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Is India a Responsible Great Power?
Amrita Narlikar
a
a
Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge,
Cambridge, UK
Available online: 31 Oct 2011
To cite this article: Amrita Narlikar (2011): Is India a Responsible Great Power?, Third World Quarterly, 32:9,
1607-1621
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Is India a Responsible Great Power?
AMRITA NARLIKAR
ABSTRACT To what extent does rising responsibility accompany rising power
in international relations? This article focuses on India to address the question:
is a responsible great power in the making? Following a brief theoretical
discussion on the notion of responsibility and its relationship to rising power, the
article oers an empirical overview of Indias achievements thus far, and also
the international and domestic challenges that it faces today. It argues that
despite the attempts by observers to thrust greatness upon India, the country is
yet to achieve greatness. The article further illustrates that Indias record of
assuming global responsibility has been lacklustre at best. A central argument
of the article is that Indias reluctance to share the burden of providing global
public goods is inseparably bound with the nature of its rise to power.
With great power, we are told, comes great responsibility. As the balance of
power evolves in the international system, we must investigate the extent to
which rising powers such as Brazil, India and China are able and willing to
exercise their growing power with greater responsibility. In this article I focus
specically on India to address the question: is a responsible great power in
the ong? This is of course a question that interests India specialists, but also
has considerable and growing pertinence for those concerned with the
evolving balance of power and its implications for the sustainability of
existing institutions and norms of global governance.
My argument proceeds in ve steps. First, I provide a brief theoretical
discussion on the concept of international responsibility and its relationship
with countries aspiring to great power status. I also demonstrate some
potentially interesting contradictions and paradoxes. The second section
presents an overview of some of Indias achievements that lead many to see it
on a denite trajectory to great power status, or indeed regard it as a great
power in its own right already. I argue, however, that despite the attempts by
some scholars and practitioners to thrust greatness upon India, India is yet to
achieve greatness. While its power is undoubtedly on the rise, the same
section also oers reasons for scepticism and suggests why Indias trajectory
to great power status is less straightforward than mainstream scholarship
would have us believe. Indias behaviour, when observed across regimes, is in
Amritar Narlikar is in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge,
Cambridge, UK. Email: an283@cam.ac.uk.
Third World Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 9, 2011, pp 16071621
ISSN 0143-6597 print/ISSN 1360-2241 online/11/09160715
2011 Southseries Inc., www.thirdworldquarterly.com
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01436597.2011.619880 1607
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general that of a veto-player rather than an agenda setter in the international
system. Contrary to what one would expect of a great power, there are only a
few instances in which India has successfully managed to inuence outcomes
in its own favour. In the third section I highlight the many domestic constrai-
nts that India faces, which further limit its emergence onto the international
stage. In the fourth section I turn to the issue of responsibility, and investigate
Indias willingness and ability to assume it as a rising power. I argue that if its
rising power behaviour is anything to go by, we must take issue with both
Indias willingness and also its ability to take on the responsibilities that
accompany rising and great power. The fth and concluding section analyses
the close and sometimes negative linkage between the domestic pathways to
power and the exercise of international responsibility. The analysis suggests
that studies of increasing power in terms of aggregate growth gures do not
suce if one is to explain and predict the behaviour of rising powers in the
international system. Rather, power is a function of not just structure but also
agency, and the responsibility with which this agency can be exercised in turn
depends on the domestic roots of emerging power.
What does it mean to be a responsible rising power?
Responsibility is the ability and willingness to provide global public goods, ie
goods that are non-excludable and non-rival, and thereby also harder to
supply because of the temptation of free-riding.
1
Examples include free trade,
climate change mitigation and nuclear non-proliferation. States may
prioritise public goods dierently, depending on diering social, economic,
historical and cultural backgrounds. Whichever public goods they prefer to
invest in, however, the provision of such goods entails some costs, and a
responsible rising or great power shows both ability and willingness to incur
these costs to lesser or greater degree.
The greatest onus for the provision of public goods lies on the hegemon
and great powers.
2
But amid power transitions and a growing reluctance of
the declining hegemon to bear the costs of public goods provision, rising
powers may have to rise to the occasion. Especially for rising powers with
great power aspirations, the assumption of such responsibilities can signal
their commitment to the system and thereby make their entry into key
decision-making forums and emerging concerts somewhat easier.
Even though the provision of public goods entails costs, the main driver for
such eorts need not beand seldom isaltruism. The hegemon can usually
shape the system, in good measure, in its own interests, and the conformity of its
own interests with that of the system means that investing in the systems
preservation is perfectly rational.
3
For the rising power that acquires increasing
stakes in the system, especially if eorts have been made to accommodate it, a
similar logic applies: we can expect greater voice and inuence in the system for
the rising power to translate into a greater willingness to also invest in the
preservation of the system. Add to this the accompanying motivation of
signalling commitment to the regime and thereby acquiring positions of
growing importance in decision making and agenda setting, and the inclination
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of the rising power to assume greater international responsibilities becomes
even more likely. Importantly, however, public goods are not the only types of
goods that demand the resources and diplomatic eorts of rising powers.
