India has become a pragmatic nation in the last 20 years, giving up its earlier moral stance in international affairs. But it is this very pragmatic approach that is forcing India to realise that willy-nilly it is being forced to take on greater responsibility in the ‚Äúextended neighbourhood‚Äù, a phrase used by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, because of its changed economic and strategic position and interests in today‚Äôs world.¬†
While laying the foundation stone of the Indian National Defence University (Indu), prime minister Manmohan Singh echoed a similar thought. He said that India will have to use the strategic opportunities to provide security and stability in the Indian Ocean region.
The proposed university may not have much to do with this new thinking either in the short or long term. But there is the harsh reality that there is a strategic vacuum in the Indian Ocean region, which includes crucial sea lanes that are of immense commercial and security importance. The Somalian pirates off the Horn of Africa is part of the troubled scenario that Singh talked about.
There was a time when the British navy patrolled the sea lanes from the Suez to the Malaccas. The military obligation then fell on the US navy during the Cold War period.
There has been much confusion ever since the end of the Cold War nearly a quarter century ago. The US, as a matter of fact, looks to India to fill this role, in many stated and unstated ways. Is India then going to be the local sheriff of the Western powers?
Gradually, India can and will evolve its own security strategy in the region. This would require a reorientation in the Indian thinking about its role in the international arena. India will now have to back its moral worldview with economic and military muscle.