China Well Ahead of In­dia in Asia-Pa­cific

Lowy In­sti­tute’s in­au­gu­ral ‘Asia Power In­dex’ ranks In­dia as the fourth most pow­er­ful coun­try in the re­gion and called it ‘A Gi­ant of the Fu­ture’

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Lowy In­sti­tute’s in­au­gu­ral ‘Asia Power In­dex’ ranks In­dia as the fourth most pow­er­ful coun­try in the re­gion and called it ‘A Gi­ant of the Fu­ture’.

WORLD IS WIT­NESS­ING SHIFT of global power to Asia. The rise of China, in last two decades, has re­con­fig­ured the power equa­tion in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion which was dom­i­nated by United States and its al­lies in­clud­ing Ja­pan and South Korea. This has com­pelled na­tions of the re­gion and out­side to re­hash their for­eign policy to make it con­gru­ous to Chi­nese geo-strat­egy.

With four out of top five economies of the world be­ing in Asia, ex­cept the US, the con­ti­nent is ex­pected to host two third of the world pop­u­la­tion by 2025. This will com­pletely change the global power equa­tion which is still dom­i­nated by the US and Europe. “Asia’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion is re­shap­ing the global dis­tri­bu­tion of power, chang­ing the way the re­gion—and in­deed the world—works po­lit­i­cally and strate­gi­cally. Just as sig­nif­i­cantly, tensions be­tween Asian pow­ers will de­fine war and peace in the twenty-first cen­tury,” it said.

The in­dex is an ef­fort to­wards pro­vid­ing “an an­a­lyt­i­cal tool that aims to sharpen the de­bate on power dy­nam­ics in Asia.” It mea­sures power across 25 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, from Pak­istan in the west to Rus­sia in the north to US in the Pa­cific. Aus­tralia and New Zealand marks the south­ern bound­ary of the re­gion.


In­dex stud­ies coun­try’s power across eight mea­sures of power—Eco­nomic re­sources, Mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity, Re­silience, Fu­ture trends, Diplo­matic in­flu­ence, Eco­nomic re­la­tion­ships, De­fence net­works and Cul­tural in­flu­ence. Th­ese eight mea­sures were fur­ther di­vided in two di­men­sions of re­sources mea­sures and in­flu­ence mea­sures. “The first four mea­sures of the In­dex—eco­nomic re­sources, mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity, re­silience and fu­ture trends—pro­vide as­sess­ments of a coun­try’s ma­te­rial ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ro­bust­ness, which are un­der­ly­ing fac­tors in the ex­er­cise of power.”

“The other four mea­sures of the In­dex—diplo­matic in­flu­ence, eco­nomic re­la­tion­ships, de­fence net­works and cul­tural in­flu­ence—as­sess a coun­try’s ac­tive lev­els of in­flu­ence, prin­ci­pally in other In­dex coun­tries, lend­ing the In­dex its Asian fo­cus,” it said.


On the scale of hun­dred, con­sid­er­ing the over­all score based on all the eight mea­sures, US, sole global su­per power, scored 85 fol­lowed by ‘the emerg­ing su­per­power’ China (75.5), Ja­pan (42.1), In­dia (41.5) and Rus­sia (33.3). The in­dex marks In­dia and Ja­pan as ma­jor pow­ers. The in­dex calls na­tions scor­ing below 40 points as mid­dle pow­ers. Rus­sia tops the mid­dle power list with 33.3 points and the lat­est nu­clear power North Korea, last on the list, scores mere 11.4.

One of the very in­ter­est­ing fea­tur­ing of the re­port is the as­sess­ment of coun­tries on ba­sis of “the dif­fer­ence be­tween a coun­try’s over­all power and what its power might be ex­pected to be given its avail­able re­sources.” Ja­pan tops the list of the over­achiev­ers with 11 points whereas North Korea is at the bot­tom with -6.9 points; Rus­sia with -6.4 points is slightly bet­ter than worst per­former. Sur­pris­ing two of the fastest emerg­ing power, In­dia is un­der­per­form­ing with -2.3 and China with -3.0. US with -0.2 is at par with its re­sources.

On the US, which claims top place in five of the eight in­dex mea­sures, the re­port em­pha­sized that it “re­tains the most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary force in Asia and is at the cen­tre of a net­work of re­gional al­liances that Bei­jing can­not match, re­flected by a 65-point lead over China in de­fence net­works.” Talk­ing about wan­ing US in­flu­ence in the re­gion, the re­port said, “US diplo­matic in­flu­ence in the re­gion has also been dam­aged by ner­vous­ness about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and its for­eign policy de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing its with­drawal in 2017 from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. US po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in Asia is in doubt.”