Rising powers often rely on the strength of a smaller constituency, which
they nurture through the provision of club goods.
4
Hence also the common
(though neither necessary nor only) route of regional power that is taken by
states that aspire to great power status.
5
In the case of international trade, a
parallel may be found in the leadership that rising powers oer to coalitions of
developing countries. The active participation of some rising powers in such
coalitions can be seen as their provision of the club good of coalition unity.
The costs of this collective action for the rising powers include the costs of
research, free-riding by and log-rolling of the demands of smaller members,
sharing information through the negotiation process, and ensuring the
representation of the interests of coalition allies. Coalition unity can help
ensure that all the members of the alliance get a deal that leaves them better
o than a deal that might have been negotiated individually. The margin of
benet thus secured is perhaps the greatest for some of the smallest members
of the coalition that lack individual weight. For the rising powers this margin
may be smaller (given their growing go-it-alone power) but this dierence is
compensated for via the legitimacy gains (by oering direct or indirect repres-
entation to the marginalised majority) that accrue to them in international
organisations seeking better democratic procedures and increased pluralism.
While clubs that take the shape of coalitions are an invaluable source of
empowerment for both rising powers and their weaker allies, they can act as a
deterrent against the provision of global public goods. We see this most
patently in the case of the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the
provision of the public good of free trade is hampered by the recurrence of
deadlock in the organisation. Another example of the contradiction between
the provision of global public goods and club goods is multilateral trade
agreements versus regional trade agreements.
6
Rising powers on the cusp of great power status face a dicult choice: do
they contribute to the provision of public goods and thereby help preserve a
system in which their stakes are rising, or do they contribute to the provision
of club goods that cater to a smaller constituency of allies/audience that may
have helped them achieve their rise thus far? Importantly this choice need not
be a function of a logic of appropriateness argument accompanied by an
adherence to old-fashioned loyalties and alliances. Rather, a logic of
consequences driven by realpolitik can provide the motivation for this choice
just as easily.
7
While the former strategy, ie contributing to the supply of
global public goods represents a useful signal of bandwagoning with the
established powers, the latter suggests balancing and hedging behaviour.
8
Is India a great power? The dicult transition from international
veto-player to agenda setter
The oft-cited study by Goldman Sachs in 2003 predicted that, in 30 years,
Indias economy would be larger than all others except those of the US and
IS INDIA A RESPONSIBLE GREAT POWER?
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China. Indias economy was of course aected by the global economic crisis,
claims of decoupling notwithstanding, but even at its lowest, GDP growth rate
was a very respectable 5.8 per cent in 2009. In 2010 it had returned to being
consistently over eight per cent. Observers like Raja Mohan believe that such
growth rates are vital: It is not a question of whether India wants to be or
India should be a great power . . . If the logic of its current economic growth
continues, theres no escaping becoming a major power.
9
Aggregate growth gures, however, are simply not enough of an indicator
of the emergence of a great power; power is not just a function of structure but
also of agency, which has to be exercised to facilitate outcomes that one
prefers. Let us take the example of international trade negotiations, where we
would expect to see an easy translation of economic clout into inuence. This
is not the case, however. India, even as a relatively weak player in the General
Agreement on Taris and Trade (GATT), managed to punch signicantly
above its weight. Even today, several other countries that occupy bigger
shares of international markets do not enjoy the same voice as India does in
the WTO. This is because of several strategies that India has used to attempt to
inuence the organisation, several of which pre-date its rise. Hence, for
example, it used to lead coalitions of developing countries in the GATT; it
continues to do this in the WTO, although with much greater ecacy. India
has, in fact, taken a lead in creating and sustaining powerful Southern coali-
tions that can stand rm in the endgame. Examples include the G20 and the
G33 on agriculture, which were formed at the Cancun Ministerial Conference
in 2003 and continue to exercise a collective voice to the present day.
This growing economic clout, combined with a strategy of activism, has
paid o in the form of a bigger voice in dierent international institutions;
witness Indias role in the Leaders Level G20. The WTO is a further good case
in point. India follows Brazil as the most avid user of the dispute settlement
mechanism (DSM) (Brazil has brought 25 cases to the DSM, while India
appears as complainant in 19 cases, and China in eight). Even more
importantly, it has gained recognition in the organisation as a leading
playerit is thus consistently invited to all small group consultations that
are crucial to consensus building, along with Brazil, the EU, the US and more
recently China. Nor is this inclusiveness in the organisation a form of mere
tokenism: as the EU, the US and indeed the WTO Secretariat have learnt the
hard way, India is not afraid to ex its muscle and hold up the negotiation
process.
What this eectively translates into is veto-player status for India.
10
George Tsebelis has developed this concept with respect to domestic politics,
where veto-players are actors whose agreement is required for a change of
the status quo.
11
In the international realm, veto-players are states without
whose support any potential agreement would be rendered meaningless. This
could be either because the state occupies great weight in the particular issue-
areaeg a major market in tradeor it could be because an agreement
without the particular state would be seen to be lacking in legitimacy, or
some combination thereof. India is certainly such a player in the WTO, as the
recurrent deadlocks of the Doha negotiations indicate.
