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Brookings: Rising India has a Pakistan Problem

April 9, 2009


Stephen Cohen speaks before the International Development Center in Ottawa, Canada, on a rising India's place in the world and its long-term security concerns.

President David Malone, and Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to be invited to speak in this series on India. My approach will certainly be different from that of M.S. Swaminathan and Amartya Sen—both of whose work I came to know in 1993 when I spent a wonderful year in the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi office. My hope is that it offers an equally valid way of looking at India’s “emergence” or “rise,” and that what I have to say is relevant to our shared interest in seeing a more prosperous, equitable, and democratic India.

India’s Revolutions

India is a revolutionary power in many ways. India is not only undergoing several domestic revolutions—that of its economy, its caste system, and its federal structure, but also in how it sees its place in the world. India’s revolutions are different than those of China, and comparisons must be made very carefully. I can save some of you a lot of trouble by letting you know that much of the literature on “Chindia,” exemplified by two books I saw in Chennai last December—The Dragon and the Elephant and The Elephant and the Dragon, is with a few exceptions, mostly useless.

The end of the Cold War forced India to reconsider how it configured its relations with major states, notably America. It is still a free-rider to the extent that, without being a member of any American-organized alliance, it benefits from the stability provided by these alliances. At best, Indians describe their relationship with the US as a “natural alliance,” a content-less term. India has an interest in a stable international order, but it has so far been only a bit player when it comes to global order issues.

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