Major Powers in the World




Major Powers in the World:

The United States was one of the two super powers during the Cold War and is arguably the only super power in the post- Cold War period. The Soviet Union was the other super power during the Cold War. Its successor state Russia has emerged as a major influential power in world affairs in the twenty-first century. In the same period, China too has emerged as a major power. It is said that India is one of the emerging powers in world affairs in the twenty-first century.

1) The United States:

Relations between India and the United States were cordial when India became independent. US President F.D. Roosevelt had supported the case of India’s independence during his negotiations for the Atlantic Charter with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. However, India and the United States had quite different views of events during the Cold War. As a result, relations between the two remained estranged for most of the Cold War period.

India’s independent position on the crises in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and its criticism of American intervention in Vietnam, were some reasons for the American displeasure. On the other hand, the American position on the Kashmir dispute was a constant irritation for India. Since the 1970s, America’s close relations with Pakistan and China created problems for India.

When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disintegrated, the relations between India and the United States did not improve immediately. The United States brought pressure on the new state of Russia to stop the supply of space technology to India. Following India’s second nuclear test in 1998, the United States imposed sanctions on India.

Nature of Indo-American relations began to change towards the end of the twentieth century. India supported President Bush’s War on Terrorism. The American position on Kashmir gradually became more favourable to India. After the terrorist attack on the Parliament of India in 2001 by terrorist groups based in Pakistan, the American government demanded that Pakistan stop supporting such cross-border terrorism. The real turning point in bilateral relations was the signing of the India-US Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in the year 2008.

On the whole, the trajectory of relations with USA has been on the ascendency in the last few years except that some irritants have appeared in bilateral relations in the recent past. The US has accorded the status of Defence Partner which puts India at par with NATO allies. India has an increasing importance in the US priorities not only as a Market but the USA is also keen that India acts as a counter-weight to China in Asia. The USA would also like India to join hands with USA, Japan, Australia and others in the region to act as net security providers in Indo-Pacific Ocean in matters such as maritime security, freedom of navigation, piracy and disaster management. The unstated objective is to contain China’s expansionist designs, particularly in South China Sea where China is undertaking construction activities on disputed islands.

The US sanctions on Russia (CAATSA) (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) and also on Iran have implications for India' s defence procurements ( S 400 Missile Defence system from Russia ) and for its energy security due to inability to buy oil from Iran. In addition, the USA has withdrawn GSP under which India’s exports to USA worth $ 5.6bn were receiving preferential tariffs. India has retaliated by imposing higher duties on certain US exports to India. These concerns were addressed during the visit of the US Secretary of State to New Delhi and PM Modi’s meeting with President Trump on the side-lines of G20 Summit in June this years. India was candid and firm in conveying that ultimately India will do whatever it considers best in country’s national interests.

The Soviet Union and its successor State Russian Federation are rightly described as India’s reliable, tried and tested friends. For a fairly long period of time, Russia was the leading source of defence procurements for India; even now we heavily depend on Russia for new, modern defence equipment and spares of equipment bought earlier. On assumption of charge in 2014, the new Government had moved swiftly and aggressively to diversify India’s defence requirements. Our move came at a time when Russia’s economy was going through a difficult phase due to US and European sanctions and dip in oil prices. Our genuine desire to diversify sources of defence supplies was misunderstood by Russia as India’s drift away from Russia. India was quick in rectifying the situation and restoring mutual trust and confidence. Our relations with Russia are now on firm footing and the focus of special and privileged strategic partnership is on defence, energy, space and trade and investments.

2) Soviet Union/ Russia:

Relationship with the Soviet Union was perhaps the most enduring relationship of India during the Cold War period. Soviet Union provided aid in the form of technology and low-interest credit to India’s heavy industry projects in the public sector. It also provided major weapons to the Indian defence forces and made agreements for licensed-production of some of these weapons in India. Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 1971 was an important milestone in the bilateral relations.

During the first few years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, relations between India and the new state of Russia were not good. They began to improve in the late 1990s. Russia made agreements for a joint venture to produce Sukhoi fighter aircraft and Brahmos missiles. It also agreed to provide reactors for India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Russia sold its aircraft carrier “Admiral Gorshkov” to India, which is now known as “INS Vikramaditya”.

Transfer of Russian weapons systems to India continues to be the main foundation of bilateral relations. Besides, both countries have major stakes in Russian oil fields such Sakhalin-1 highlighting importance of energy security.

3) China:

The Chinese Communist revolution took place in 1949. India was among the first few countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China. The two countries went ahead to evolve friendly relations. They signed a treaty in 1954 for trade and co-operation that also recognised Chinese sovereignty on Tibet. However, the relations between India and China began to worsen towards the end of the 1950s. One important reason for it was the question of border between the two, both in Aksai Chin in Ladakh, and North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now the state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Indian Union. A war on the border in 1962 resulted in India’s defeat. Diplomatic relations were cut off after that. Another important reason was the difference of opinion regarding the status of Tibet. China has been critical of the Indian decision to give political asylum to the Dalai Lama.

India and China resumed their full-scale diplomatic relations in 1976. India made attempts to improve relations with China under Prime Ministers Morarji Desai and Rajiv Gandhi. The two countries established Joint Working Groups to discuss the long- disputed border and made the Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Relations between China and India in the twenty-first century are quite complex in nature. On the one hand, the border dispute between the two countries has not been resolved and continues to create tensions. On the other hand, the two have opened the Nathu La in Sikkim for cross-border trade. Trade relations between the two countries have grown in the last two decades and China is today among the three largest trading partners of India. India continues to have apprehensions and legitimate claims against China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, China and India partner with each other in multilateral fora such as the World Trade Organisation and on issues of Climate Change. Chinese support to Pakistan also continues to be one of the important reasons for irritation between the two countries.

During the visit of the Chinese President Xi Ping to India in September, 2014, India extended its hand of friendship and conveyed a clear message that the two countries must work together so that the 21st century could belong to Asia. The trajectory of India-China relations, however, did not develop the way India would have liked. India does not endorse China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through the Pak-Occupied Kashmir and thus raises the issue of sovereignty. China is also blocking India’s Membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and protects Pakistan on the issue of terrorism by projecting it as a victim of terrorism and advocating that no country should be singled out while addressing the issues related to Terrorism. China on its part is apprehensive about India joining hands with USA, Japan and Australia to forge an anti-China alliance to counter it in Indo- Pacific region. There are issues arising out of huge balance of trade in China’s favour, and also unresolved border disputes. The prolonged Doklam face-off between the Indian and Chinese troops in September, 2017 posed a serious threat to bilateral relations but was fortunately resolved thanks to skilful use of diplomacy. The understanding which emerged from the informal summit between PM Modi and President XI Ping in China in April 2018 has come to be known as Wuhan Spirit, the essence of which is that the two sides must enhance efforts to build upon the convergences and handle the differences through peaceful discussions, and that peaceful, stable and balanced relations between India and China will be a positive factor for stability amidst current global uncertainties, and further that proper management of the bilateral relationship will be conducive for the development and prosperity of the region, and will create the conditions for the Asian Century.

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