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Such veto-player statusthe power to walk awayis a necessary
condition for the exercise of inuence, but it is not a sucient one. We see
this limitation in the exercise of Indian inuence abroad: while India is able
to block certain agreements, it has not been able to secure agreements to
reect its preferred interests. Hence, for example, India was a key player in
managing to block the conclusion of the Doha negotiations in 2008. It
successfully persuaded not just smaller allies of the G20, but also conciliatory
Brazil, to stand rm and refuse to accept the US oer to cap its subsidies
until and unless the G33s concern about import surges was addressed
through a low threshold for the special safeguard mechanism (SSM). But
while its veto was eective, its agenda-setting power was not: the negotiations
stalled rather than resulted in an agreement on terms favourable to India or
any of its allies in either the G20 or the G33. In climate change mitigation,
too, its role has been similar: it has oered to take on voluntary restraints on
emissions, but refused to take on any binding commitments. The result has
been that it has managed to avoid the particular agreement on oer, but it
has also failed to secure an agreement in its favour.
While the ability to block agreements represents the norm for India, we can
nd a few exceptions to this, in either direction. The decision-making
procedures of the UN Security Council (UNSC)particularly the existence of
the veto-wielding Permanent Fivemeans that in this forum, Indias
blocking power is considerably lower than in the WTO. This has not deterred
India from taking a stance against the US and the established powers. In
UNSC Resolution 1973 in support of air strikes on Libya, India expressed its
reservations through an abstention. Admittedly it was in good company
(Brazil, China, Russia and Germany also abstained), but nonetheless it failed
to block the resolution.
12
Of course, Indias veto power would be greatly
enhanced were the Security Council to be reformed along the lines that it
proposes. But this is unlikely to be an easy walkover, and not because of the
competition from potential rivals alone. As George Perkovich writes, Indias
long position as a moralistic and contrarian loner in the international
community has not excited others about working with India at the apex of
the UN system.
13
The nuclear non-proliferation regime oers us a dierent sort of exception
to the norm of Indias behaviour as a veto-player; it presents us with a unique
example in global governance where India has displayed agenda-setting power
with success.
14
In this area the rising India has gone considerably beyond the
strategy of blocking, and has managed to acquire a de facto legitimacy as a
nuclear weapons state (NWS), despite the prohibition on the creation of new
NWSs written into the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This process began
with a joint declaration by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President
George W Bush in 2005. It was formalised via the Henry J Hyde USIndia
Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, which allowed the
amendment of Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act and thereby
enabled potential nuclear co-operation with India. The USIndia nuclear
deal was approved by the Indian parliament in July 2008 after much horse
trading, and was further passed by the US in October of the same year.
IS INDIA A RESPONSIBLE GREAT POWER?
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In August the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cleared the India-
specic safeguards agreement. Even the Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to an
India-specic waiver that allowed transfer of non-weapons nuclear technol-
ogy to the country. These developments have facilitated a remarkable
transformation from Indias near pariah status after Pokhran I in 1974a
dubious distinction that was only exacerbated with Pokhran II in 1998to
being a de facto legitimate nuclear power. Eectively Indias nuclear diplo-
macy has generated outcomes on terms favourable to it similar to those that
we would expect only from an established great power. Whether this is
responsible great power behaviour, however, is quite a dierent question, and
one that I address in the next section. But at least in terms of its international
power projection, the non-proliferation regime provides us with a rare
example of the translation of Indias inuence akin to that of a great power; in
most other issue areas, the evidence points to veto-player status at best.
Domestic constraints facing a rising India
The previous section illustrated that Indias international face, on balance, is
not that of a great power just yet. In this section we discuss the domestic side
of Indias rise to power. The limitations here are perhaps even more serious
than Indias limitations at the international level. They are signicant as not
only a useful indicator of the challenges that could derail Indias rise, but also
in the impact that they have on Indias ability to assume greater responsibility.
There is little dispute that India has prospered in the aggregate from the
opportunities provided by its greater integration into the global economic
system. But amid this growing prosperity, which has been facilitated by what
Jagdish Bhagwati refers to as Stage 1 of the reform process, many domestic
problems abound, stemming from the limitations of Stage 2 reforms.
15
Just
three sets of examples follow below relating to the standard of development,
high levels of corruption, poor infrastructure, and political problems.
A recent issue of The Economist highlighted the problem of corruption,
citing the gure of $450 billion of untaxed earnings and other ill-gotten gains
sitting illegally in foreign banks. Other striking examples of corruption
include the disappearance of over $40 billion-worth of food and other subsi-
dies in just one state within a period of ve years, and the re-routing of about
two-fths of state paran subsidies to a fuel maa amounting to $2 billion
per year.
16
Unsurprisingly India scores poorly on the Corruption Perception
Index, and is ranked 87th (achieving a lowly score of 3.3 in comparison to the
highest scores achieved by Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore at 9.3, and
also nding itself behind Brazil at 3.7, and China at 3.5).
17
Indias poor infrastructure is easy to spot even on a two-day visit to a
major city, evidenced in the severe electricity and water shortages that even
the middle classes in urban areas have to endure (the situation in villages is
considerably worse). The World Banks Ease of Doing Business Index ranks
India at 134 in a list of 183 countries. On certain indicators India performs
particularly badly, eg 182nd on enforcing contracts, 177th on dealing with
construction permits, and 165th on starting a business.
