I had the pleasure recently of reading two very valuable papers on India.  Both examine the challenge for this emerging great power, and the challenge for the traditional great powers, in India gaining great power leadership in global governance.  The first piece is written by Barbara Crossette, formerly of the New York Times and George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies and Director of the Nonproliferation Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  In addition there is a commentator, C. Raja Mohan, a Professor of South Asian Studies at the S. Rajaratram School of International Studies at Nanyang Technical University, Singapore.

The article and the accompanying commentator article are entitled “India: The Ultimate Test of Free-Market Democracy.” This piece is one in the series “Power & Principles: International Leadership in a Shrinking World,” commissioned by the Stanley Foundation.   For anyone concerned with the emergence of the great powers in global governance, this series is well worth tackling.  As the Stanley Foundation describes it, this series “is designed to identify plausible actions and trends the next ten years by which the international community could become more unified.” The series covers almost all the BRICSAM plus some others.  It’s worth a reminder that the Stanley Foundation has a mandate that “seeks a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on world citizenship and effective global governance.” This is but one series that the Stanley Foundation is working on.

The second article comes from the most recent GIR Princeton Summer Workshop.  In CIGI and Princeton University’s effort to examine ‘rising states’ as part of the dual objective to examine those states and to examine as well ‘rising institutions,’ we invited Amrita Narlikar to prepare the chapter on India.  Amrita has prepared a great chapter entitled “Reforming Institutions, Unreformed India?”  By the way, in case you don’t know Amrita, she is a University Lecturer in International Relations at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge and an Official Fellow at Darwin College.  She has written interesting work on trade and India and on trade policy and politics generally  in the WTO.  This blog post will examine the Crossette and Perkovich (C&P) analysis and the next will examine Amrita’s views of India’s leadership behavior.

For both papers, Raja Mohan has picked out the critical issue for, and about, the emerging great powers.  Analysts are eager to examine the emergence of these large emerging powers - India being a principal actor here - but the dilemma, according to Mohan, “… boiled down to one question: How soon and effective might India’s transition from autonomy to responsibility be?”  If there is enlargement of the global governance ‘executive’ - either in the G8 plus, G20 or even the UN Security Council, will we find that India joins the current great powers relatively uneventfully? Along this path, India finds it’s relatively comfortable joining the ranks of the traditional great powers. Now a second path suggests that Indian identification with the great power club is far more difficult.  In this future, current Indian attitudes and behavior will be torn between advocating, on the one hand, for the developing world - the poor and disadvantaged - and, on the other, acting as one of the traditional great powers.  Finally, is it possible that India, moving into the future, will insist on rewriting the rules and norms of global governance organizations in order to reduce the dissonance between traditional great power status and India’s advocacy for a new deal for the global order? In the first view, the executive club will enlarge and with a new distribution of power we will see an enlarged club of great powers established that, while larger, looks a lot like today’s global governance organizations.  In the second, the tension over India’s leadership role impedes an easy transition and incorporation into the global governance executive club.  And the third suggests that India, and possibly others, insist on a significant revision to the liberal order that has been reflected in global governance to date and that analysts like John Ikenberry are describing.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, the C&P piece examines in some detail the position of India in the evolution of the non-proliferation regime and India’s successful effort to acquire nuclear weapons (Perkovich is well known for his study on India’s nuclear strategy, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation, (1999)). But the C&P piece examines as well Indian trade policy and the question of Indian views of intervention. The authors don’t provide a definitive statement on India’s global governance leadership, but they do lay emphasis on India’s democratic present and future. India’s critical stance to great power disarmament, globalization and advocacy of free trade and liberal interventionism is ultimately laid at the doorstep of its domestic democratic political culture.  Their examination, as they see it, is “a case study of how values and international events interacted with Indian politics and interest groups to produce behavior.”  The focus on India’s foreign policy actions derives then in a major way from the domestic influences in India.  As the authors declare: “India’s democratic governance will shape its approaches to global rulemaking in ways that are not appreciated in wealthier or more homogeneous states.  Indian decision makers have to be sensitive to Indian voters in unimaginably diverse circumstances. … The multiple pressures in India thus make it more difficult to predict and deal with than most other nations.”   For C&P this democratic political milieu will constrain India’s political leadership.  It will cause this leadership to carry on positions and causes that may impede India from achieving leadership in any number of global governance forums.

It’s a reminder for those advocates of enlargement for the G8 plus or the UNSC that legitimacy may carry costs - most notably the growing likelihood that consensus becomes even more unlikely.

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