India’s Near Abroad

A “near abroad”is an area outside of a country which that country claims as her own. One example of a near abroad is the western hemisphere, which the United States (through the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary) has protected for ages. Other “near abroads” are simply parodies of the concept. Russia (through the old Soviet Empire) and China (with her nemesis, the democratic state of Taiwan) pretend they are able to control areas which they are too weak too.

Recently, some ultranationalist statements have hinted that many citizens of India also wish their country to have a near abroad.

A Chicago Boy recently informed me of this post at Cynical Nerd, an Indian blog:

We consider the sale of advanced weapons systems by the United States to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is an hostile act against a democratic India. The U.S. Government is well aware that the target of such weapons is none other than India as it has happened in the past. More advanced conventional arms to the terrorist state creates more security room for them to increase their terrorist activities inside India and her neighborhood.

In the comments section, another poster opined:

The real solution for India is to pursue development of indigenous defense technology and focus on becoming an economic powerhouse. The only language Americans understand is money. All India needs to do is to impose a very high economic cost of supporting Pakistan on Americans and they will quickly get the message. For example, if India were to reciprocate Us gift of $5B worth of weapons to Pakistan with denial of $10B worth of business to GE and Wal-Mart, how long do you think this will go on?

Another post on another blog, relating to the discussion

Dan tried to focus attention on the cold war history. He pointed out that India was on the wrong side during the cold war and America was only hedging its bets by playing both sides and watching and then decide later on about which side they should be on. I pointed out to him that America does not have the luxury of playing on both sides of the Tennis court.

However India defines her near abroad (to mean maybe only Pakistan, maybe all the states of the former Indian Empire that prospered under benign British rule), it’s clear she not capable of acting as a regional hegemon. Let’s review

Current Internal Status: Military-dictatorship, with substantial portions of the country ruled by al Qaeda affiliates

Sri Lanka
Current Internal Status: Bloody civil war (Ethnic)

Current Internal Status: Military-dictatorship, a media “black hole”

Current Internal Status: Bloody civil war (Maoist)

Compare this not just to a functioning regional hegemon such as the United States (almost all of whose wards are democracies), but even laughable ones such as Russia (none of whose wards are in a hot civil war).

Now, perhaps the Indians are claiming that their country should have a near abroad. But unless India is somehow claiming they have the capacity to enforce their will — or at least a shade of it — on Pakistan, it is insane for them to pretend to the title of sheriff.

India is not now able to act as a regional hegemon, even with formerly subject states of the old Empire. Maybe one day India can, when she grows up.