18
Poor infrastructure
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of course acts as a deterrent against potential investment; its impact on the
population is also adverse. One indicator of this is Indias low ranking on the
Human Development Index (121 in a list of 169 countries), again signicantly
behind not just its counterparts in the developed world, but also Russia
(which occupies 65th position), Brazil (79th), and China (89th).
19
Finally, India nds itself subject to several security threats emanating from
a region where it has already fought four major wars with neighbours (1947,
1962, 1965, 1971) and also had several border conicts (some as serious as the
Kargil war in 1999). At least some of the problems that had triggered these
conicts persist today.
20
Several of these, moreover, interact with and
reinforce domestic threats, exacerbating the problems of both right-wing
Islamic terrorism and also the left-wing Maoist insurgency of the Naxalites in
Eastern and Central India. The fact that the Naxalite movement is strongest
in some of the countrys most under-developed states is not coincidental:
extreme inequality and underdevelopment amid soaring aggregate growth
rates provide the breeding ground for violent expressions of discontent.
All these domestic problems inuence Indias image abroad. They generate
diculties for existing and potential investors. They also aect Indias rise to
power by inuencing the way in which it can (and cannot) assume
international responsibility, as the following section argues.
Is India a responsible power?
The previous two sections advanced the argument that India is not a great
power yet in international politics, and its hands are further tied by domestic
constraints. But what can we learn about its willingness to assume the role of
a responsible player, based on its behaviour as a rising power today?
Responsibility, as was discussed in section one, is the willingness to bear the
costs of providing global public goods.
The answer to whether India is assuming the responsibilities that come with
increasing power lies partly in its aforementioned overall veto-player status.
While it has shown considerable willingness to act as a naysayer, it has shown
less willingness and ability to contribute to the delivery of global public goods.
On the few occasions where it has been able to exercise the power of an agenda
setter, it has arguably contributed to the creation of a global public bad
rather than a public good, reinforcing the argument that it is still reluctant to
share the burdens of responsibility deriving from its rising power. I discuss
both sets of examples below, and also explore possible reasons for this
behaviour.
Indias negotiating behaviour in the WTO is a good example of its
reluctance to assume responsibility. The global public good that the multi-
lateral regime seeks to facilitate is freer trade. India has greatly beneted
from the opening of international markets thus far via its membership of the
WTO. Further, it has acquired increasing voice in the organisation: as
mentioned above, it is now consistently invited to consensus-building small-
group meetings in all their permutations (other constant invitees are the EU,
US and Brazil, and more recently China). We would thus expect Indias
IS INDIA A RESPONSIBLE GREAT POWER?
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stakes in the preservation of the multilateral trading system to be high.
Interestingly, however, despite having been welcomed at the high table of the
negotiation process and also its reliance on multilateral trade openness for
continued growth, India has been extremely reluctant to make any
concessions. For several of the deadlocks that the WTO has faced in this
round, India must take a fair share of the blame. The attempt to negotiate the
July 2008 package is powerfully illustrative, when members came close to
reaching an agreement on the prolonged Doha Development Agenda
negotiations. India blocked the conclusion of the negotiations, taking a
particularly vehement hard line on the threshold trigger for the Special
Safeguard Mechanism that could protect Indian farmers against import
surges.
21
It was joined by China in this rejectionist stance; attempts by Brazil
to encourage a compromise as Indias ally in the G20 were rmly rebued
and Brazil too was quickly brought back into toeing Indias rejectionist line.
While the strategies of several other countries have of course contributed
to the persistence of the Doha deadlock in particular phases of the
negotiation, Indias naysaying stance has persisted fairly consistently through
the greater part of the bargaining process. The former US ambassador to the
WTO, Susan Schwab, presents an incisive and critical account of Indias
position (along with those of Brazil, China and South Africa) in the
negotiations:
At Doha, these emerging economies have minimized their own dicult market-
opening decisions by seeking maximum exibility for developing countries.
And they have found it easier to avoid confronting their own needs for greater
access to one anothers markets by focusing on what they can all agree on
namely, the market-opening obligations of developed countries. The result is
what one African ambassador to the WTO once described as the elephants
hiding behind the mice.
22
And while Schwab, in her article, erroneously paints the rising powers with
one broad brush, even she recognises the dierences in the negotiation
strategies (particularly Brazils attempt to make concessions in 2008). The
dierences in fact are much more signicant; none of the other rising powers
has had its trade negotiators dubbed recalcitrant naysayers with the same
consistency that India has throughout the history of the GATT and the WTO.
23
In other issue areas, too, we see a similar behaviour pattern emerging from
a rising India, ie one that is characterised by attempts to evade international
responsibilities. On climate change it has remained unwilling to take on
binding commitments; even the voluntary restraints on emissions proposed
by the Minister for Environment, Jairam Ramesh, attracted much resistance
and controversy at home. And while India is keen to secure a higher prole in
the United Nations, particularly in its goal of securing a permanent seat in
the UN Security Council, its attachment to traditional interpretations of
sovereignty render it cautious towards interventionism (witness its absten-
tion, for example, over the Libya vote) and lukewarm towards emerging new
agendas such as the Responsibility to Protect. In all these issue-areas,
whether in the capacity of a veto-player (eg in climate change and trade) or
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less (eg in the UN Security Council), India has shown reluctance to assume
international responsibility.
