A neorealist assessment of India´s Look East Policy
The Balancing of China as a motive for India´s close cooperation with Southeast Asia
Masterarbeit 2011 127 Seiten
Table of Contents
1.1 AIMS OF THE THESIS
2) LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY
2.2 INDIA’S LOOK EAST POLICY
3) GEOPOLITICS AND FOREIGN ECONOMIC POLICY
3.1 THE NEOREALIST BALANCE OF POWER THEORY
3.2 LIBERAL CRITIQUES OF THE BALANCE OF POWER THEORY
3.3 THE BALANCE OF POWER THEORY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
4.1 THE BALANCE OF POWER THEORY AND THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
4.2 THE BALANCE OF POWER THEORY AND INDIA’S LOOK EAST POLICY
4.3 CASE SELECTION
5) INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY - AN OVERVIEW
5.1 INDIA’S NEW POSITIONING AFTER THE END OF THE COLD WAR
5.2 INDIA-CHINA RELATIONS
5.3 INDIA-SOUTHEAST ASIA RELATIONS
6) CASE STUDY I: THE INDIA-ASEAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
6.1 CHRONOLOGICAL PROGRESSION
6.2 STATEMENTS OF THE MAIN POLICY-MAKERS INVOLVED IN THE FTA PROCESS
6.3 THE INFLUENCE OF NON-STATE ACTORS
6.4 FACTUAL BENEFITS ARISING FROM THE FTA
SUMMARY OF THE 1ST CASE STUDY
7) CASE STUDY II: INDIA’S CLOSE RELATIONS WITH MYANMAR
7.1 CHRONOLOGICAL PROGRESSION
7.2 STATEMENTS OF THE MAIN POLICY-MAKERS INVOLVED
7.3 THE INFLUENCE OF NON-STATE ACTORS
7.4 FACTUAL BENEFITS ARISING FROM THE COOPERATION
SUMMARY OF THE 2ND CASE STUDY
8.1 IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS FOR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY
8.2 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS
I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Andreas Dür for his invaluable advice and assistance. He always took time to answer my questions and to make improvement suggestions.
Furthermore, I am grateful to Dr. Jakub Zaj czkowski, who has awoken my interest in Indian foreign policy during his guest professorship at the University of Salzburg in the winter term of 2008.
I would also like to thank my friend Birgit Allerstorfer for proof-reading as well as my friend Kristina Hauser for her moral support and her helpful advices with regards to argumentation and methodology.
Last but not least I would like to thank my parents, my brother and my grandparents without whose continued support during my entire studies I would never have written this thesis.
1.1 Aims of the Thesis
In line with its new foreign policy after the end of the Cold War India started to significantly increase its political, economic and military relations with Southeast Asia at the beginning of the 1990ies. Since then, but particularly for the last ten years this so-called „Look East Policy“ has grown to a strong and multifaceted partnership that constitutes a major component of Indian foreign policy today.
On the one hand India has considerably increased its influence in the ASEAN1 by its gradual integration into the association. Recently, this has even led to the signature of a Free Trade Agreement. On the other hand, India’s membership of sub regional cooperation forums such as BIMSTEC2 and its close bilateral ties to several ASEAN member countries constitute two additional pillars of its Look East Strategy.
The principal purpose of this thesis is to evaluate India’s motives for its strong interactions with Southeast Asia. The most common approach among academics to explain India’s Look East Policy follows a liberal understanding of international relations. Liberals argue that both, India and the ASEAN countries want to exploit complementarities in their economic and social structures: By teaming India’s inexpensive skilled labour and its strong scientific base with ASEAN’s capital and applied technology, a win-win situation for both powers is created (see for example: Anderson 2000, 219). Furthermore, collaboration on political and security issues permits them to better tackle the trans-national challenges that characterise our world today, namely, terrorist menaces, environmental problems or energy scarcity.
My argument, however, is that the potential for mutual benefits alone cannot sufficiently account for India’s strong interest in Southeast Asia. I argue that the Look East Policy is rather a strategy of the Indian government to counterbalance the growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. China as the rising power of the twenty-first century par excellence has the potential to threaten the Indian security. Although the bilateral relations between these two rising powers have significantly improved during the last 20 years, they keep on competing for power and influence in Asia as well as on global stage. China however, still dominates India because of its huge economic growth. Moreover, its permanent membership of the UN Security Council and its membership of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty make China - in comparison to India - to an internationally recognised super power. Due to the geographic closeness of the Asia Pacific region to the Indian subcontinent, China’s presence there is particularly worrisome for India. It thus aligns with the Southeast Asian states in order to push back the Chinese power.
This argumentation follows the reasoning of the neorealist balance of power theory. According to neorealists in an international system with at least three powers, the two weaker powers always tend to flock together in order to counterbalance the strongest power, that is to say, the potential hegemon. This mechanism avoids that the latter becomes so powerful that it threatens the security or even the survival of the two or more weaker states of the system.
