Idealism Vs Pragmatism

This post is about the recent trip of the U.S. President Obama to India as the Chief Guest of Honour for India’s Republic Day celebrations.

The gist of the outcome of President Obama’s visit and his discussions with Prime Minister Modi is the very surprising fact that India is no longer bound by Cold War Idealism dictated by its policy of Non Alignment, but more pragmatic in every aspect of the relationship. It appears that Mr Modi’s view is that any country which can help in the development of India is a friend of India, and there should be no hurdles in such a partnership.

This is a welcome shift in India’s foreign policy. With the deteriorating position of Russia in the world economy, it is not worth pursuing major deals with Russia at this stage simply because Russia has been an all-weather friend of India for the past six decades. Geopolitics has irretrievably changed, and India is also unshackled from the clutches of the Congress Party. This is the right time to see how India can reposition itself as a leading global player with the responsibility which goes with it.

Of course, Pakistan and China are not at all happy with President Obama’s visit to India, but is that surprising ? Not at all. They have to express their displeasure on the much-awaited alignment between the U.S. and India, devoid of pressures from Pakistan. After all, we are talking here about the oldest and the largest democracies of the world coming together for the good of the world, what can be wrong with that ?

However, China will try to insert hurdles on the way of India becoming a global leader, as it does not like to see counterweights gaining prominence. It has overtaken Japan as the second largest economy last year, and could replace the U.S. as the world’s largest economy within the next 5 years. It is unlikely to accept India as an equal player in the U.N. Security Council, or as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The advice to India is not to slip up on reforms, further open up the economy, make it easy for global companies to do business, improve the tax regime, and align more with the Western economies, especially the U.S. It may not be a bad idea to invest more in U.S. defence equipment and upgrade the standards of the Indian defence forces. India is already working closely with Israel in this sphere, but more collaboration is needed with the U.S. Once India’s position is further elevated as an ally of the U.S., more technology transfers will follow, which would help India improve and consolidate its military position vis-a-vis China and Pakistan.

So, Pragmatism should be the rule of the day, rather than useless Idealism which does not help the Indian people. At the end of the day, all policies should benefit Indian citizens and enhance the security and economic development of India. The U.S. is offering its hand to build a close strategic partnership, and it would be wise for India to accept and surge ahead.


Vijay Srinivasan

31st January 2015


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