What of the one issue area that was mentioned in our second section,
where India has displayed agenda-setting powerthe nuclear non-prolifera-
tion regimeand its willingness and ability to assume greater responsibility
in this particular issue-area? Indian bureaucrats point to Indias exemplary
record on non-proliferation as evidence of its being a responsible power; they
further point out that Indias nuclear tests violated no treaty, given that it
neither was nor is a signatory to the NPT. But this argument assumes a rather
low threshold for what constitutes responsibility towards the regime. Indias
agenda-setting eorts have in fact been quite disruptive to the regime, its own
clean record of refusing to pass on nuclear weapons technology to rogue
states notwithstanding. The Indo-US nuclear deal awards de facto legitimacy
and recognition to India as a nuclear weapons state (NWS), thereby turning
the irreversible division of the NPT between the NWS and non-NWS on its
head. Some constraints are admittedly placed on India, particularly via
inspections that it must allow of its civilian facilities, but exactly how it will
draw the distinction between its civilian and military facilities remains to be
seen. It is no mean irony that the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was
constituted specically as a reaction to Indias rst peaceful nuclear
explosion of 1974, has now approved a waiver on the export of nuclear
technology specically catering to India. And even after these major aspects
of the regime have been rewritten to accommodate a rising India, the country
still refuses to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the NPT.
The creation of a host of exceptions, anomalies, and waivers to the regime,
and that too on a one-o basis to accommodate one rising power, is a sign of
Indias eective diplomacy in the area of nuclear non-proliferation. But it is
not a sign of the thriving health of the regime. The argument could be taken
further to suggest that Indias accommodation into the regime creates a
public bad by sending a signal to other aspiring nuclear powers that non-
adherence to international rules generates rewards, and also a signal to the
regime-conformers (such as Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, which
surrendered their nuclear option and became signatories to regional and
multilateral treaties of the regime) that regime adherence leads to the
suckers payo.
24
Despite having demonstrated its agenda-setting potential
in the non-proliferation regime, India has certainly not proven its reliability
as a provider of global public goods.
What explains Indias reluctance to assume the mantle of international
responsibility, or at least share its burden? I suggest three reasons below
relating to Indias use of a strict distributive strategy, its prioritisation of club
goods provision over the provision of global public goods, and problems at
the domestic level that constrain the pathways of its rise.
First, Indias use of what negotiators describe as a strict distributive
strategy is historic and persistent. In an oft-cited classic Stephen Cohen has
entitled a chapter on Indian foreign policy, The India that cant say yes, and
has provided several examples of how Indian negotiators seem to relish
getting to no.
25
In 2008 Indias vehement readiness to reject the window of
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opportunity to close the Doha deal led Alan Beattie to report in the Financial
Times that its chief negotiator was nicknamed Dr No.
26
Exactly how and
why states negotiate the way they do is a deep-rooted and cultural question
that lies beyond the scope of this article.
27
Suce to note, however, that
Indias distributive behaviour has been rewarded by the system, by and large:
witness the legitimacy that it has received despite having blatantly overturned
the NPT regime on its head through the exceptions in its own favour, or
indeed its position of prominence in the WTO, despite its well documented
history of obstructionist bargaining behaviour in the GATT and WTO. It is not
surprising, then, that India has been all too willing to dig its heels in and
block negotiation processes.
Second, while India seems reluctant to make concessions internationally, it
retains several of its old allegiances, eectively acting as a ready provider of
club goods rather than public goods. This relationship is an interesting and
complex one. The public face of Indian diplomacy is very much an assertion
of its belonging to the G20 rather than the G77. In practice we still nd it
working closely in coalitions, generously allowing free-riding by coalition
members, and thereby bearing the costs of supplying certain club goods, such
as coalition unity. However, the provision of club goods is sometimes at
loggerheads with the provision of public goods. This is certainly the case in
the WTO, where India has helped in the creation of powerful Southern
coalitions that can stand rm in the endgame. These strong coalitions are a
source of unprecedented empowerment for the South, but they also make it
very dicult for their members to make the necessary concessions to achieve
the global public good. This is partly because any sign of concession may be
interpreted by the outside party as a sign of weakness of the collective. But
further, concessions in any one area risk antagonising a part of the coalitions
membership (especially when coalitions bring together a diversity of
countries and interests, as is the case with many coalitions involving
developing countries), and thereby actually precipitating an unraveling of the
coalition. Recall, for example, the attempt by Brazil to persuade India and
China to make concessions over the July package, which seriously
jeopardised the unity of the G20 coalition. The reaction of the coalition
membersand particularly Indiawas to focus determinedly on Brazil and
shame it into returning to the collective position. The coalition was thus
cobbled back together and the collective position retained, which also meant
that the July 2008 talks ended in yet another deadlock.
