India’s Wary Rise

Some countries – for example seventeenth-century France or China today – are naturally at ease with the concept and the reality of strategic power. India, by contrast, is clearly in a different category - a rapidly rising economy that regards the exercise of global political power with the trepidation of America in 1920.

PARIS – Some countries are naturally at ease with the concept and the reality of strategic power. Such was clearly the case of France under Louis XIV, the Sun King in the seventeenth century, and such is the case today of China, whose leadership is comfortable with the balance-of-power games of classical Europe.

India is clearly in a different category. In economic terms, India’s confidence has been boosted by the way the Western world now looks at it with a mixture of respect and greed: “What kind of deals can I strike with such an emerging market, whose population will soon be the largest of any country in the world?”

Yet, in order to understand India’s political and diplomatic relationship with the outside world, the most enlightening comparison is with America in 1920. Like the United States after World War I, India is realizing that its status and role in the world have been deeply transformed in the last two decades. And, like America then, India is not naturally at ease with the notion of exercising global power.

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