The U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute recently published a monograph by Roman Muzalevsky on India’s strategic role in the 21st century’s “Great Game” in Central Asia. Titled “Unlocking India’s Strategic Potential in Central Asia,” Muzalevsky’s work analyzes the complicated relationships between, and rivalries among, India, China, Iran, Russia and the United States in the heart of the Eurasian landmass. He concludes that India and the United States can best advance their interests in the region if they develop a “strategic partnership” that allows them to both compete and collaborate with the other powers vying for influence in Central Asia.
Muzalevsky, a researcher and analyst for iJet International, Inc., has studied and written extensively about the region. He is the author of China’s Rise and Reconfiguration of Central Asia’s Geopolitics: A Case for U.S. Pivot to Eurasia (2015), From Frozen Ties to Strategic Engagement: U.S.- Iranian Relationship in 2030 (2015), and Central Asia’s Shrinking Connectivity Gap: Implications for U.S. Strategy (2014). In this monograph, Muzalevsky discusses both the geopolitical constraints and opportunities that India confronts as it develops policies and strategies to increase its influence in Central Asia.
India, the author notes, is a latecomer to the 21st century’s Great Game, having stood by after the end of the Cold War as China, the United States, Iran, and a resurgent Russia sought to improve their respective economic and political interests in the region. India’s initial reluctance to compete in the region was due, in part, to its focus on domestic issues and its tradition of non-alignment. India also suffered from geography: It lacks a common border with Central Asia and must interact with the region through unstable Afghanistan and hostile Pakistan. Meanwhile, China exploited its geography and economic power to implement its so-called “Silk Road” strategy in the region, Russia used its geographical proximity and traditional economic and political ties to the region and its leaders to further its Eurasia strategy, and Iran used favorable geography and common cultural/religious ties to further its interests there.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Muzalevsky notes that the United States has a military presence in the Eurasian heartland for the first time in history, but is currently pulling back militarily from the region – a move he believes will harm U.S. long term interests. A politically stable and secure Afghanistan is an interest that India shares with the U.S., and Muzalevsky recommends that India and the U.S. work in tandem to do more to bring that about. He laments, however, that the U.S., after long and unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seems more intent on withdrawing militarily from Afghanistan than on promoting stability.
India recognizes that its greatest strategic rival in the region is China. Muzalevsky calls China the greatest “barrier” to India’s emergence as a power in Central Asia and a global great power. Indeed, India views Chinese strategy here as one of geopolitical encirclement. Muzalevsky writes:
To that purpose, China has . . . used its growing economic and security partnerships with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar to India’s northeast; Sri-Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia to India’s southeast; Pakistan and Afghanistan to India’s northwest; and Central Asia to India’s northwest.
This landward geographical encirclement coupled with China’s expanded role in the Indian Ocean poses insurmountable dilemmas for India’s plans to expand its influence in Central Asia unless it eschews non-alignment and, Muzalevsky suggests, strategically partners with the United States.
In 2012, India’s leaders announced a policy called “Connect Central Asia,” which is designed to further India’s economic and political ties to the states of Central Asia, especially in the areas of energy and transportation. Muzalevsky recognizes India’s growing economic ties to a few Central Asian states, and envisions possible collaborative efforts here between India and Iran and China, all of which would benefit from energy and transportation improvements in the region. He even goes so far as to suggest that India and the United States may be able to shape Iran’s interaction with the states of the region. He makes it clear, however, that “Connect Central Asia” has lagged far behind Chinese and Russian moves in the 21st century’s Great Game.
Muzalevsky’s sophisticated geopolitical analysis, however, produces more questions than answers. For example, India and the U.S. would, as he suggests, appear to be ideal partners to contain or counterbalance China in Central Asia, but there is no indication that policymakers in Washington have decided how to approach the growth of Chinese power despite all of the rhetoric about the “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia. As noted earlier, the U.S. is militarily retreating from the region in the wake of two unpopular wars, and has done nothing substantial in response to Russia’s aggressive moves in the Middle East. Moreover, it is not clear that India would be wise to rely on a U.S. commitment to a strategic partnership given the current U.S. administration’s affinity for global retrenchment and multilateralism in foreign policy.
There is also a question as to whether democracies, such as India and the United States, can conduct a foreign policy based on pure rational national security interests instead of sentiment, popular emotions, and competing special interests. Muzalevsky envisions India and the U.S. engaged in a delicate, sophisticated, nuanced approach that combines elements of competition and collaboration with current and potential adversaries. This may be too much to ask. The great British geopolitical theorist Halford Mackinder once noted that, “Democracy refuses to think strategically unless and until compelled to do so for purposes of defense.”
In any event, the Great Game of the 21st century proceeds apace. It is a geopolitical competition that will likely influence the future global balance of power.
Francis P. Sempa is the author of Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21st Century (Transaction Books) and America’s Global Role: Essays and Reviews on National Security, Geopolitics and War (University Press of America). He is also a contributor to Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics (Potomac Books). He has written on historical and foreign policy topics for Joint Force Quarterly, American Diplomacy, the University Bookman, The Claremont Review of Books, The Diplomat, Strategic Review, the Washington Times and other publications. He is an attorney, an adjunct professor of political science at Wilkes University, and a contributing editor to American Diplomacy.
In the 21 century, as India enters the age of computer, we would be able to solve various problems as a result of which India would appear for more glorious than the present state.
After Independence India has been on the move politically towards stability, socio-economic progress, scientific and cultural achievements. The U.N.O also wanted every country to achieve the goal of “Health for All” by the beginning of 21st century.
A number of problems of india, expected to be rooted out speedily after independence, have lifted their ugly heads even after 60 years of independence. Regionalism, separatism, terrorism are on the rise with a fiercing mood.
Unemployment ,population explosion, illiteracy, poverty, health and housing problems appear as the stumbling blocks that we are facing now-a-days. Above all, we bear the heavy burden of population and the sense of cultivating moral values has been eroded. It is a shame for us.
To provide for the basic necessities of such a vast population remains a difficult task, and there is no sign that the problem of food cloths and shelter will be solved by the start of the century. So a large section of the people will enter into the new century with poverty as their bosom friend. Another of her major problems is illiteracy. Since India has not succeeded in making education free for boys and girls ups the age of fourteen, it is unlikely that she will be able to arrest her trend of illiteracy.
Another notable problem is the condition of health of her people. So there is no chance of the fulfillment of the hope of “Health for All” programme even after passing some years of the 21st century. Scientists and technically skilled persons reflected the idea of welfare through proper distribution system. Then the poor will find themselves in the main stream and our policy on globalization and open mark economy. Active participation in the group of nations will open up new issues with the new Indian spirit in a body for advancement and set reliance. Though the Government announces various measures to tackle these problems there is no indication that the century will see proper implementation of those.
India is fast changing. The rapid growth in the field of Information Technology has opened up new avenues of employment.
The present age is the age of technology, electronics and internet. There is presence of technology in every spheres of life of Indians. We cannot spend a day without our mobile phones.
There there is surge in e-commerce marketplaces. People can buy goods from the comfort of their homes. These e-commerce companies are competing with the local business. On one hand, these online companies are sources of employment for many people. On the other, due to stiff competition, the local businesses are finding it very hard to grow their business.
Illiteracy is still a major problem for India. With the introduction of technology, most businesses are looking for educated people with some skill of computer and related technology. Illiterate people are experiencing difficulty in getting respectable employment.
Youth population should also consider joining Vocational Training courses. These courses are designed to develop skill for a specific trade. In the present age of specialization, there is surge in demand for skilled people.
Lets hope the 21st century India will solve the various prevailing problems.
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