The New Asian Power Dynamic


Edited by: Maharajakrishna Rasgotra

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  • About Observer Research Foundation

    Observer Research Foundation (ORF) is a public policy think-tank that aims to influence formulation of policies for building a strong and prosperous India. The ORF pursues these goals by providing informed and prodictive inputs, in-depth research and stimulating discussion. The Fundation is supported in its mission by a cross-section of India's leading public figures, academics and business leaders.


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    The way the US, Russia, China, Japan and India fashion relations among themselves will determine much of what happens in Asia for decades to come. The interaction among them will also have global implications. All five of them are partners or rivals in South-east Asia. The US, Russia and China are the three major stakeholders in Central Asia. The US and China are also deeply involved in the affairs of South Asia. All, except India, are the primary factors in North-east Asia. At the same time, the European Union is also making its presence felt in much of Asia.

    Two of the five powers, the US and Japan, have close friendly and cooperative relations. They do not suffer from major contradictions and are, indeed, military allies. The other three—Russia, China and India—are just beginning to exchange views about common interests and concerns in a trilateral forum. Bilaterally, China and Russia or China and India are not as close as the US and Japan are. Happily, India and the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation have enjoyed the most friendly and cooperative relations short of a formal military alliance. Currently there is some movement in Indo-Japanese relations but it is slow, and not yet steady.

    Sino-Russian relations are free of tensions as are Indo-Russian ones. Given the unresolved border problem and China's military support to Pakistan, the same cannot be said of India-China relations. In its exchanges with China, the US has to contend with the rapid ‘modernization’ of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Japan has a maritime boundary problem with China; so also with Russia. China is deeply suspicious of US and Japanese policies regarding Taiwan. These two countries, while accepting China's contention that there is only one China, do not actively discourage Taiwan from taking steps towards independence. On the contrary, they actively discourage China from achieving reunification through military means.

    Indo-US relations have improved remarkably in the last 10–15 years. But we still have to contend with the sizeable military support that the US provides to Pakistan. There is also the conviction that the US has not exerted enough pressure on Pakistan to end the jehad against India.

    The conduct of the five Asian powers will determine to a large extent the shape of things to come. While differences, rivalry, competition and contention are bound to be present, the relations among them are characterized equally, perhaps even more importantly, by increasingly complex patterns of cooperation in commercial, economic, cultural and political (even military) fields. In the context of great power relations, engagement, strategic partnership, and issue-based coalitions are the currency of our time.

    The unfolding equations among the Asian giants call for close study: we in India, in particular, must carefully weigh our options in formulating our security and other policies. Old shibboleths and orthodoxies hold no more, and in forging its partnerships in the dynamic Asian scene, India must act with caution and wisdom to safeguard its own security and other interests. This is not to say that our relations with the other four countries have to be equidistant or of equal closeness or equal detachment. Some relationships are bound to be closer than others. As the concluding chapter of the book suggests, there is a growing convergence of interests between the US and India. But that reality should not come in the way of our developing a new and more vibrant economic and cultural relationship with China, or nurturing the friendship of decades with Russia.

    This volume is a thoughtfully planned study of the changing power equations in Asia: it makes an important contribution to the understanding of their political, economic and security dimensions. In addition, it offers valuable guidelines for new directions of policy. I recommend this book to the attention of academic and political elites, students of international relations, diplomats, and those in charge of policymaking tasks in India and other countries of the world.

    New Delhi
    1 October 2006
  • About the Editor and Contributors


    Maharajakrishna Rasgotra is Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board. His last diplomatic assignment was as India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (1988–90). Earlier, he was Foreign Secretary of India. His tenure (1982–85) was marked by a renewal of Indo–American relations, sustained negotiations with Pakistan and a tentative opening to China.

    Rasgotra entered the newly constituted Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1949. His ambassadorial career (1967–90) took him to Morocco and Tunisia, the USA, Britain, Nepal, The Netherlands, France and UNESCO. Earlier, he was India's representative on the UN Trusteeship Council (from 1958 to 1962). He was a member of the United Nations Disarmament Advisory Board from 1983 to 1990.

