On August 4th, MK Narayanan, former Governor of West Bengal, India’s former National Security Adviser, MK Narayanan, spoke at Synergia Forum.
The Padma Shri awardee spoke about the emerging world order (disorder), China’s rise and India’s foreign policy.
MK Narayanan was the National Security Adviser of India from 2005 to 2010. Previously, he headed the Intelligence Bureau and the Joint Intelligence Committee. In 2004, he was the Special Adviser for Internal Security to the Prime Minister of India.
Narayanan played a key role in the successful negotiations leading to the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2008.
The rise of China
According to Narayanan, one of the most transformative developments in global geopolitics has been the rise of China. However, he deemed this rise “dangerous.” He noted, “China’s rise has massive implications on the world order.” The rise of Xi Jinping (Chinese President) is worrisome to most countries in Asia. According to Narayanan, China has decided to set right its historical wrongs and reclaim all territories claimed by China at one time or the other.
He elaborated that much of China’s foreign policy today is no longer just shaped by its politics and economy but also by global geo-economic and geo strategic considerations. The country’s “thirst” for oil has made it enter regions it has never ventured before.
Narayanan noted that China will look to fill the void that has been left by the US, at least in Asia.
The receding United States
The other transformative development in geopolitics that Narayanan spoke about was the “decline of the United States”. He said that this recession has been apparent for a while and cannot be only be attributed to the Trump Presidency. However, the “high degree of unpredictability” of the current administration has played a role in the country’s diminution. Additionally, this negative impression of the US has been reinforced by its unwillingness in getting involved in conflicts even when the stakes were high. Narayanan said that countries in the Asian region now believe that the “US is reneging its security commitments.”
Narayanan had a critical yet pragmatic take on India’s place in the geopolitics. He said that while India can claim to be friendly with nations across the world, there is uncertainty on whether those nations are truly India’s “friends”. He was equally critical of India’s Look East and Look West policies. He credited them for having done well in terms of “diplomatic discourse” but he noted he wasn’t sure where India stood in “real terms.”
He elucidated that in the Asia Pacific, India faces an assertive China even though it has established close ties with Japan and Vietnam in the recent years. However, the fact India does not have a strategic alliance that is similar to the one China has with Pakistan works to its disadvantage. He expounded that China was making headway with India’s neighbors and India has been unable to “checkmate” them. Narayanan also pointed out that India is not a major player in the affairs despite the fact there are nine million Indians in the region. Ultimately, when it comes to South Asia, Narayanan noted that, “We need to find a way between an assertive China, a hostile Pakistan; an uncertain neighborhood in an uncertain world, which is a fairly tall order.”
Our assessment is that there is a lot of uncertainty revolving around the current world order. China has set itself up as a formidable power in the recent years. In this changing environment, India has to navigate its foreign policy with lot of tact.