India today is undoubtedly shifting the global economic and political power centers. However, regional cooperation can enable this growth and stability to spill further into South Asia.
Expecting its already massive population to grow to 1.5 billion by 2050, India has warmed up to pursuing a giant ‘Leap Forward,’ thus initiating a paradigm shift from the military to the economic approach in order to meet the upcoming challenges, compatible to realizing its ambition of taking the center stage as a global power.
Despite the prevailing bleak scenario for developing economies, the fastest growing Asian country is tipped as the center of global econom- ic power in the future. The mantra of change, ‘India Everywhere,’ that seems to be echoing around the world as a major ‘India-leaning shift’ in the policies of world powers, has already been in put place. The question of how soon other regional countries will tune in to the change is a matter of time. However, given the regional and global strategic and economic compulsions, many nations will be left with little choice but to swim with the current.
Nuclear disarmament remains a dilemma for India. A complex issue, particularly with reference to China and Pakistan, initiatives such as banning nuclear testing and reduction of nuclear arsenal could gain India moral and strategic leadership before the US and China.
The days when war was considered glorious have also passed. Despite the heat and dust of the past decade, Indian intellectuals believe that the region will have a window of security. Amid the realization that both India and Pakistan cannot achieve
their objectives through war, probability of a major conflict between the two neighboring countries seems to have minimized. However, the debated possibility of irrational elements attaining Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Pakistan, remain an exception.
A softening of its strategic stance toward neighboring countries, exhibits India’s seriousness toward this paradigm shift. Furthermore, pressing problems of poverty, hunger, energy crisis, water scarcity and diseases need the attention of collective global efforts. In the case of India, traditional national interest and national security compulsions require an efficient handling to meet the challenges, which will only intensify as the global population rises from the current seven billion to nine billion in 2050.
In South Asia, the demographic gains are numerically good but poor in quality. The need of the hour is to transform the population growth into a demographic dividend before it turns into a demographic nightmare. While labor force growth is encouraging, state competence in terms of resource conversion is very poor.
In the fluid cluster of antagonizing interests, regional policymakers need to look at the problems with a different perspective. A collective and cooperative security approach is imperative to articulate issues of national interest. In particular, five major gaps need to be addressed: knowledge, which is cru- cial in conflict transformation; normative approach that plays an important role in security issues; policymaking; institutional capacity to deliver effective results, and compliance.
Socio-economic regional inequality is the first major challenge faced by South Asia. On the one hand, issues such as urban influx, resource and import dependency, environment, agriculture productivity, climate change, terrorism and economics are specific issues that need to be urgently addressed. On the other hand, emer-
Amid the realization that both India and Pakistan cannot achieve their objectives through war, probability of a major conflict between the two neighboring countries seems to have minimized.
gence of the middle class, rising trend of education, particularly the female education and regional institutionalization are the existing hope-generating indicators.
With global dynamics having changed significantly since 2001, the international economy has entered a new era of uncertainty as the international monetary organizations play a defensive role in diluting western dominance. The change will be slow but is sure to come. Whatever happens in the world economy directly impacts South Asia. The idea of the Asian Monetary Fund (AMF), has led analysts to believe that the current global monetary structure will eventually go redundant with private banks prevailing over the international monetary organizations in the future.
Expecting the external environment to bring more volatility to the situation, the patterns of trade will also change with the shift in the eco- nomic center of gravity. The geoeconomic shift is likely to come in the next two decades with Asia’s share of exports doubling while that of Europe would be cut down to half. Unfortunately, in South Asia, the institutional infrastructures are designed to give the least denominators for trade. The region that seems to have been left behind despite all the demographic advantages can increase its GDP up to 50 percent by simply improving infrastructure with particular focus on the energy sector and modernization of bureaucratic procedures.
Since ancient times, the South Asian region has had a history of consistent political dialogue, trade and commerce, religious interaction and art and architecture. There is no discontent in the living culture of South Asia but it needs to be linked through ancient knowledge that has to trickle down to the grassroots level. Regional integration is not possible without connectivity and building bridges. In this regard, strategic communication is vital. Hence, all the states in the region have to have meaningful dialogues to create a win-win situation rather than shuffling around the political cards.
At the end of the day, the rules of the game may be determined by power politics but the underlying dynamics are so robust that the growth process would continue despite all impediments. In order to progress further and be a part of the strategic and economic capacity building to achieve the ultimate objective of prosperity and peaceful coexistence, all that is required is to lay the foundation of growth. Luckily for South Asia, the first step for the thousand mile journey has been taken.