India’s rising global standing
At the just concluded UNGA session, diverse names were suggested for a permanent seat in the UNSC, however, one name common across the board was that of India
India has evolved over the past 75 years. An impoverished nation in the 1950’s, dependent on aid and foodgrains, its population suffering from Polio and other diseases, it is currently the global provider for foodgrains and medicines.
It financially supports neighbouring countries without seeking to push them into debt traps. Successive governments have worked positively to change the global outlook towards India. Internationally, India is considered a responsible nation, willing to back those in trouble. The best recognition of India’s growing global stature was in the recently concluded UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, held with physical presence of leaders after two years of the pandemic.
A number of national representatives, speaking from the UNGA platform, mentioned expanding the UNSC. There were diverse names being projected for a permanent seat in the UNSC, however one name was common across the board, it was India. Both the US and Russia backed Indian inclusion.
The Mexican foreign minister, Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubon, suggested that a commission (to resolve the Ukraine crisis) should be led by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and must include Prime Minister Modi and Pope Francis. Could there have been a better honour for the nation?
Many countries thanked India from the platform. Guyana Foreign minister, Hugh Hilton Todd, stated, “Guyana benefits immensely from the growth trajectory of India.” The Jamaican Foreign Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, speaking on India’s vaccine outreach mentioned, “We are deeply grateful to the government, the people of India, led by PM Modi and EAM Jaishankar.”
Bhutan, Nepal, and many other nations praised India for its support. India has provided vaccines to over 100 countries. Turkish President, Recep Erdogan, who has always been critical of India over Kashmir, was singing a softer tune.
While discussing Ukraine, President Macron of France quoted PM Modi when he stated, “Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, was right when he said the time is not for war.”
The newly elected British PM Liz Truss stated, “The free world needs this economic strength and resilience to push back against authoritarian aggression and win this new era of strategic competition. For this, we are deepening our links with fellow democracies like India, Israel, Indonesia, and South Africa.”
In all 12 countries mentioned India, all in praise. The only criticism which flowed was expectedly from Pakistan. India’s presence at the UNGA was summed up by Jaishankar who stated, “It is not usual in a General Assembly for presidents and prime ministers or foreign ministers of a country to refer to another country.”
Jaishankar had 40 bilateral meetings, 5 group meetings, 4 trilaterals, met three presidents and addressed multiple press conferences. It only displays that the world looks upto India.
Another indicator of India’s growing power was that it was the only country to enforce a ceasefire in Ukraine to enable withdrawal of its students.
The world is aware that unless India joins imposed sanctions or even the price ceiling on Russian oil and gas, they can never be effective. India’s neutrality in Ukraine has led to acceptance by all. Ukraine also mentioned India as a nation which should have a permanent seat in the UNSC.
When India needed global support for the worst phase of the pandemic last year, the world responded. While few nations could have done so for strategic or political reasons, most of it was a means of conveying gratitude for what India had done.
The US stated it was being grateful for India’s support when it most needed it. India had provided aid when the US was battered by Katrina as also during its worst phase of COVID. Volkan Bozkir, then President of the United Nations General Assembly tweeted, “It’s time for the world to extend aid and support to India.”
As Jaishankar stated, “We have demonstrated in a practical manner, our belief that the world is a family.” Several global economists have claimed that the future belongs to Asia, however, there are some like Bob Sternfels, CEO, McKinsey and Company who have mentioned that this is not India’s decade but India’s century.
India is currently the world's fifth largest economy behind Germany, Japan, China and the US. World leaders rush to India to sign trade deals. Without Indian participation, major organizations like the QUAD, aimed at containing China are ineffective.
Even China, with whom the border dispute continues, seeks better bilateral ties. It is aware that in case India drifts away from the west, the multilateral threat to Chinese recedes. Hence, its ambassador to New Delhi, Sun Weidong, stated recently, “We should help each other succeed and achieve mutual win-win through cooperation, instead of undercutting each other meaninglessly.”
India’s strong approach to China including its unwillingness to seek discussions at Samarkand or New York, despite the presence of dignitaries at both locations, flows from its growing confidence.
India is now a permanent invitee to the G 7 summit. This is because Europe is aware that while it declines, India rises, and it needs Indian support. It attempted to push India to change its stance on Ukraine but failed.
Europe had not backed India during the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, and India returned the favour. Jaishankar clarified it by mentioning, “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.”
The demand for interaction with India in New York was aptly summed up by Jaishankar who stated, “Countries wanted to talk to us because there is a belief that we are in touch with key players, we can influence them, we can shape their thinking, we can contribute, we are prepared,” adding, “I think there are contributions that India can make. I think we have today a stabilizing role. We have a bridging role. We have a diplomatic role.” This is a rising India, which the world now sees.
India, from an ignored nation, has risen to become an influencing power which can shape global decisions. It has not risen to this level in a few years but over a period of time. If it is to retain this status, then it must act responsibly and be a supporter, provider and a balancer.
***The writer is a security and strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his own