[Alyssa Ayres, Our Time Has Come. How India Is Making Its Place in the World (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2020) 360 pgs].
review / Alejandro Puigrefagut
A progressively rising India wants to occupy a prominent place among the global powers. In recent decades, discussions about India's global rise and place in the world have been on the rise, sometimes in the context of possible alliances to counter China's excessive dominance.
Alyssa Ayres, an expert on India, Pakistan and South Asia at the US Council on Foreign Relations, reflects well in her book Our Time Has Come. How India Is Making Its Place in the World, the role this democracy plays internationally, the obstacles it continues to face, and the implications of its rise for the United States and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, such as Pakistan and China. It is fair to say that India's economic expansion has placed it among the world's leading emerging powers, but it now wants to move forward and gain a place among the global powers.
To fully understand India's global role, the author analyses its internal political, economic and social realities. India is the world's largest democracy, encompassing a wide range of national and regional parties that advocate radically different policies. This creates complications in reaching agreements that benefit large parts of the population. In addition, other factors complicating the relationship between the population are social division and religion. To begin with, India has a serious problem of social division caused by the distinction between social classes, or castes, some of which continue to play a major role in decision-making. Religion also plays an important role due to the large number of religions that coexist in India; however, the Hindu and Muslim majorities are the ones that mark the political diary .
Ayres highlights two characteristics that shape India's position in the world today: India's self-perception as a country at development and its abstention from global entanglements. According to the author, despite India's emergence as one of the world's largest economies, it continues to have a domestic perception of itself as a country doomed to always be among the nations at development. This results in domestic economic policies that hold back and hinder international ambitions and are thus in continuous conflict. On the other hand, India has historically stayed out of major global issues and international blocs with its policy of non-alignment.
Our Times Has Come, while defending India's high standing in the international system, also underlines the major challenges India faces for not having abandoned its old policies. Firstly, the Economics is still very much protectionist and there is no clear consensus on the new contributions that a more open market Economics could bring. Second, India continues to struggle with the bequest of its non-alignment foreign policy and remains ambivalent about how it should exercise its power in multilateral institutions. And third, India remains overly protective of its autonomy, seeking to shape its international interactions on Indian terms. Hence, India tends to move cautiously and deliberately in the international sphere.
On the other hand, the book emphasises India-US relations. The interaction between the two countries differs from their relations with other states in that New Delhi, while seeking a closer strategic and economic relationship with the US, does not want to be bound by the obligations inherent in this alliance, but rather to acquire authority without having to bow to Washington.
Ayres emphasises the need to reform global governance to create a specific space for New Delhi. His recommendations include support for India's membership of the UN Security committee and other institutions that establish global economic and security diary . It is clear that India, as a rising power, should be better understood and appreciated on its own terms. In other words, New Delhi should acquire a more pivotal role in the international arena and take some leadership to avoid being squeezed by its direct regional and global competitors.
The pages of Our Times Has Come provide several years of knowledge and first-hand study of India's foreign policy, revealing its complexities and the major characteristics that shape it. Through this book, scholar Alyssa Ayres offers us an indispensable analysis to understand what India is, but more importantly, what it wants to become.