This argumentation strongly opposes the liberal point of view of International Relations because, according to liberals, such considerations of power politics are unlikely to occur. They argue that due to globalisation and worldwide trade the international system is characterised by interdependences which reduce the probability of threat and violent conflicts between states today. Furthermore, the sovereign nation states can, according to liberals, no longer be considered as the central actors in international politics. Today it would rather be international institutions and individuals forming interest groups which determine international outcomes.
In addition to evaluate the motives for India’s Look East Policy, the aim of this thesis is to confute these liberal critiques and to support my hypothesis that with its Southeast Asia cooperation India is primarily pursuing a strategy of counterbalancing China. I will thus show that - despite the globalisation-driven changes in the international system - the neorealist balance of power theory has still an enormous predicative power also in the twenty-first century. Furthermore, I am going to test if and to what extent the balance of power theory can be considered as universally applicable. Since it was originally developed from a Western point of view and is usually used to explain political developments on the global stage some authors claim that it might not be fully conferrable to a sub systemic state system in Asia (see: for example: Kang, 2003,84).
In addition to that, the thesis offers the first profound neorealist assessment of India’s Look East Policy. Despite the popularity of Indian foreign policy as a topic for academic research, the balance of power theory has hardly ever been applied to the India-Southeast Asia relations, so far. Most authors dealing with India’s Look East Policy mention the “China- factor” as one reason among others, and provide thus only a very descriptive approach to the topic.
Moreover, while most existing publications using the balance of power theory mainly focus on balancing for political and military power this thesis also takes into account balancing for economic strength. It thus offers a broader approach to the topic by also explaining foreign economic policy.
That neorealism can far better account for India’s Look East Policy will be demonstrated by applying the balance of power conception on two case studies: On the one hand the negotiation process on the India-ASEAN Free Trade agreement in goods will be examined, on the other hand India’s Myanmar cooperation during the last ten years will be analysed in detail.
The literature review gives an overview of the academic publications on Indian foreign policy in general and India’s Look East Policy in particular. The finding, that despite the huge number of literature on this topic there is still a lack of a profound and well-analysed neorealist assessment of India’s Look East Policy gives good reasons for writing this thesis.
The third chapter will confront the two opposing theories, namely neorealism and liberalism with each other. After a detailed analysis of the balance of power theory the liberal critiques on this conception shall be evaluated. In a third subchapter I comment on these points of liberal criticism and I reason why I argue in favour of the balance of power theory although the liberal objections seem plausible. In this section I also outline my research design by stating which empirical evidence I expect from the case studies if my hypothesis is supported.
The fourth chapter is the methodology section: The first part will reason why it makes sense to apply the balance of power theory on India’s Look East Policy. The second subchapter describes my methodological approach as well as the sources I am going to use. In a third part I will explain for which reasons I have chosen the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and India’s cooperation with Myanmar as case studies for testing the neorealist balance of power theory on India’s Look East Policy.
The fifth chapter gives a brief overview of the Indian foreign policy of the last twenty years. The first section will deal with Indian foreign relations in general; the second part will describe the evolution of India-China relations. The third part will then give an overview of the main instruments and developments of India’s Look East Policy. On the one hand this general overview serves the purpose of classifying the position of India’s Look East Policy in Indian foreign relations. On the other hand it shall be demonstrated why the Chinese rising power is so threatening for India.
The empirical part consists of two case studies: In chapter six the process of negotiating and concluding an FTA in goods between India and ASEAN shall be traced in detail. Chapter seven will then deal with India’s Myanmar policy. In both case studies the research focus will be based on four factors: the chronological progression of the respective cooperation project with regards to China, the statements of the main Indian politicians involved, the positions of non-state actors on the cooperation, and the factual benefits arising from the FTA and the India-Myanmar cooperation.
The conclusion will give a summary of the main research results and findings. Moreover, the implications of these findings on international relations theory shall be evaluated. In another subchapter I will make suggestions for further research.
2) Literature Review
2.1 Indian Foreign Policy
Whereas during the period of the Cold War India was one of the leaders of the non-alignment movement and therefore played a rather isolated role in world politics, it started to reformulate its position in the international system after the breakdown of communism. “During the 1990ies “New Delhi decision makers (…) abandoned the philosophical premises that had guided Indian diplomacy for forty years, and transformed their country’s entire approach to global affairs” (Hathaway 2004, 2). India developed strong bilateral ties to its neighbouring countries as well as to global powers such as the USA and the EU and became engaged in international organisations. This “new Indian foreign policy” (Mohan 2003) which was accompanied by a strong economic liberalisation has also awoken the interest of many scholars.
There is a wide variety of publications which describe the transformation of Indian foreign policy in the 1990ies and evaluate the success of these reforms (for example Pillai 1997). Also in the most recent literature about Indian foreign relations the authors usually start their analyses with the great turn in Indian foreign relations in 1991. What especially characterises the publications about Indian foreign policy published in the course of the last 10 years is the strong focus on the India-China relations and India’s search for major power status in the world. Zaj czkowski (2005) studies “India’s position in International Relations at the turn of the century” by identifying different components such as military, economic social and geographic determinants that make up India’s major power status in the international system. In his article “socio-economic factors determining India’s position in International Relations in the age of globalisation” he further argues that “problems and challenges regarding socio- economic development” (2007,134) pose constraints for the development of an Indian major power role in the world. Also Paul/Nayar (2003) try to answer what characterises major power status in international relations and they evaluate if India can be considered as a great power or not.
