S1E103: Why the Middle East war offers a lesson in India’s priorities

  • 24 Nov 2023

Hear the parallels to the crisis and why India has more immediate strategic interests in the Indian Ocean than in the Pacific.

Synopsis: Every fourth Friday of the month, The Straits Times' US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh shines a light on Asian perspectives of global and Asian issues with expert guests.

While partnerships to its east - and with the United States - are deepening, India’s strategic interests remain more naturally weighted towards its west, and to the Indian Ocean.  

Indian officials have growing concerns about when China will have a carrier strike group or other large capabilities in the Indian Ocean, which is India's neighbourhood from the Gulf of Aden to the Straits of Malacca. For India, the Indian Ocean matters not just for security, but for economic, energy, and diaspora reasons. 

India also has to navigate a fundamental contradiction with the United States. The US believes that it should be the pre-eminent power in the world, while India sees a world evolving towards multi-polarity in which it can punch above its weight and play a proper role.

In this episode, unpacking India’s strategic priorities are Dr Satu Limaye, vice-president and director of the East West Center in Washington DC, and Dr Aparna Pande, director of the Initiative On The Future of India and South Asia at the Hudson Institute, also in Washington, DC.

Highlights (click/tap above):

1:05 India's relationship with Israel: Why many in the "Indian right" see Israel as a model and believe India is in a similar position in a "similarly hostile neighbourhood" 

2:56 India's support for a two-state solution in the Middle East remains; its foreign policy is consistent but there are nuances to be observed

3:45 "Nuance and navigate": Keywords key to understanding India, which is managing a land and border dispute with China, and being worried about China's growing People's Liberation Army Navy capability and incursions into the Indian Ocean  

8:50 Parallels to Middle East crisis: 9 million Indian citizens in the Gulf and India has in the past had to evacuate them when there are conflicts in the region

10:30 The world order India is facing now, and why it's tougher than it was during the Cold War era; deconstructing India's interests

18:10 Has India been successful in cultivating partnerships in its "maritime neighbourhood"? Why China's money can help it compete in a tricky region

26:00 Can India do more in other critical areas instead of trying to outspend China?

Produced by: Nirmal Ghosh (nirmal@sph.com.sg) and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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