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This edited collection presents an alternative set of reflections on India's contemporary global role by exploring a range of influential non-Western state perspectives. Through multiple case studies, the contributors gauge the success of India's efforts to be seen as an alternative global power in the twenty-first century.



Introduction: Creating Diversity in Readings of India’s Global Role

The purpose of this volume is to explore vantage points from around the globe on India’s contemporary role in world politics. India’s growing power and international status have drawn increasing scholarly, policy and media attention over the past two decades; however, English-language debates centring on India’s ‘rise’ have been dominated by a broadly singular approach. That approach has been to read India’s changing global role either in relation to the interests and policy concerns of the United States or through the lenses of mainstream, US-centric International Relations (IR) theories, particularly Realism. Rajesh Basrur (2009, pp.104–5), in a 2009 survey of high-impact global and Asian IR journals, comments on the ‘narrow intellectual ambit’ of scholarship on India’s international relations and finds it to be still dominated by US policy concerns and a commitment to Realism. At the same time, Ian Hall (2010, pp.602–3) observes the emergence of ‘Indian realists’, an ‘increasingly vocal and influential group of Indian scholars, many of them trained … in the United States’, who advance ‘the increasingly familiar argument that if India is to achieve its rightful place in the international system, it must set aside traditional concerns, and learn to act as other major powers do’. The resultant, often prescriptive scholarship has little to say about the ways in which India’s contemporary global role is being interpreted and understood in other parts of the world, as well as within India itself.
Kate Sullivan

1. India’s Ambivalent Projection of Self as a Global Power: Between Compliance and Resistance

This introductory chapter aims to set up a broad template against which to position the subsequent chapters, whose collective task is to explore a range of country readings of India’s global role. Since a central rationale of the volume is to determine the extent to which external perceptions of India match its projection of self, this chapter examines some of the ways in which Indian elites have discursively constructed India as a prominent global power in the contemporary post-Cold War era.
Kate Sullivan

2. Chinese Views of a Nuclear India: From the 1974 Peaceful Nuclear Explosion to the Nuclear Suppliers Group Waiver in 2008

What does China think of a nuclear India? It is quite difficult to tell. As the secretary general of China’s Arms Control and Disarmament Association admits, while an abundance of Indian experts study China, in China itself, there are relatively few academics studying a nuclear India, especially in historical context (Li H., 2012, p.132). So far, the norm for China is to de-link the nuclear element from Sino-Indian relations. China’s strategic views of India instead focus on the long-standing border issue between both countries, the contentious status of Tibet and, more recently, conventional naval developments in the Indian Ocean. Essentially, for China, India is not a strategic priority in the same way that China is for India. China’s attention is focused elsewhere—on the United States, its most significant peer competitor. Whether this approach will continue is unclear. As Pardesi argues, in the late 2000s, China is increasingly aware of India as an emerging power in the region, and Chinese analysis of India is likely to expand (Pardesi, 2010).
Nicola Horsburgh

3. India in Climate Change: The View from Tokyo

This chapter first examines Indo-Japanese relations to place the relationship in a wider context and then moves on to examine how Tokyo views New Delhi in relation to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It introduces the ‘China prism’ and ‘nuclear lens’, two frameworks that significantly influence Tokyo’s perception of New Delhi. As a whole, the chapter argues that with regard to Japanese policymaking on climate change, India is viewed both in relation to and in comparison with China. India was Tokyo’s preferred partner in climate change until 1998, when, following India’s nuclear tests, there was a dramatic shift in Tokyo’s perception of India. It was then replaced by China, as the ‘better partner’ for Tokyo in climate change.
Yuka Kobayashi

4. Just Another Regional Superpower? A Cautious South Korea Watches India’s Rise

The history of the Korean Peninsula is one of subjugation, of a country trampled on as its neighbours have pursued their own broader strategic goals. Today, still, South Korea (also known as the Republic of Korea—ROK) finds itself flanked by the central players of the ‘Asian century’: the United States, China and Japan. Recognising that traditional patterns of hard-power dominance are shifting around it, South Korea’s response has been to develop its foreign policy strategy in two directions. On the one hand, South Korea has been looking to strengthen and stabilise relations with key emerging regional players, such as China and, more recently, India. Its aim of strengthening the relationship with China can largely be explained in pragmatic terms: China is central to the ROK’s economic and strategic future. As well as South Korea’s economic dependency on the Chinese economy, China would also play a significant role in any future Korean reunification scenario (Snyder, 2014, pp.308–9). Yet, with this awareness in mind, South Korea exhibits a great deal of caution, which stems from a troubled historical relationship with its powerful neighbour. There is real concern in Seoul that the country may one day find itself in an unenviable position of having to weigh the value of its relationship with China against its strategic alliance with the United States.
Danielle Chubb