A detailed analysis of the India-China relations that emphasises the cooperation as well as the competition between the two powers is offered by Wagner (2006), Winters/Yusuf (2007), Sidhu/Yuan (2003) or Malik (2003). Although most scholars underline that India’s relations to its northern neighbour have significantly improved since the end of the Cold War, (see: for example Wagner 2006, 6ff) nearly all of them state that they both remain strong rivals for power and influence in Asia as well as on global stage: Both powers pursue great power politics to strengthen their own position, based on military armament and sciences and technology. However, China still dominates India in terms of economic power and nuclear capacities. Also its status as a recognised super power through its seat in the UN Security Council and its membership of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty makes it superior to India (see: Wagner 2006a, 88ff ).
Furthermore, this strong competition between India and China is an important aspect of most publications analysing India’s relations to the United States: Mohan (2006) for instance, considers India’s engagement with the United States as a balancing strategy against the Chinese rising power and also Brawley suggests that India has to decide if China or rather the United States is the most threatening power for its interests: “Once the primary threat is identified, the other great power could then be called on as an ally” (Brawley 2004,97).
The India-US relations are also often analysed in conjunction with India’s status as a nuclear weapon state. Sikri (2009) for example, considers Pokhran II - India’s test explosions of five nuclear devices in 1998 - as a “turning point” in US-India relations: Although the nuclear tests highly tensioned India-US relations last but not least because of the sanctions Washington imposed against India, the US “finally accepted a nuclear India as a reality” (Reiter 2004,89). As a consequence, from 1998 onwards “the nature of India’s relationship with the US underwent a qualitative change” (Sikri 2009, 173): Pokhran II coincided with India’s growing economic weight what increased India’s importance in US eyes. South Asia was thus no longer a geopolitical backwater that could do without US attention. India and the US started an intensive high-level interaction more than one decade ago which finally led to the India-US nuclear deal in 2005 (see: Sikri 2009, 173-176).
India’s traditional close and friendly ties to Russia, the successor state of the former Soviet Union, were less a matter of importance for academic research during the 1990ies. Although both powers still shared convergent interests and tried not to sacrifice their old friendship for their rapprochement to the USA, the partnership had lost its strategic importance (see: Reiter 2004, 90). Moreover, after the end of the Cold War both powers “focused their energy and attention on the West, which was seen as the source of technology, capital and management” (Sikri 2009, 155). This explains why they started to drift apart more and more. However, when Putin became Russia's president in 2000 the latter “helped to revive the staggering relationship and to steer it in the right direction in the new millennium” (Sikri 2009, 156). As rising powers that are likely to play an increasingly larger role on the world stage in the coming decades and that do not share any serious clash of interests with each other, they both follow the common goal of creating a multipolar world (see: Sikri 2009,157). This resurgence of the India-Russia relations and its strategic importance for the international system has recently triggered a wave of publications about the revitalised ties: A detailed overview of this “revival of a traditional partnership” is provided by Kreft (2007). Furthermore, Chopra et al. try to identify “new trends in “Indo-Russia relations” (2003) and examine “the significance of Indo-Russia relations in the 21st century” (2008). Pant (2008) highlights the energy relations between both countries and Nirmala (2007) and Sikri (2009) focus on the India-Russia relations with regard to the strategic environment in Eurasia.
The first EU-India summit in 2000 has also intensified India’s relations with Europe which have been evaluated in several books and articles recently published. Giri (2001) provided “the first overall perspective of India-EC relations” (Giri 2001, 3) and Wülbers also (2007) underlines the great potential of the EU-Indian partnership. Jaffrelot (2006) however, criticises that EU-India relations are still not strong enough and that there is a lack of a coherent India-policy of the EU member states. According to him it has to be fought “against the overriding trend of each member state to go it alone in its relations with India“, otherwise Europe could risk to find itself “completely sidelined” by this new first order Asian - and indeed international - actor, which is also attractive for other great powers such as the USA, ASEAN or Russia (see: Jaffrelot 2006).
Besides India’s relationships with great powers also its engagement with its neighbouring countries and the countries of the Asia Pacific constitutes an important component of Indian foreign policy. This is underlined by the fact that most publications dealing with India’s foreign relations in general provide far-reaching chapters about India’s relations to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and to East- and Southeast Asia (see for example: Anderson 2000, Sinha/Mohta 2007, Sikri 2009).
The events of 9/11 and the US-initiated fight against terrorism have aroused a particular interest in India-Pakistan relations. After several terrorist attacks such as the one on the Parliament House in New Delhi in December 2001 carried out by Pakistani terrorist groups India’s relations to its northern neighbour, which had always been unstable throughout the twentieth century, became more and more tense. Mitra (2004) for instance examines the “empirical puzzle” of Indo-Pakistani-Sino relations from the period of classic non-alignment under Nehru during the period of war and India’s alliance with the Soviet Union from 1963- 1989 until the return of the conflicts after 2001.