28
We could quite
easily see similar problems occurring in other issue areas, such as climate
change, where coalitions of developing countries are active, and where
the provision of the club good acts as a deterrent against the supply of
public goods.
29
Indias engagement with Africa conforms to this pattern.
Its engagement is not limited to the energy and mineral-rich countries of
West Africa, but also extends to East Africa and includes conditionality-free
aid. Here, too, we can see the potential conict between club and public
goods: conditionality-free aid to less developed countries (LDCs) is in direct
conict with multilateral aid (and also bilateral aid from the developed
countries).
30
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It is worth bearing in mind that the decision to contribute to club goods
that cater to a smaller constituency, rather than public goods, is not one that
necessarily requires an assumption of primordial Third World-ist loyalties
per se. Real interests can sustain the links between old allies and rising
powers: in the Indian case investing in collective action from the South is
important because the backing of developing country allies reinforces the
legitimacy of claims. Such backing is also useful when claiming a place at the
high table of most international negotiations. But additionally the demands
of the South also happen to conform to some of Indias own needs, especially
those emanating from the domestic constraints that it still faces in spite of the
gains indicated by the aggregate gures. This brings us to the third reason for
Indias reluctance to assume international responsibility: the skewed pattern
of its development at home.
Indias aggregate and relative power may be rising, but an argument that
Indian politicians frequently make is to point to the low per capita income of
their country, and thus also to insist upon retaining its developing country
status, which would allow their country special privileges of limited
international responsibility. This argument has recurred in the context of
climate change mitigation, taking the shape of the common but dierentiated
responsibility principle, and has also featured in the GATT framed in terms of
Special and Dierential Treatment, and in the Doha negotiations as Less
than Full Reciprocity. In the trade negotiations over agriculture in the WTO
in July 2008 India added an extra component to this idea by emphasising the
needs of its small, subsistence farmers. Minister Kamal Nath was vehement
on this when he stated:
Most of Indian agriculture is subsistence level agriculture. For us, agriculture
involves the livelihoods of the poorest farmers who number in the hundreds of
millions . . . The poor of the world will not forgive us if we compromise on
these concerns . . . We are not at all happy about the SSM [special safeguard
mechanism] proposal. All manner of objections are being raised to our right to
safeguard livelihood concerns of hundreds of millions. Are we expected to
standby, see a surge in imports and do nothing? Do we give developed countries
the unfettered right to continue subsidizing & then dumping those subsidies on
us jeopardizing lives of billions? The position of developed countries is utterly
self-righteous: they have enjoyed their SSG [special agricultural safeguard] (and
want to continue it) but our SSM must be subject to all sorts of shackles and
restraints. This self-righteousness will not do. If it means no deal, so be it.
31
While such positioning does not endear India to its negotiating counterparts,
particularly those from the developed world, the reasoning behind its
bargaining position becomes more understandable (if not justiable) when
one examines the gures. It is true that the contribution of agriculture to
Indias GDP is small and declining (from 23 per cent in 200001 to 18 per cent
in 200506).
32
Concessions in this area, in return for pay-os in other areas,
would be to Indias advantage. But any indication of making concessions on
agriculturewhich employs between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of Indias
populationwould be a hard sell by an Indian government to its voters.
IS INDIA A RESPONSIBLE GREAT POWER?
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Eighty-one percent of Indian farmers are small or marginal farmers of two
hectares or less, and they constitute the major proportion of Indias rural
poor.
33
Indias ability to make concessions in this area is reduced not only
because of low literacy levels and poor safety-nets and welfare mechanisms
available to farmers that could help them transition to alternative forms of
employment, but also because of the limitations of Indias industrial sector.
Indias industrial sector is relatively small (accounting only for 16 per cent of
Indias GDP in 200506), especially in comparison to the services sector, and
ridden with infrastructural problems. This means that farmers forced out of
agriculture by any reform instituted under the provisions of the WTO would
have few alternative avenues of employment to turn to. Minister Nath was
not exaggerating when he argued that a sudden surge in agricultural imports
would jeopardise the lives of Indias 600 million small farmers.
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that India has found it
dicult to take on the international responsibility of facilitating a Doha deal
via concessions on agriculture. The adherence to collective positions of
developing countries, typied by the G33 in this case, also makes more sense.
And until major domestic problems, including poor infrastructure, low
literacy and education levels, and low levels of labour mobility are addressed,
it is dicult to see how India could take on the role of a responsible interna-
tional leader, even if the impressive current growth rates were to be sustained.
Indias inability to provide international public goods in a responsible way is
thus greatly constrained by the inadequacies of its rise to power.
Conclusion
In this article I have argued that India is not yet a great power; further, at
least as a rising power, it has been reluctant to take on the responsibility/
shared responsibility of supplying global public goods.
It could be argued (as a counter to the argument presented in this article)
that responsible international behaviour need not necessarily entail the
provision of the same public goods that the system has traditionally prioritised.