    After retirement from government service, he was Honorary Visiting Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Regents’ Professor at UCLA (USA); and President of the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. Through his numerous articles, lectures, and his commentaries in Indian and foreign electronic media, he continues to make an important contribution to national thinking on foreign policy and security related matters. He is International Affairs Advisor at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.


    Alka Acharya is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies and Chairperson of the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is also Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, and Editor of the ICS journal, China Report. She has co-edited Crossing a Bridge of Dreams: Fifty Years of India–China (New Delhi: 2001) and writes regularly on her subject for academic journals.

    Arjun Asrani joined the IFS in 1957. During his 35 year long diplomatic career, he had three assignments in the Indian Embassy in Tokyo, ranging from Third Secretary in 1960–61 to Ambassador in 1988–92. Other important assignments in his career included Ambassador to Thailand and Libya, Minister in the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, and Consul General of India in New York. He also had postings in Switzerland and Pakistan and was Special Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, dealing with Europe and the Americas from 1986 to 1988. He is on the part-time faculty of the Indian Foreign Service Training Institute and National Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi. In November 2004, the Emperor of Japan conferred on him the ‘Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun’ award.

    M.K. Bhadrakumar, former diplomat, has served as Ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995–1998) and Turkey (1998–2001). He has also served in the Indian Missions at Moscow and Tashkent. At the time of writing this chapter, he was Senior Visiting Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. At present, he is a columnist with The Hindu and Asia Times. He is well-known for his deep knowledge of Russian and Central Asian affairs.

    Pushpita Das is Associate Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, Delhi. She obtained her doctorate from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her field of research has been political geography and she has written several articles on South Asia. Her present research project is on border area management. At the time of writing this chapter, she was a Research Associate at the Observer Research Foundation.

    Gurmeet Kanwal is Senior Fellow at Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi. At the time of writing this chapter he was Senior Fellow and Director, Institute of Security Studies, Observer Research Foundation. While in the army, he commanded an infantry brigade on the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. He has also served as Deputy Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff; Director MO-5 in the Directorate General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters; and United Nations Military Observer in UNTAG, Namibia. A former Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, Delhi, he has authored several books including Nuclear Defence: Shaping the Arsenal; Pakistan's Proxy War; Heroes of Kargil; Kargil ’99: Blood, Guts and Firepower; Artillery: Honour and Glory and Army Vision 2020: Re-structuring for an Era of Strategic Uncertainty (in press). He has contributed extensively to security studies journals and leading national newspapers.

    K. Raghunath was India's Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 1999. He has been India's Ambassador to Russia, East Germany, the Philippines, Nigeria and Bangladesh. He had also served in the Indian embassies in Washington and Beijing.

    D.S. Rajan was until recently Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. Prior to his retirement from Government service as Director, he had held senior positions in the Indian Missions in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Beijing. His areas of specialization include China, Japan and East Asia. He has been regularly contributing articles on China and Japan to various websites and journals.

    Harinder Sekhon is Senior Fellow, US Studies Programme, at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, with over two decades of research, writing and teaching experience on Indo–US relations. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was with the National Security Council Secretariat, Government of India. She has been a post doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre of Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, and senior lecturer in History at the Panjab University, Chandigarh. She has written extensively for academic journals on her area of study and has also authored a book, Five Decades of Indo–US Relations: Strategic and Intellectual (New Delhi: 2002).

    Jayshree Sengupta is a highly respected economist. She has studied at the Delhi School of Economics and the London School of Economics. She has taught at Miranda House and Indraprastha College, Delhi University, and has worked in the World Bank, Washington DC, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, London, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), and the Institute of Manpower Research, New Delhi. She has been a consultant to the OECD, Paris, and World Economic Forum, Geneva. She was Senior Editor, Business and Politics at the Observer and the Hindustan Times, New Delhi. She has co-authored a book European Union and the Single Market and its Impact on the Third World (London: 1992). She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Foundation and has finished a book on India, An Economy in Transition.

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