As this review has shown, the majority of the literature on Indian foreign policy is rather descriptive. However, there are also some publications applying International Relations Theory to the South Asian Region: First of all, several authors use constructivist approaches “to raise questions about what is conventional, what we take for granted” (Bajpai 2005, 5). An example is Nandy's contribution about “The Discreet Charms of Indian Terrorism” or Banerjee's case study on the Sino-Indian Border (2005).
Second, there are authors who support the hypothesis that the external policies of states are rooted in domestic politics. Bar (2005) for instance, offers a contribution entitled “State, Civil Society, Nation, Nonalignment: Discourses of freedom and Foreign Policy in India.” Third, also neorealism has been applied to current Indian Foreign Policy. Rajagopalan (2003) for instance, uses the neorealist theory in order to describe the India-Pakistan conflict.
2.2 India’s Look East Policy
Also India's Look East Policy constitutes without doubt an essential component of contemporary Indian foreign policy that is held dear in most literature about Indian foreign affairs. The refocusing on East and Southeast Asia after the period of non-alignment - in which the relations to its eastern neighbours had remained rather lukewarm - can certainly be considered as a “major departure in Indian foreign policy “(Anderson 2000,219) and as “a cornerstone of the country’s new policy orientation after the end of the Cold War” (Batabyal 2006, 179). Due to this crucial position of the Look East Strategy in Indian external relations the latter has also become the core issue of numerous academic publications in which the main instruments of cooperation as well as the reasons for the increased ties between the two regions are evaluated.
The aim of this chapter is on the one hand to give an overview of the different approaches to the topic. On the other hand, it shall be demonstrated that despite the huge number of contributions on Indian foreign policy in general and the India-Southeast Asia ties in particular as well as the variety of perceptions of different scholars it lacks a profound theoretical analysis of India’s Look East Policy. This “gap” concerning the academic assessment of the India-Southeast Asia relations stresses the importance of further research on the topic and gives good reasons for writing this thesis.
Most publications about India’s Look East Policy focus on the strategy as a whole. This means that in their analyses the authors consider India’s integration into ASEAN as well as India’s bilateral relations with single Southeast Asian states and sometimes also its participation in subregional cooperation forums.
Generally speaking, the existing literature can be classified into three main categories: First of all, there are scholars who primarily focus on the mutual benefits for India as well as for Southeast Asia that result from the cooperation: The abolishment of trade obstacles, the access to new markets and the exchange of technology and skilled labour create a win-win situation for both sides, and on the long run also benefits for Asia as a whole. Not only do I count authors who assess the economic dimension of India’s Look East Policy to this first category, but also those who provide a rather liberal explanation of the increased cooperation on issues of security policy. These authors see the cooperation on a political level not as an “alliance formation” for concerns of power politics but they rather stress the reciprocal advantages of the partnership. To give an example, they argue in favour of a collaboration on non-traditional security issues such as the fight against terrorism which can be handled more effectively when working together. Absolute gains, that is to say, reciprocal advantages are according to these authors not limited to the economic level but cooperation on security issues can also create mutual benefits.
Second, there are academics who identify the cultural similarities between India and Southeast Asia as the principal reason for the increased economic and political ties. They argue that the common use of English, the fact that India is the birthplace of Buddhism, which is the primarily practiced religion in South-East Asia, and the huge Indian Diaspora living in South East Asia constitute a perfect basis for increased inter-state and also people-to-people relations.
The third category identified is certainly the most crucial one for a neorealist assessment of India’s Look East Policy: This category includes those publications in which the “China- factor” is regarded as a major reason for the strong focus on Southeast Asia in Indian foreign policy. Some scholars consider the strategy of “looking east” as a tactic of counterbalancing China. By strengthening their relations to each other and mutually profiting of the increased ties India as well as South East Asia try to counteract the Chinese rising power.
Generally speaking one can say that the first category identified includes literature that provides a rather liberal explanation of India’s Look East Policy whereas the third category offers a neorealist approach to the topic.
Nonetheless, one must be careful when dividing the existing literature on India’s Look East Policy into these three classes. A lot of contributions cannot be clearly allocated because they offer a rather descriptive approach to the topic by mentioning all possible motives for India’s Look East Strategy but without a focus on a certain policy area and without a deeper analysis which reasons prevail and why. Moreover, there are also some publications which are enumerating the political and economic instruments of India’s Look East Policy in detail, but a deeper examination of the grounds why these strategies are initiated is not given.
Despite this lack of a profound analysis these papers offer a perfect overview of the extent and the dimensions of the India-Southeast Asia cooperation. The best and most detailed depiction is offered by Shekhar (2007) who describes the development of the India-ASEAN relations from the early 1990ies till now. He illustrates the single steps of India’s integration into the association by mentioning and explaining the function of the respective agreements and summit meetings on economic as well as on political level. Furthermore, he highlights the great potential of the India-ASEAN cooperation in sciences and technologies and the significance of the cultural links between the two regions which could be used as a base for increased tourism and university networks in the future.
