade in the Indian Ocean, such as
the UAE and Singapore, Australia and South Africa, to build a partnership for security and progress.
Looki g at the U ited Natio s proje tio s for population growth through this century, the Indian Ocean
will overtake the Pacific Basin as the most populous region of the globe later in this century. (Note that,
of course, some countries such as Indonesia and Australia are counted in both the Indian and the Pacific
Ocean Basins.) Whether this large part of the human race will be peaceful, prosperous and dynamic will
depend in very large part on decisions to be made in India in the next few years.

- Chris Hall
President, International Horizons College

www.ihc-dubai.com