REVIEW: INDIA – AS AN ASIA PACIFIC POWER
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
The Hindustan Times, February 3, 2012
India: As An Asia Pacific Power
Rs. 7,157 pp 219
India is in the throes of rekindling ambitions to be a maritime power. At the heart of this is a belief that its interests in the Indian Ocean are expanding and under threat. An offshoot of that is a bit of flag-waving in the Pacific as well. David Brewster, an analyst from Australia, a littoral country of both oceans, gives a useful if limited assessment of whether New Delhi has the will and wherewithal to be an ‘Indo-Pacific’ power.
Brewster sees two external drivers pushing Indiato take a blue water view of its neighbourhood. One is the pull of United States’ encouragement, the other the push of China’s growing military profile. He accepts this is not the whole story, that “India’s strategic motivations in the Asia-Pacific go well beyond balancing China”. Yet there is sense that a book so grounded in geopolitics underestimates how much economic concerns are influencing India’s maritime policy. And there is a Washington push factor as well — India is starting to worry at the vacuum that is going to arise from the steady shrinkage of the US naval presence in the southern Indian Ocean.
Brewster has no illusions about the many limitations and failings that afflict India’s great power ambitions. Mastery of its coastal areas, let alone the Indian Ocean, will strain India’s capacities. The Pacific Ocean is on the outer edge of its ambitions. In both oceans, India will need to secure its interests by winning friends and building influence. Diplomacy and defence relationships will be as important as laying keels and laying out runways. This is doubly true for the Pacific. “For many years to come, India will to a significant degree need to cooperate with local partners to project power into the region — much more so then major powers situated on the Pacific Ocean.”
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