A similar overview of the India-ASEAN ties is provided by Gaur (2003). Besides a pure enumeration of the main instruments of cooperation he also emphasises that “the ASEAN- India partnership aims to exploit complementarities and synergies in factor endowments, economic structure and skills and capabilities in diverse areas, including trade and investment, infrastructure development, science and technology and tourism for mutual benefits” (Gaur 2003,2). Whereas the two authors mentioned just focus on India’s integration into ASEAN Sikri (2009) also provides a detailed description of the sub-regional cooperation forums India is a member of and evaluates the extent and success of India’s bilateral relations with different Southeast Asian states.
Two other authors who offer a rather descriptive approach to India’s Look East Policy are Anand (2009), and Ghoshal (2007). But in addition to the potential for mutual benefits that result from the cooperation they also stress that the latter have a strategic dimension. The fact that China’s dominance in Southeast Asia has become a great cause of concern for India’s security because it has increased its presence in the region and has provided military support to all of India’s neighbours, makes it imaginable that by its Look East Policy India also tries to “balance China ´s overwhelming economic and strategic influence” (Ghoshal 2007, 1). However, also these two papers are rather summarising the components and possible explanations of India’s Look East Strategy than really implementing a broad analysis of the latter. Because of this fact I do not count them to one of the three categories mentioned above.
A more sophisticated approach however, that can be counted to the first category identified is conducted by Asher and Sen. In several publications about the current and future potentials of India’s Look East Policy they primarily stress the mutual economic advantages that result for both sides of the cooperation: They point out that since the financial crisis in 1997 there has been an “increasing recognition that greater economic coordination and cooperation among major Asian countries is essential to manage globalisation challenges, and to enhance Asia's role in world affairs”. Moreover, they point out that for governments as well as for business organisations it has become essential to compete and cooperate simultaneously“ (Kumar/Sen/Asher 2006,1) which makes it inevitable that all the major Asian economies “begin a dialogue process so that win-win opportunities can be explored and translated into concrete benefits for Asia as a whole” (Asher/Sen 2005, 3). In their paper entitled “India- ASEAN Integration- A win-win for Asia” they offer a comparative analysis of India’s trade linkages with Southeast Asia. By examining India’s bilateral import and export intensities with Southeast Asia in comparison to other countries, they notice a relative “over- representation of ASEAN+6 as a trading partner for India vis-à-vis the rest of the world” (Asher/Sen 2005, 10). According to them, this is mainly due to the high complementarities of the economic and demographic structures of the two regions: India’s economy is rather service-oriented whereas the South East Asian countries focus more on light manufacturing (Sen/Asher/Rajan, 2004, 3).While India’s population will grow steadily by 6 per cent in the next years which causes the share of working age population to increase at the same time, many South East Asian countries will rather experience a continuous population aging. These complementarities provide a strong reason for countries such as Singapore to use India’s knowledge-based human resources without having to consider long-term immigration. India in turn can profit from the high per capita income in the ASEAN countries which implies a strong purchasing power in these countries and as a consequence a lot of potential consumers for Indian products and services.
In this context one also has to mention Andersen (2000, 219) who emphasises the mutual economic benefits of the India-ASEAN cooperation by pointing out that India’s “pool of inexpensive skilled labour and a strong scientific base (…) could be teamed with Southeast Asia’s capital and applied technology”.
Besides this, Asher and Sen stress that there are many areas where Southeast Asia's experience and expertise can be helpful in meeting India’s developmental challenges which implies that there are not only increased trade rates but also an increasing policy convergence between India and Southeast Asia: Thus, India is seeking to diversify its conventional energy sources and significantly increase exploration of oil and gas in its territory. Most ASEAN countries however, possess enough expertise in this area which provides a considerable scope also for energy cooperation (see: Asher/Sen/Rajan 2004, 25).
Asher and Sen conclude all their papers by emphasising that the high complementarities between India and South East Asia are not fully exploited yet which provides a great potential for the strengthening of the economic partnership in the future.
Ong Keng Yong (2004), former Secretary General of the ASEAN, also stresses the mutual benefits of the cooperation in his paper, and besides the economic gains he also focuses on the reciprocal advantages concerning issues of security policy:
He argues that for both India’s and ASEAN’s aim to propel and spur economic growth it is essential to have an environment of peace and stability. But India as well as Southeast Asia are concerned of so-called non-traditional security threats such as terrorist menaces, arms smuggling, human or drugs trafficking. Ong Keng Yong (2004,4-5) underlines the importance of cooperation in these areas by arguing that “India’s integration into ASEAN is not an option but a survival imperative.” Hence, this non-traditional security menaces cannot be overcome by a single state alone, they rather have to be managed collectively due to their transnational character. India’s membership of the ASEAN Regional Forum thus creates advantages for itself as well as for South East Asia by helping to promote regional peace and stability (Ong Keng Yong 2004, 7).