Rais­ing se­ri­ous ques­tion on the US’ abil­ity to re­tain its po­si­tion, it said, “even if the United States con­tin­ues to out­spend China in mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture, fu­ture trends point to a rel­a­tive de­cline in US power, with a sec­ond place fin­ish only marginally ahead of In­dia.” No won­der, China is show­ing lit­tle re­gard for US power in the western Pa­cific re­gion.

Giv­ing China ben­e­fit of keep­ing its re­sources fo­cused on its strate­gic over­reach in Asia, it said that “the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive play to Bei­jing’s strengths as the pri­mary trade part­ner and source of for­eign as­sis­tance in the re­gion.” China is ex­pected to achieve eco­nomic par­ity with US in next one decade. In spite of its strength, re­port finds China “vul­ner­a­ble to a mil­i­tary and strate­gic coun­ter­weight led by other re­gional pow­ers.”

The re­port has been suc­cess­ful in quan­ti­fy­ing the rel­a­tive su­pe­ri­or­ity of China viza-viz its two neigh­bours – In­dia and Ja­pan. There is 33 points dif­fer­ence be­tween China and Ja­pan. “This gap is as large as that be­tween Ja­pan and Bangladesh, ranked 18th in the In­dex as a mi­nor power.” It is worth pon­der­ing that this gap is de­spite of Ja­pan be­ing an over achiever. Talk­ing qual­i­ta­tively about the two strate­gic part­ner of Asia-In­dia and Ja­pan, the re­port says: “Ja­pan is a smart power, while In­dia is a gi­ant of the fu­ture.”

Talk­ing fur­ther on Ja­pan, it said that al­though Ja­pan is us­ing its lim­ited re­sources smartly to “wield broad-based in­flu­ence in the re­gion” but in fore­see­able fu­ture it’s de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion and slow rate of eco­nomic growth will de­cline its in­flu­ence as ma­jor power of the re­gion.

On the other hand In­dia is ex­pected to im­prove eco­nom­i­cally and de­mo­graph­i­cally in the time pe­riod of 2030. “How­ever, the eco­nomic gi­ant suf­fers from a poor track record of con­vert­ing its size­able re­sources base into strate­gic gain in Asia—de­spite New Delhi’s ‘Act East Policy’.” If In­dia is se­ri­ous about con­tain­ing China this gives an im­por­tant cue to In­dian policy mak­ers for eval­u­a­tion of In­dia’s re­source util­i­sa­tion.

In eco­nomic re­la­tions (7th), de­fence net­works (10th) and re­silience (5th) In­dia is ranked below its over­all rank­ing whereas in cul­tural in­flu­ence (3rd) and fu­ture trends (3rd) In­dia fairs bet­ter. Un­ex­pect­edly, China fairs bet­ter than In­dia in cul­tural in­flu­ence too!

In­dia has been mak­ing ef­forts to in­crease its in­flu­ence in the Indo-China re­gion through ‘Act East policy’. Al­though, In­dian lead­ers have made nu­mer­ous vis­its to the friendly na­tions in the re­gion and In­dia has also hosted the ten heads of state of ASEAN na­tions at this year’s repub­lic day func­tion but In­dia is still to achieve some­thing that will al­ter the power dy­nam­ics of the re­gion. In­dia’s re­luc­tance in form­ing quad against China is an ev­i­dence of the coun­try’s strate­gic in­de­ci­sive­ness. This is not go­ing to help In­dia in long term.

As China is reach­ing through­out Eura­sia through its belt and road ini­tia­tive and which will al­low it to check In­dian in­flu­ence over its tra­di­tional friends like Rus­sia and Europe, it is be­com­ing im­per­a­tive that In­dia must take some tough de­ci­sion in com­ing fu­ture to make it­self re­sis­tant to Chi­nese grand strat­egy.

On the US, which claims top place in five of the eight in­dex mea­sures, the re­port em­pha­sized that it “re­tains the most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary force in Asia and is at the cen­tre of a net­work of re­gional al­liances that Bei­jing can­not match

(Top) A mil­i­tary pa­rade by PLA; (above) PLA sol­diers dur­ing a mil­i­tary pa­rade.

PHO­TOGRAPHS: eng.chi­, US Navy

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