5. From Imperial Subjects to Global South Partners: South Africa, India and the Politics of Multilateralism

Following the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India paid tribute to Mandela’s life by stating that he was ‘a true Gandhian’ and that his passing was ‘as much India’s loss as South Africa’s’ (Times of India, 2013). Though leaders from around the world expressed similar sentiments towards South Africa’s first black president, Singh’s remarks touched upon a deep history between both countries—a history defined by mutual experiences of British imperialism, shared patterns of intercontinental migration and commerce, and, most significantly, rich traditions of political activism against forms of colonial rule during the twentieth century. Indeed, these respective histories of nationalist struggle in South Africa and India are not only comparable. They are frequently interconnected ideologically, organisationally and, at times, interpersonally—not least in the figure of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whose political career began in South Africa during the 1890s. As a result of this political kinship and shared history of dissent, South Africans have often claimed Gandhi as one of their own. During the early 1950s’ Defiance Campaign of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela drew upon Gandhi’s strategy of satyagraha—a neologism combining the Sanskrit words for ‘truth’ (satya) and ‘insistence’ (agraha)—that articulated an approach of non-violent civil disobedience.
Christopher J. Lee

6. What Does ‘Development Cooperation’ Mean? Perceptions from India and Africa

The aim of this chapter is, like the other chapters of this book, to explore perspectives of India, this time from the African angle. However, somewhat differently from the other chapters, we must first look at Indian intentions and perspectives concerning our focus, ‘development cooperation’, in order then to investigate the mirror perspective in Africa.
David Harris, Simona Vittorini

7. The ‘Eastern Brother’: Brazil’s View of India as a Diplomatic Partner in World Trade

November 1979. After fierce negotiations, members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) wrap up the Tokyo Round, launched in 1973. Brazil and India, the two largest developing nations which have been members of the multilateral system of trade since its foundation in 1948, build an informal alliance for advancing both their own interests and those of the developing world. They do so in continuation of a shared campaign for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) in the post-decolonisation era. In addition to their background as regional powers and large peripheral states (Guimarães, 1998), both countries are represented by very experienced diplomats. Moreover, Brazil and India share an interest in preserving their Import Substitution Industrialisation (ISI) strategy in the face of the liberalising wave that is set to prevail over subsequent decades.
Vinícius Rodrigues Vieira

8. ‘The Other Pacifist’: Mexican Views on India’s Quest for Great-Power Status

In this chapter I seek to unravel how Mexico, the ‘other pacifist’, perceives the immense reality of India’s ‘violent contrasts’, in the words of Octavio Paz, between pacifism and Third World camaraderie on the one hand, and a quest for nuclear weapons and great-power status on the other. Mexico and India have enjoyed a friendly, cordial relationship throughout most of India’s post-independence period. However, India’s newfound nuclear weapons capability and the nature of its proposed reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where it seeks to be included as a veto-wielding permanent member, stand as the two major hurdles to deepening Mexico-India relations.
Gilberto Estrada Harris

9. India in the Iranian Imagination: Between Culture and Strategic Interest

In the course of building a modern nation-state, a project that was given impetus by the Safavid dynasty in the sixteenth century, the political classes governing Iran have developed a civilisational discourse and a historical imagination that casts tall shadows on the international affairs of the country. India has a prominent place in this self-perception. The confines of this chapter do not allow me to present an exhaustive history of the ways in which India has figured in the Iranian worldview. Nonetheless, it is possible to sketch some central nodal points holding the Indo-Iranian narrative together in order to gauge, in a second step, the contemporary position of India in Iran’s ‘national’ imagination. To that end, this chapter begins by drawing the contours of what I call an ‘Indo-Iranian dialectic’ through a survey of cultural exchanges since the sixteenth century and their impact on religion, architecture, literature and politics. This Indo-Iranian dialectic can be conceptualised as a historical imaginary that impinges on the mutual perception of both countries and which has made it that much more difficult to confine or limit their relations, one of the central aims of successive US administrations and the state of Israel, especially in recent years. In a concomitant step, it will be shown that Indo-Iranian relations are also shaped by material interests through an analysis of the economic ties between the two countries which Tehran and Delhi deem pivotal.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

10. Views of India from the Conflicting Parties in Syria

The aim of this chapter is to explore how the conflicting parties in Syria have, up until early 2014, viewed India’s role in the current crisis in their country and how the Indian leadership has reacted to the ongoing conflict. Syria is a Middle Eastern country that has enjoyed enduring cultural and political relations with India and has historically been considered a main ally of India in the region.
Omar Sharaf

11. Russian Views of India in the Context of Afghanistan

In Vladimir Putin’s first presidential term (2000–2004), two trends were already in evidence: growing Russian interests in the Group of Eight (G8) and the strengthening of ties with China and India, two ‘rising powers’ in Asia. The latter built on an idea that had already been put forward by Foreign Minister Evgeniy Primakov in the 1990s, who had spoken of a Russia-China-India strategic triangle. The Indian vector was formalised by the ‘Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation’ in 2000 and the strategic partnership with China in 2001.
Natasha Kuhrt


The collection of chapters in this volume has sought to produce diversity in readings of India’s contemporary global role by exploring a range of influential ‘non-Western’ state perspectives. By locating India-related interests and values within country perspectives themselves, we have sought to produce a range of contingent, rather than ‘objective’, visions of India. Taken together, these readings provide a critical evaluation, though necessarily limited in scope, of India’s success at maintaining relations of solidarity with certain other non-Western states in the post-Cold War era, despite India’s contemporaneous pursuit of recognition in accordance with key characteristics and behaviours of the established powers. This concluding discussion aims to reflect on the key questions introduced at the outset of this book: How is India’s rise being imagined by different global stakeholders? How do such assessments compare to India’s self-understandings of its changing global role? What might diverse readings of single actors in world politics contribute to the discipline of International Relations?
Kate Sullivan


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