A future India-ASEAN partnership of cooperative security is also the most crucial issue that Sudhir Devare stresses in his book “India and Southeast Asia - Towards Security Convergence”. The author emphasises his liberal understanding of international relations by pointing out that “the interaction between India and Southeast Asia cannot and should not be a zero-sum game.” (Devare 2006, 208). According to him, India and Southeast Asia do not have any issues that divide them nor do they have any conflicting claims that might create enmity. Both are, therefore, well placed to cooperate and to draw benefit from each other's strengths. In non-traditional security as well as in traditional security and defence there needs to be enough space for both sides to win. ASEAN’s challenges thus lies not in confronting or balancing the rising powers of India and China but rather in creating suitable conditions for cooperation with the two powers (see: Devare 2006,208).
However, not in all publications about India’s Look East Policy the prospect of attaining mutual advantages is considered as the main reason for the increased India-Southeast Asia ties. Authors whose papers I count to the second category of India’s Look East Policy rather stress that cultural similarities and historical linkages between the two regions are the principal explanation for the partnership: According to Jaffrelot (2003,58) India has not chosen Southeast Asia as a major trading partner because of complementarities in the economic structure, but rather due to the fact that trading with ASEAN member states permits India to become modern without becoming westernised. Both regions believe that “exchanges with each other will be less threatening to traditional values than exchanges with Western countries” (Jaffrelot 2003, 49). This is also the reason why the Hindu National Party BJP3, which defends the idea of Asian solidarity has always supported the Look East Policy and not tried to avert it.
Historically, India and Southeast Asia share a lot of linkages. Throughout history India has exerted a great cultural influence on East and Southeast Asia (Jaffrelot 2003, 35). In particular the unifying character of Buddhism should not be underestimated according to several authors (for example Jaffrelot, 2003 Anderson 2000, Shekhar 2007). Even if the number of Buddhists in India is marginal today, the fact that it is the birthplace of Buddhism from which it was later spread throughout Asia creates important linkages to Southeast Asian countries that are also economically used nowadays. To give an example, the infrastructure between India and Southeast Asia is continuously improved in order to allow Southeast Asian pilgrim tourists to visit the famous Buddhist sites located in India.
Another important linkage between India and Southeast Asia that these authors highlight is the huge Indian Diaspora living in Southeast Asia. As a result, these non-resident Indians “have played a very important role in transmitting Indian cultural values, cuisines and films” (Shekhar 2007, 4). Also the high rate of investments made by residents of Southeast Asian countries of 2.5 billion dollars can be explained by this factor.
Despite all these reasons arguing for a cultural explanation of India’s Look East Policy Jaffrelot states in the conclusion of his paper that China is more feared than admired by India today, whereas East and Southeast Asia seem to be regarded as a model for many Indians.
Consequently, the question why India is of all things cooperating with East and Southeast Asia and not with China cannot be explained by the argumentation that India wants to avoid a westernisation of its economy. This stresses the necessity of a non-cultural approach to India’s Look East Policy (see: Jaffrelot 2003, 61).
The idea that India’s Look East Policy constitutes an answer to the Chinese rising power provoking balancing behaviour among its neighbours is pointed out by a not to be underestimated number of scholars investigating the driving forces of the India-Southeast Asia relations. But some of them (for example Jaffrelot 2003, Anand, 2009, Sikri 2009, Pilny 2008) mention the “China factor” as one possible reason among others without a further analysis to what extent it is actually playing a role.
A stronger focus on the phenomenon of balancing China is brought by Müller (2006) who describes India’s rise to a major power and its significance and influence in different regions of the world in his book. He writes that the refocusing on Southeast Asia in the beginning of the 1990ies was on the one hand a logical step in the context of India’s economic liberalisation because the ASEAN states underwent a phase of economic boom at that time. On the other hand however, he highlights India’s strategic interests not to relinquish Southeast Asia to the Chinese-American concurrence but to increase its own influence in the region instead. Thus, we can conclude that India does not sympathise with China’s growing power and its territorial aspirations in Southeast Asia because this would bring Chinese maritime power closer to the Indian Ocean. (see: Müller 2006, 236).
Furthermore, Müller considers India’s increased bilateral relations to its eastern neighbour Myanmar. The fact that the country constitutes a land-bridge to Southeast Asia is certainly an important reason for the increased ties. Müller also emphasises the strategic importance of the small country in which Chinese and Indian interests clash. This is not least because of its huge natural resource base (see: Müller 2006, 236-239).
A similar analysis of India’s Look East Policy is provided by Hong (2007). He does not only consider the “China-factor” as a driving force of India’s Look East Policy but he also accentuates the important role of the “India-factor” in Sino-ASEAN relations. Thus, the long- standing geopolitical rivalry between India and China coupled with the almost simultaneous rise to world prominence underlines the fact that the two countries are also strong competitors for power and influence in Southeast Asia. Even though the author points out that “balance- of-power politics will continue to inform Sino-India rivalry in Myanmar, Vietnam, and other ASEAN countries” (Hong 2007, 139) he suggests a strategy of cooperation rather than competition: He concludes that “despite being rivals” China and India “can also become stakeholders or partners in ASEAN-led Southeast Asian regionalism” (Hong 2007,121).
