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Author Q&A for India as Kingmaker

By: Danielle Coty-Fattal | Date: February 24, 2023 | Tags: Author Post, Q&A
Author Q&A for India as Kingmaker

This guest author post is a Q&A with Michael O. Slobodchikoff and Aakriti A. Tandon, authors of India as Kingmaker: Status Quo or Revisionist Power , from the University of Michigan Press. This book is available in hardcover, paper, and as an accessible ebook.

What surprised you the most while researching?

We were surprised when the United States and other European countries were flabbergasted at India’s outright refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While India eventually criticized the violence being committed in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of violence and a diplomatic solution to the conflict, it refrained from supporting any United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) or Security Council (UNSC) resolution to criticize Russia’s actions in Ukraine. This is consistent with the findings in India as Kingmaker; India and Russia share a deeper level of cooperation, what we term “institutionalized cooperation.” On the other hand, cooperation between India and the United States or with other Western countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany is merely “Ad hoc” or not as deeply institutionalized.

Despite numerous diplomatic efforts and the mounting pressure by the international community, we do not expect India to side with the United States and abandon its support of Russia in the near future. Since this should be evident to any scholar that studies bilateral cooperation between India and other major powers, we were surprised that the international community was expecting India to support the status quo.

In your book, there are different parts focused on “India’s Relationship with Status Quo Powers” and “India’s Relationship with Revisionist Powers.” How do you define these powers? How do India’s relationships with them differ?

Not all states are happy with the global order established by the hegemon. States who are dissatisfied with the global order may gather enough power to challenge the hegemonic state and thus revise the global order. States that support the global order are called status quo states. In other words, they are happy with the current global order and do not wish to change or revise the current global order they may benefit from.

Many of the great powers have already aligned themselves accordingly. For example, Great Britain, France, and Germany have aligned themselves with the current global order. They are classic status quo powers. On the other side, Russia and China are aligned and are revisionist powers. One of the rising powers that is an enigma is India. India can play a crucial role in determining the direction of the global order. Will India be a status quo power and thus support the United States in maintaining the current global order, or will India be a revisionist power and support China’s and Russia’s attempts to revise the current global order? Officially, India has declared that it is a nonaligned power.

Given India’s rising power and status in the international system, it is in the position to become a kingmaker. If the United States wants to retain the current global order, it must convince India to support the current order. If China and Russia wish to effectively challenge the global order, they must convince India to support the revisionist position. In India as Kingmaker, we examine India’s place in the global order and determine India’s preferences as to whether it is more likely to support the current order or if it is more likely to support the revisionist powers. India’s non-aligned status makes this a difficult, albeit interesting task.

India and the United States share several values, including strong support for democracy, the rule of law, free trade and markets, international institutions and human rights. They also face common threats such as a rising and increasingly aggressive China, as well as terrorism and religious extremism. They are also grappling with similar challenges such as dealing with the hazards of climate change as well as refugees from neighboring states. There are issues over which the two states disagree in principle and practice. Some notable examples of the several topics of contention between the two states include the agricultural subsidies and trade restrictions, American unilateralism and interference in domestic affairs of other states, America’s historic support for Pakistan including provision of weapons and technology, India’s close ties with the Soviet Union/ Russia, India’s continued ties and trade with Iran in spite of US sanctions as well as India’s rejection of the non-proliferation treaty and consequent decision to become a nuclear weapons state. We elaborate on several of these points of cooperation and contention in the book. While there is scope for cooperation between the two countries, this remains an untapped potential. The United States has not devoted the time and energy required to convert India into a close ally.

What is India’s role in the current global order?

As we argue in the book, India finds itself in the envious position of kingmaker. It is being aggressively courted by status quo as well as revisionist powers for its support as well as to establish close ties.

The global order is currently at an inflection point and the battle to maintain it is underway. There are many internal and external challenges to the current global order. We have seen a rise of nationalism internally in the United States and within its allies which has shaken the stability of the global order. The rift between Russia and the United States, as well as the rift between the United States and China, have further created cleavages between those powers. One thing is absolutely clear, and that is that India will play a prominent part in deciding what the new global order will look like. That is not to say that India will be the only state that will have significant input in determining the next global order, merely that it will be one of the most important states that will have significant input in determining the next global order. The next decade of the 21st-century will be decisive in determining whether or not the current global order can survive. One important aspect to note is that while the United States and China are currently locked in a battle to determine the next global order, India continues to become stronger. Within the next century India could become one of the most powerful states in the system. However, currently India is not vying for control of the global order. Instead, it is content with holding an important seat at the table of powerful states and its status as kingmaker for the next global order.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading India as Kingmaker?

India as Kingmaker describes how states can use international institutions and treaty making patterns to signal their intentions towards each other and on other significant issues.

While alliances and allegiances in the international system can shift over time, it is a slow moving and gradual process and almost never takes shape swiftly. If the United States and its allies truly want to establish close ties with the world’s largest democracy and fastest growing economy, they must work to institutionalize their bilateral relationship with India. One way to accomplish this is by creating a network of nested treaties. India shares a close historic relationship with Russia that has been reinforced with a strong network of bilateral treaties covering a wide range of issues.

India is uniquely positioned to counter the rise of China and its aggressive politics in Asia. It provides an alternative model of development under democracy as opposed to China’s authoritarian strand of development. However, for this to materialize, the Western powers will have to stop considering India as a junior partner that will blindly support their choices. As a rising power, India is willing to express its preferences and chart an independent foreign policy.