It is ‘advantage India’ in the global power struggle as the West which is fed up with China’s duplicity looks for reliable partners. India has to up its strategy in a crucial game it must win.
India has the ability to have a substantial impact on the greater global power equation as a flourishing trading partner, a reliable ally and a powerful defence and maritime power. Geographically, the power struggle is rooted in the Indian Ocean region, which also houses the trade routes necessary to maintain China’s economic growth. But this is where China’s strategic vulnerabilities also lie. For the Chinese Communist Party, a disturbance in the Indo-Pacific marine trade routes might be fatal to its socioeconomic stability and lead to internal unrest that could endanger the Chinese State itself. However, it is also true that many other countries and groups, including the US, EU, Japan, South Korea, Australia, ASEAN, India, the African Union, and West Asian states, would suffer negative effects from the disturbance to varying degrees. Of course, an armed war between two or more of the involved powers is the only way to cause extensive collateral damage.
Given the interconnected economies, maintaining open and inclusive trade channels in the Indo-Pacific region should be the political justification. Prime Minister Narendra Modi voiced this viewpoint in 2018 at the Shangri La Dialogue. However, following China’s aggression in Ladakh in 2020, India’s position has changed, and this is being gradually demonstrated by the expansion of its strategic partnership with the West, which spans the Indo-Pacific and manifests itself in the areas of the military, economy, technology, diplomacy, and intelligence. India’s ability to grow its maritime strength could be compromised strategically, but India has politically distanced itself from China. However, in the framework of the greater global power struggle, it is currently experiencing the tides of closer engagement with the West.
India's ability to grow its maritime strength could be compromised strategically, but India has politically distanced itself from China.
The tides of the global power struggle have gotten rougher due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing strategic turbulence in Europe. However, India’s decision to remain neutral in the Ukraine War, which it sees as primarily a European conflict with roots in Cold War history, has not yet negatively impacted its political relations with the West.
Faltering West-China Relations
Despite pressure from the West’s economic sanctions, relations between India and Russia have remained cordial. Russia has been put under financial pressure, thanks to Western control of the global banking system. India and the majority of Russia-connected nations have seen collateral harm. The worldwide financial system is also the subject of a continuous global conflict. Fundamentally, everything comes down to the dollar versus the yuan. The flow of dollars is constrained by the penalties. China, on the other hand, wants to use the Yuan more frequently in international trade. China is currently without a doubt the longshot in this conflict.
China is also negatively impacted by its global conflict because of the solidarity shown by Americans and Europeans when the Ukraine crisis broke out. The interests of China in the international conflict are not served by their unity. 2020’s Chinese invasion has sparked a military front between India and Pakistan in the Himalayan area. Russian involvement in Ukraine must now be having a psychological influence on Chinese leadership’s plans. The expenses of an invasion of Taiwan or even a big assault across the Himalayas would not make using military force justifiable.
Russian involvement in Ukraine must now be having a psychological influence on Chinese leadership's plans.
The West’s alliance system is strengthening, which should provide India’s existing policy of collaboration on certain issues greater room for manoeuvre. The area is developed as a result of the realization that while military force can seize territory without civilian backing, maintaining it might be expensive due to local resistance. China needs the support of significant portions of the global population, either voluntarily or under duress if it intends to compete with the superpowers.
Fall of China and Rise of India
China has also been losing favour with the rest of the world. It is now extremely likely to have losses due to the epidemic, the crisis in Ukraine, and the Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) global initiative losing its value. The programme also had the goal of tightening China’s grip over other nations. It is significant that China really hasn’t rushed to gain Sri Lanka’s current economic turmoil to seize influence there. This may be a sign of difficulties using its economic leverage in the Subcontinent.
The delays may also be indicative of China’s economic challenges as a result of its sluggish economic expansion. China may be revising its plans after learning from the past drawbacks of sending soldiers overseas, which were reaffirmed by the Ukraine War. More significantly, it may also be occurring in its conflict with India. In the current global environment, China may be best served by a tactical arrangement that aims to maintain military pressure on the northern border through an uneasy peace rather than directly engaging in armed confrontations.
China may be best served by a tactical arrangement that aims to maintain military pressure on the northern border through an uneasy peace rather than directly engaging in armed confrontations.
The agreement’s strategic weight, however, will depend on inclusions that uphold past commitments and understandings for India. India’s actions in this regard will need to take into account China’s larger goals of keeping India contained as well as the increasing likelihood that China will run across forces that stop the growth of its influence in the international system. While there are many geopolitical spheres where the global power struggle is taking place, the military, economy, and technology all play important roles as levers in this competitive strategic struggle. The military aspects of India’s development are the most difficult because they require creating a military component that really can safeguard our national sovereignty on the north and west borders while strengthening our maritime possibilities. Even though its economic and technological aspects give India some flexibility to maintain and strengthen its growth targets, the military aspects are the most difficult.
(The author is pursuing MA in International Affairs at O P Jindal Global University, Sonipat. Views expressed are the author’s own)