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India Remembered

PARIS – “Do not forget India.” That warning made sense 10 or 15 years ago; not any longer. India is now impossible to ignore, much less forget, owing not only to its rapid economic growth, but also to the country’s increasing geopolitical stature.

Europeans often speak of an emerging “G-3,” implying an international system dominated by the United States, China, and the European Union. But this ambition, however legitimate, looks more presumptuous and unrealistic every day, particularly given the choices that Europe just made in naming its new “President” – Belgium’s Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy – and “Foreign Minister” – the never been elected to anything Lady Catherine Ashton from Britain.  How can Europe pretend to stand for an ambitious message when it picks such low-profile – indeed, practically anonymous – messengers to deliver it?

Given this demonstration of Europe’s Lilliputian instincts, if a G-3 ever becomes a reality, the only serious contender nowadays to join the US and China is India. The very warm greeting and State Dinner given to India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by US President Barack Obama in Washington two weeks ago is ample testimony to India’s new international status.

That reception was, of course, intended to nurture India’s collective ego, which had sensed a Sino-centric tilt to American policy ever since Obama became president. But there is much more to it than that. In 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union presented for India a serious strategic test, which the country has passed with flying colors. Partly in response to the Soviet collapse, India embraced capitalism without reservation, which has produced spectacular economic progress. And, like the economy, India’s self-confidence has boomed.