The only profound analysis of India’s Look East Policy that examines the strategy on the basis of grounded international relations theories is provided by Batabyal (2006): He conducts a “realist assessment of India’s Look East Policy” by arguing that the factor of balancing China prevails over pure aspirations for mutual economic benefits. His detailed scrutiny of India’s integration into ASEAN, its attempt to forge sub-regional cooperation in the form of BIMSTEC and the Mekong Ganga Cooperation Forum as well as its efforts to strengthen the bilateral relationship with the military junta in Myanmar reveal that “one of the most important objectives behind this strategy is to play a new balancing game against China” (Batabyal 2006, 179). In spite of both India and ASEAN refusing to admit so openly, the rise of China has been one of the significant factors behind the evolution and consolidation of this policy (see: Batabyal 2006,179).
Batabyal’s article offers without doubt the most traceable and best researched explanation of India’s Look East strategy. His research assessment of analysing the strategy by applying the realist balance of power theory and testing it against pure liberal considerations of mutual economic benefits constitutes a perfect basis for further research on the topic. However, it is necessary to implement a more detailed analysis of India’s Look East Policy, also taking into account the most recent steps of the partnership and further investigating the motivations behind these achievements. In order to test if Batabyal’s findings can be supported it is important to present a profound analytical framework by confronting the existing theories of neorealism and liberalism with each other so that the extent of importance of the “Chinafactor” in India- Southeast Asia relations can be clearly evaluated.
As this chapter has shown, India’s Look East Policy is a popular topic of current research. However, the existing literature mainly offers a very descriptive approach to the subject, a sophisticated theoretical assessment of the strategy is completely missing. This is surprising, because applying neorealist balance of power theory to regional subsystems in Asia is nothing new. Several scholars have shown that such an approach is possible and makes sense:
Mearsheimer has applied his theory of offensive neorealism to the case of northeast Asia arguing that the Chinese rising power has the potential to dominate Japan and Korea which provokes a policy of engagement by the United States. A comprehensive test of the balance of power theory in Asia is further provided by Kang (2003). But he also excludes the Indian subcontinent from his analysis and is just focussing on the relations of Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia towards China. He concludes that “contrary to the expectations of standard formulations of realism (…) Asian states do not appear to be balancing against rising powers such as China. Rather they seem to be bandwagoning” (Kang 2003, 58) - which means in other words, aligning with the most powerful state in the system in order to profit of its economic and military strength.
This argumentation has provoked a counter reaction by Acharya (2004) who points out that “there is considerable evidence that one Asian state is balancing China: India”. Acharya provides a well reasoned explanation why India is following a balancing strategy towards its powerful northern neighbour. However, he does not test the balancing hypothesis against a liberal view of India’s Look East Policy but attempts to confute the thesis that all Asian states seem to be bandwagoning with China.
Also Brawley (2004) fails in his contribution where he applies the balance of power theory on different systems of today’s international relations to provide a profound neorealist assessment of India’s foreign policy. He suggests that for India “the most realistic option at this moment is to devote its energies to building up its internal economic capabilities” (Brawley 2004, 96-97). This is because there are no potential allies available for counterbalancing a Chinese rising power: He excludes the US as a potential ally because they constitute a threatening power for India itself that can just be balanced via an alignment with China and Russia (see: Brawley 2004). Astonishingly India’s Look East Policy as a balancing instrument towards China is not taken into account at all.
To summarise, the literature review makes clear that on the one hand, there is a huge number of literature about India’s Look East Policy, but most contributions fail to give a deeper theoretical assessment of the India-Southeast Asia relations. On the other hand there exist sophisticated theoretical concepts about balancing behaviour of states, but they have not been applied to India’s Look East Strategy so far.
3) GEOPOLITICS AND FOREIGN ECONOMIC POLICY
3.1 The Neorealist Balance of Power Theory
The central question this thesis tries to answer is how a power reacts to a shift in the international balance of power that favours a neighbouring country. Does it bandwagon, that is, try to avoid conflict with the up and coming power, or does it balance, that is, try to limit the rise of the new power?
The most plausible explanation for all these questions is provided by the neorealist international relations theory and its balance of power conception. According to the latter, states always join the weaker coalition in an international state system in order to create a lose counterweight to the most dominant power in the system.
But the balance of power framework which can be seen as “one of the oldest and most fundamental concepts in the study of international relations” (Levy 2004, 29-30) is no coherent theory. Despite its prominence it is rather one of the most ambiguous and intractable theories, or as Lemke (2004, 52) puts it ” there are nearly as many balance of power theories as balance of power theorists.” But what they all have in common is their (neo)realist understanding of international relations:
Neorealists see the sovereign and rationally acting nation states as the main actors in the international system. According to them, the latter is characterised by an anarchic order: Unlike domestic political systems the international system lacks a central authority that rules the relations between its components - the nation states - and sanctions the use of military means. As a consequence, the international system can be seen as a self-help system, in which every nation state struggles for its own interests (see: Sheehan 1996, 8) and tries to maximise its security in order to guarantee its survival as independent entity in the anarchic order. “The primary aim of all states is their own survival, defined in terms of some combination of territorial integrity and autonomy” (Levy 2004, 32). This assumption also explains why power is an important factor for most neorealist views of international relations: “Anarchy thus compels states to increase their power, because security and physical survival cannot be divorced from power maximization” (Paul 2004, 4).
