India's Future Lies In Its Naval Power Says American Geo-Strategist

With the scene of global strategic rivalry slowly shifting to the Indian Ocean, India's geopolitical future lies in its naval power, contrary to the country's traditional emphasis on its army, says Parag Khanna, leading American geo-strategist, author and founding director of the Global Governance Initiative at the New America Foundation think tank.

'In terms of geopolitics, India's influence is still very limited... what underpins that is the reality that India is not going to be what initially was thought and hoped it would be - a land-based continental rival to balance China.

'Now, India is seen as much more of a naval power -- overseeing and having a strategic role with respect to the Indian Ocean and the trade routes there. That actually is the geopolitical future of India; it's a very strong future,' Khanna, who was a senior geopolitical advisor to the US Special Operations Command, told IANS in an exclusive interview.

This is reflected in India's own defence priorities. According to the Institute of Defence Studies And Analyses, while the country's union budget for 2011-12 saw a 12 percent rise in defence allocation to Rs.164,415.49 crore ($36 billion), the Indian Navy received only 15 percent of the total allocation -- Rs.25,247 crore. The army got the lion's share at 51 percent -- Rs.83,415 crore. However, the shares of the navy and air force have consistently risen over the past two decades while that of the army has declined.

'I see a geopolitical pattern that's emerging, whereby the Indian navy and the government take a more assertive role with respect to energy, oil and trade routes, counter-piracy issues and so forth in the Indian Ocean straits.

'I don't think, however, that any one power will ever be a dominant force. It's going to be a
mix of players following the United States and the European navies. China will inevitably - no matter how powerful India is - seek to exert its navy there (Indian Ocean). And it's going to be a multitude of maritime powers there active.'

Referring to the various economic models available for the underdeveloped world to follow, Khanna reasserted an argument made in his second and latest book, 'How To run The World', that India, with its organic growth and development, is a much better example than 'authoritarian capitalism'.

'There has been genuine growth in India. And it has been public and private in nature and has involved a collection of actors and cooperative coalitions. There have been roles for civil society, the private sector, diasporas, wealthy industrialists, government, business community and so forth. That's neat because it is an organic form and not in an authoritarian capitalist model.'

Considered one of the world's most influential people, Khanna claims his geopolitical awakening happened when his father took him to the Berlin Wall immediately after it collapsed in the aftermath of the collapse of the communist world in the early 1990s.

From witnessing such an epoch-marking event first hand, Khanna today has reached a stage where his word on global dynamics is taken seriously by none else than US President Barack Obama, who made Khanna his foreign policy advisor during the presidential campaign.

In 'How To run The World', Khanna sees a world in post-colonial entropy and the emergence of supra-governmental forces that are fashioning a whole new global order. Does that mean international relations will lose the coherence established by formal diplomacy?

'Firstly there is no coherence (in traditional diplomacy). There is a theoretical coherence, with diplomacy being managed by a world of sovereign governments and their official representatives. But there isn't any empirical coherence. There isn't - in ground reality - any actual, serious order being provided by that set of institutions... Frankly we have a highly incompetent and incoherent set of official diplomatic institutions.

'On the other hand, I propose a model that involves and engages all actors irrespective of whether or not they are states. And I think that is much more promising, and in fact that is what is happening. And I aim to demonstrate that such public-private coalitions represent the majority of what is effective.'

Referring to the current upheaval in the Arab world, Khanna said, 'I am largely very sympathetic about what's happening. I wrote in my book The Second World that Egypt was certainly ripe for a revolution. That's because all of these post-colonial Arab societies demonstrate similar conditions of economic transition. I think they will all take their own directions.'
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