India is well placed politically, geographically and economically to be an effective counterbalance to China's expansionist policies in South Asia. The author says that an Indian Marshall Plan would help countries in the region resist Beijing's hegemonic ambitions. Image: iStock

The world is facing a complex international scenario with the threat of conflict on the Korean peninsula, a possible global trade war and growing tension in the Middle East.

Economic interdependence, mutual distrust and unreliable security guarantees encourage ostensible allies to hedge against one another to protect their interests. The big question is the rise of China both economically and militarily and its growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, South Asia, Eurasia and Africa. China is clearly undermining regional security by engaging in coercive activity in the South China Sea and challenging the International Tribunal ruling South China Sea sovereignty and the huge rise in China’s military budget are deeply troubling concerns for Asian countries. It’s clear that China is seeking global domination.

This will be the Asia Century in terms of economics, military strength, and geopolitical power. China has adopted assertive policies which have severely undermined Asian stability and challenged the status quo of neighboring maritime countries. Moreover, a pivot to Asia under the administration of US President Donald Trump is uncertain. Key allies such as Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines have voiced strong concerns regarding Washington’s commitment to act as a security guarantor in the region.

US Asia pivot troubling for the region

Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership alarmed US allies in the region and raised questions about the future of their relationship. US isolationist policy will give China power to dominate Asia and the freedom to set the rules for the Asia century. As America retreats from the world stage or reduces its role in the global affairs, shedding the role of security guarantor, especially in Asia, will create a gap that will be too big to fill, especially by any Asian countries.

To protect the multinational nature of the continent, Asian countries who share the same values should build coalitions rapidly to create a sustainable geopolitical equilibrium. Which country suits the role better than India? Many Asian values resonate with those of India such as freedom of speech, respect for each other’s territorial integrity and balanced trade.

Asia today is facing a similar geopolitical situation as Europe did at the end of the Second World War with the threat of communism driven by Russian aggression. The Marshall Plan protected Europe from widespread chaos.

Asia today is facing a similar geopolitical situation as Europe did at the end of the Second World War with the threat of communism driven by Russian aggression. The Marshall Plan protected Europe from widespread chaos. The plan helped Europe not only rebuild but also allowed it to become a major player in the international arena and help restore peace.

The current situation in Asia favors India to follow a similar strategy and build a grand plan to counter China’s assertive moves. The policy of Look East to Act East has produced a substantial result, but a lot more must be done. An Indian Marshall Plan should focus on three things: regional integration, a developmental state and a balance between free-market policies and social cohesion.

Regional connectivity is key in order to increase the sphere of influence to boost trade. In order to make it an Asia century for all, trade should be the vital part of the plan, and India should liberalize its trade policy making it easier for Asian economies to import Indian goods, especially pharmaceuticals, electrical machinery, and steel.

The best way to build a strong relationship with another country is to build a market. India must propose a bank to fund weaker economies as well as support special infrastructure spending to develop transport, energy and communication links between economies. These proposals would rebuild weaker economies and create a stronger demand for raw materials and technical expertise which can easily be exported by Indians companies. This will help change an Indian economy driven by domestic consumption to a semi export-driven economy, and so deal with a big weakness in the Indian economy.

India can play a lead role in many areas

It’s urgent that India restructure its rural economy through digital connectivity, creating better markets and enhancing the purchasing power at the bottom of the economic pyramid. India has lots of expertise to offer, especially in the field of technology, finance, space exploration and oil refineries. It needs to broaden the economic benefits through improved delivery mechanisms which, in turn, help strengthen its democracy as well as trade in the region. An Indian Marshall Plan must include aggressive foreign and economic policies to promote regional integration through the trade and digital connectivity.

According to the World Economic Forum, each additional 10% of Internet penetration can lead to a 1.2% increase in per capita GDP growth in emerging economies. India must focus on improving digital connectivity and work toward deepening financial cooperation with other countries in the regions.

A multinational Asia is not only in India’s interest but also creates a better future for the entire region. It’s time that India takes a leadership role in Asia to prove that it is an emergent power with the ambition of a superpower.

Ravi Kant

Ravi Kant is a financial writer with a deep passion for technology and economics, and also covers international politics and cybersecurity. He has wide experience in the financial world and his analysis has been published in leading magazines such as Mogul News and The Indian Economist. He is author of the book Coronavirus: A Pandemic or Plandemic. He tweets @Rk_humour.

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