It is possible to perhaps hypothesise that, even though India has been reluctant
to contribute proactively to the provision of existing global public goods (such
as freer trade, climate change mitigation, international security via non-
proliferation, or the Responsibility to Protect), it might be willing to provide
some alternative global public goods implied by diering visions of global
order. At this point, however, it is dicult to nd much evidence of this. Across
regimes we nd that India is reluctant to contribute signicantly to the supply
of existing global goods, nor does it oer alternative public goods in their
place. Institutional dierences do not seem to produce a huge variation on its
behaviour on this, nor does the extent to which India acts as a veto-player or
indeed agenda setter. Its reluctance to take on new international responsi-
bilities in certain areas of security, for instance, might not elicit surprise: why
should India contribute to the Responsibility to Protect when it enjoys such
little ownership of the UN Security Council? But even in the case of the WTO,
where every eort has been made to include India at the heart of negotiations,
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we still nd few credible signals that the country is willing to take on a
leadership role that involves a major contribution to the supply of public
goods. The non-proliferation regime reconrms and reinforces the argument
made in this article. This is the one regime where India has actually emerged as
an agenda-setter. But so far we have seen no sign from India that it is willing to
provide, say, a system of rules to reinforce the regime that has been bent and
twisted to accommodate it, nor do we see an alternative vision emergent. If
anything, as has been argued in this article, a credible case could be made to say
that Indias integration into the regime provides not a public good but a public
bad.
Importantly Indias tendency to shirk international responsibilities is not
replicated when its leaders and negotiators are catering to a smaller
constituency. While still not amounting to an alternative vision of global
order, we do nd at least the seeds of interesting and original ideas in
Indias willingness to provide certain club goods such as coalition creation
and maintenance, and aid to LDCs, particularly in Africa. These club goods
are important for the recipients, and they also assist India in creating a
powerful constituency backing its bid for increased international power (for
instance in its attempt to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security
Council). However, as has been argued here, the provision of several club
goods in this case acts as a deterrent against Indias willingness to supply
public goods.
The article has also suggested some reasons to explain Indias behaviour as
a rising power. An important conclusion that emerges is that the domestic
challenges that constrain India from achieving its potential as a great power
also constrain the pathway of its rise and thereby its assumption of
responsibility. The policy implication of this is that international institutional
accommodation will noton its ownpersuade India to share the burden of
international responsibility. Dierent degrees of accommodation, ranging
from the minimal in the Security Council and very considerable in the WTO
and non-proliferation regimes (albeit in dierent ways), have failed to
produce a change in Indias behaviour on the issue of ownership and
responsibility. For both an understanding of why India behaves the way that
it does, and also to produce a change in its position, the key lies in the
domestic politics of ideas (of Indias place in the world, and of the bargains
that are deemed acceptable to achieve it), of economic interests (particularly
the issue of inequality amid conditions of high growth), and of the
governments successes and failures in managing the domestic bargains over
ideas and interests.
Acknowledgements
This article was rst presented at a workshop at Oxford University, May
2011. The author thanks participants at the workshop for useful feedback,
and is particularly grateful to Professor Andrew Hurrell, Professor Joseph S
Nye and Ambassador Roberto Jaguaribe for helpful comments and
suggestions.
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Notes
1 WD Nordhaus, Paul Samuelson and Global Public Goods: A Commemorative Essay, 2005, at
www.nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/PASandGPG.pdf, accessed 18 July 2011.
2 The standard denitions for these categories are used. Great powers are conceptualised as per the
denition provided by Hedley Bull: Great Powers are powers recognised by others to have, and
conceived by their own leaders and peoples to have, certain special rights and duties. Bull
conceptualised those belonging to the club of great powers as those of the front rank in military
strength; this argument could, however, be usefully extended to include other arenas of power. H Bull,
The Anarchical Society, New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. A hegemon is the one power
among multiple powers that Immanuel Wallerstein denes as truly primus inter pares in I Wallerstein,
The Politics of the World Economy: The States, the Movements and the Civilizations, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1984. Charles Kindleberger further identies the hegemon as the one
stabilizer that can stabilise the world economy. C Kindleberger, The World in Depression: 192939,
London: Allen Lane, 1973.
3 There are some qualications to this, for example A Stein, The hegemons dilemma: Great Britain, the
United States, and international economic order, International Organization, 38(2), 1984, pp 355386.
4 For an analysis of club goods, see T Sandler & J Tschirhart, Club theory: thirty years later, Public
Choice, 93(3), 1997, pp 335355.
5 This regional route can involve oensive and military means, as argued by J Mearsheimer, Chinas
unpeaceful rise, Current History, 105(690), 2006, pp 16162, in the context of China, or alternative
routes as suggested by D Kang, China Rising: Peace, Power and Order in East Asia, New York:
Columbia University Press, 2007.
6 For a particularly accessible and insightful account of regionalism versus multilateralism, see J
Bhagwati, Regionalism versus multilateralism, The World Economy, 15(5), 1992, pp 535556.
7 J March & J Olsen, The institutional dynamics of international political orders, International
Organization, 54(4), 1998, pp 943969.
8 A Hurrell, Hegemony, liberalism, and global order: what space for would-be great powers?,
International Aairs, 82(1), 2006, pp 119.
9 CR Mohan, Rising Indias great power burden, lecture at the Sigur Centre for Asian Studies, George
Washington University, 16 November 2009, published in Report of the Sigur Centre for Asian Studies:
Asia Report, 7 January 2010.
