“More than at any time over the past quarter-century, India is well on its way to global power,” writes Alyssa Ayres in a new book, Our Time Has Come: How India is Making its Place in the World. She notes, “We are witnessing a country chart its course to power, and explicitly seeking not to displace others but to be recognized among the club of world powers, one in which it believes its membership is long overdue.”
In Our Time Has Come, Ayres, the Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, considers the role this ascendant democracy will play internationally, the obstacles it continues to face, and the implications of its rise for the United States and other nations.
Over the past twenty-five years, India’s economic expansion has vaulted it into the ranks of the world’s emerging major powers. A rising India now wants a seat at the table of global powers. With its huge military and growing economy, India is ready to set its own terms on everything from defense to climate to trade.
While Ayres makes the case for India’s elevated global position, she also highlights the challenges the country faces:
- The Indian economy remains relatively protectionist, and no clear consensus exists on the benefits of a more open economy or stepping up the pace of economic reforms.
- India struggles with the legacy of its longstanding foreign policy doctrine of nonalignment, and remains ambivalent about how it should exercise power.
- India is intensely protective of what it sees as its autonomy, and seeks to shape international interactions very specifically on Indian terms.
“Our [the United States’] relationship with democratic India—going from estrangement of the Cold War decades to partnership in the twenty-first century—as it emerges among the world’s great powers will likely stand as a defining policy shift, one that we missed in the twentieth century but have pursued in the twenty-first,” writes Ayres.
The United States’ relationship with India differs from its relationships with longstanding European and Asian partners because New Delhi, while seeking a closer strategic and economic relationship with the United States, does not seek the obligations inherent to an alliance.
To help shape this nontraditional partnership, Ayres emphasizes the need for global governance reform that makes space for India. Her recommendations include backing Indian membership in the Group of Seven, the UN Security Council, and other institutions that set the global economic and security agenda; developing stronger bilateral economic ties with India; continuing to pursue stronger regional security cooperation with India; and supporting institutions of democracy.
“India, as a rising power of Asia, should be better understood and better appreciated in its own terms—as a competitiveness issue for U.S. economic and business interests, and as a matter of the demands of the new global diplomacy in which all of Asia plays a much more pivotal role,” writes Ayres.
A Council on Foreign Relations Book