Friday, 1 June 2018

Modi Needs to Show India Has Teeth

© AFP 2018  Indranil MUKHERJEE

Asia is ready for India to step up as the U.S. withdraws.


sia’s premier security meeting is this week, and all eyes will be on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he gives his keynote speech — the first for an Indian leader. The defense chiefs and diplomats at the Shangri-La Dialogue are eager to see whether Modi — and India — have the chops to take on an increasingly critical regional role.

Asia’s uncertain political and economic climate presents an opportunity for Modi. U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies, including the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and a purely transactional approach to longtime alliances, have contributed to strategic drift in the region as China grows assertive and authoritarian. The situation calls for steady leadership — and the United States and its Pacific allies better hope that New Delhi can deliver.

One of the few things Washington’s leaders can agree on is that the “Asian century” should be India’s as much as China’s. Yet, India’s inadequate defense-industrial base and lack of regional economic integration threaten to frustrate its ambitions. Modi needs to convince Asia’s elites that his country is ready to become a leading power that can ensure no one country can dominate the region’s future.

It’s fitting Modi gets the historic honor of taking center stage. Singapore, the host of the summit, has longed for New Delhi to provide strategic balance to the Asia-Pacific since the early days of the city-state’s founder Lee Kuan Yew. One of Modi’s early foreign-policy moves was to replace India’s “Look East” approach with a more energetic “Act East” strategy.

The country has since made some tantalizing moves eastward, but Singapore is not alone in wanting India to show up and stand out. Most Asian governments would love to witness Modi declare a strong and sustained commitment, backed by resources, to being a “leading power” championing well-accepted norms. But until recently, India lacked the national capacity for a bigger, bolder regional policy........Continue reading: HERE


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