10 Note that the argument about Indias role as a veto-player was originally made in A Narlikar, All that
glitters is not gold: Indias rise to power, Third World Quarterly, 28(5), 2007, pp 983996. The validity
of this argument across most regimes persists to this day as subsequent empirical examples illustrate.
11 G Tsebelis, Decision making in political systems: veto-players in presidentialism, parliamentalism,
multicameralism and multipartyism, British Journal of Political Science, 25(3), 1995, pp 289325.
12 UNSC press release 10200 on the 6498th Meeting of the Security Council: Security Council Approves No-
Fly Zone over Libya, 17 March 2011.
13 G Perkovich, Is India a major power?, Washington Quarterly, 27(1), 2003, pp 129144.
14 For details of this argument, focusing on the dierent abilities of the trade regime versus the non-
proliferation regime to accommodate India, see A Narlikar, Reforming institutions, unreformed
India?, in A Alexandro & A Cooper (eds), Rising States, Rising Institutions: Challenges for Global
Governance, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2010.
15 J Bhagwati, Indian ReformsYesterday and Today: Address to the Parliament of India, 2010, reprinted
in Bhagwati, Growth and Poverty: The Great Debate, Jaipur: CUTS, 2011, at http://cuts-
international.org/Book_Growth_and_Poverty.htm, accessed 19 July 2011.
16 The Economist, The Hindu rate of self-deprecation, Banyan, The Economist, 20 April 2011.
17 Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International, at http://transparency.org/policy_research/
surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results, accessed 19 July 2011.
18 Ease of Doing Business Index, at http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings, accessed 19 July 2011.
19 Human Development Index, at http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/, accessed 19 July 2011.
20 A Verma, Security threats facing India, Indian Defence Review, 23(2), 2008, at http://www.indian
defencereview.com/homeland-security/Security-threats-facing-India.html, accessed 20 July 2011.
21 P Blustein, The nine-day misadventure of the most favoured nations: how the WTOs Doha Round
negotiations went awry in July 2008, Brookings Institution, 10 December 2008, at http://
www.indiandefencereview.com/homeland-security/Security-threats-facing-India.html, accessed 18 July
2011. See also F Ismail, Reections on the WTO July 2008 collapse: lessons for developing country
coalitions, in A Narlikar & B Vickers (eds), Leadership and Change in the Multilateral Trading System,
Leiden: Martinus Nijho, 2009; and A Narlikar, A theory of bargaining coalitions, in Narlikar &
Vickers, Leadership and Change in the Multilateral Trading System.
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22 S Schwab, After Doha: why the negotiations are doomed, and what we should do about it, Foreign
Aairs, 90(3), 2011, pp 96103.
23 On the dierences in the negotiation behaviours of Brazil, India and China, see A Narlikar, New
Powers: How to Become one and How to Manage them, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. A
detailed documentary analysis comparing Brazils and Indias dierential record in providing public
goods in the WTO was conducted by A Narlikar & H Coskeran, Rising powers and responsibility:
Brazil and India in the World Trade Organization, paper presented at the conference on SouthSouth
Relations: Political Coalitions and Cooperation for Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1314 June 2011.
24 Narlikar, Reforming institutions, unreformed India?.
25 S Cohen, India: Emerging Power, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2002.
26 A Beattie, Expectations low as Doha trade talks commence, Financial Times, 22 July 2008.
27 Narlika, New Powers; and A Narlikar & A Narlikar, Bargaining with a Rising India, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, forthcoming 2012.
28 Narlikar, A theory of bargaining coalitions; and Ismail, Reections on the WTO July 2008 collapse.
29 Again, an exception to this is the non-proliferation case, where India seems to have abandoned its
traditional position of leading coalitions of developing countries and also its traditional discourse of
nuclear apartheid. Narlikar, Reforming institutions, unreformed India?. In this case, however, its
declining commitment to the provision of the club good, ie a defence of the rights of the nuclear have-
nots, has not been replaced by a growing willingness to contribute to regime stability or strengthening.
30 Importantly Indias investment, trade and aid relations produce quite a dierent package from the
Beijing Consensus. A Narlikar, Indias rise to power: where does East Africa t in?, Review of African
Political Economy, 37(126), 2010, pp 451464.
31 K Nath, TNC Statement on July 23rd, 2008: Statement of Shri Kamal Nath, Minister of Commerce and
Industry, India, at www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dda_e/meet08_stat_ind_21jul_e.doc, accessed 21 July
2011.
32 WTO Secretariats Trade Policy Review Report: India, WT/TPR/S/182, 18 April 2007.
33 Governments Trade Policy Review Report: India, WT/TPR/G/182, 18 April 2007.
Notes on contributor
Amrita Narlikar is Reader in International Political Economy at the
Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge.
She is also the director of the Centre for Rising Powers, and an Ocial
Fellow of Darwin College. Her recent works include New Powers: How to
become one and how to manage them, London: Hurst, New York: Columbia
University Press, 2010; and Deadlocks in Multilateral Negotiations: Causes
and Solutions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010 (edited).
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