In this context, as seen by neorealists, it is crucial to remark that for nation states it is not primarily the pure accumulation of power that counts, it is rather the relative gains which are important: Analogously to the microeconomic theory where the utility maximising economic entities - the undertakings - try to reach as much profit as possible and are competing for the limited good “money”, the units enacting within the international system are always striving for maximising power and security in relation to their competitors (Waltz 1979, 89ff,).
Or as Mearsheimer (2001, 12) points out, “what money is to economics, power is to international relations.” Given the fact that states can never be certain about the other states’ intentions, they recognise that the more powerful they are relative to their rivals, the better their chances of survival. Hence, the competition for security is always a zero sum game: One state gets what the other one loses in turn.
This central assumption is the reason why neorealists are mostly sceptical towards the usefulness of international organisations and towards cooperation between states for mutual benefits. According to Kenneth Waltz (1979, 6 and 1986, 103), the anarchic structure of the international system” limits the cooperation of states.” The more a state specialises, the more it gets dependant from its competitors. Increased interdependence generates high vulnerability and that is why states always “try to control what they depend on or to lessen the extent of their dependency” (Waltz 1979,6).
However, neorealists do not “exclude the possibility of international cooperation” (Brawley 2004, 79). The focussing on alliances is rather a central aspect of most balance of power theories:
When striving for power and security the states are not limited to a strategy of internal balancing which means the “internal build-up of military capabilities and the economic and industrial foundations of military strength” (Levy 2004, 35). States cannot often achieve security on their own (see: Paul 2004, 4). Moreover it is difficult to produce major increases of power at a very short notice solely by internal reform (see: Sheehan 1996, 55).
Because of this states tend to align with other powers in order to guarantee their survival within the international system. States can either follow a strategy of bandwagoning which means that they join the strongest power in the system, or a strategy of external balancing which means that the weaker states in a system flock together in order to decrease the influence of the potential hegemon. Whereas authors like Schweller (1994) argue in favour of the bandwagoning theory with the justification that states can benefit from the hegemon's power and count on its protection, most influential balance of power theorists are of the opinion that “balancing predominates” (see for example Waltz 1979, Walt 1987, Mearsheimer 2001).
States always tend to countervail an imbalance of power because the rise of a preponderant power could jeopardise their sovereignty and as a consequence their survival in the international system: A hegemon would be capable of imposing its will on others. As a consequence, less powerful states could risk losing their security and, in rare cases, even cease to exist (Paul 2004, 4). On the weaker side those states are more appreciated and a lot safer, provided of course, that the coalition they join achieves enough strength to be competitive against the potential hegemon (see: Paul 2004, 6 ).
Stephen Walt (1987, 29) points out that balancing should be preferred to bandwagoning for the simple reason that no statesman can be completely sure of what another will do. Bandwagoning is dangerous because it increases the resources available to a threatening power and requires placing trust in its continued forbearance. Perceptions and current intentions are unreliable and can change every moment. For this reason it is “safer to balance against potential threats than to rely on the hope that a state will remain benevolently disposed” (Walt 1987, 29). Or as Sheehan (1996, 55) states, “the safer strategy is to join with those who cannot readily dominate their allies in order to avoid being dominated by those who can”.
According to Kenneth Waltz (1979, 126), the predominance of balancing in international relations is connected to the fact that the primary goal of states is to maximise their security in order to maintain their position in the system and not alone to increase their amount of power: If states just “wished to maximize power, they would join the stronger side, and we would see not balances forming but a world hegemony forged. This does not happen because balancing, not bandwagoning is the behaviour induced by the system” (Waltz 1979, 126).
Leading balance of power theorists do not negate that bandwagoning activities take place, but in their opinion the latter constitute an anomaly of states’ behaviour that can be seen as a kind of “embarrassment- strategy” (Vogt 2001, 54) of states which cannot afford the high costs of balancing. Bandwagoning is thus almost always confined to especially weak and isolated states (see: Walt 1987, 262).
The most logical way to reach equilibrium of power, however, is for the smaller states to align among themselves and with the great power opponents of the powerful threatening state. Weaker actors form coalitions to achieve defensive as well as deterrent strength sufficient to dissuade potential or actual adversaries (see: Paul 2004, 6).
Taken into account the precedent explanations neorealists see the goal of acquiring security and power in order to avoid the rise of a hegemon or hegemonic alliances as the principal if not the only explanation why inter-state cooperation takes place (see: Little 2009,4).
In his book “The Origin of Alliances” Stepehn Walt tests different hypotheses of alliance formation; alongside with balancing and bandwagoning he also examines in how far ideological similarities between states and foreign aid in terms of economic or military assistance have an impact on inter-state cooperation. He tries to answer the questions “whether states with similar internal characteristics are more likely to ally than states whose domestic orders are different” (Walt 1987, 4) and if “certain policy instruments cause other states to alter their alliance preferences”
But after having applied his hypotheses to the case of alliance formation in the Middle East, Walt (1987, 5) comes to the conclusion that “ideology is less powerful than balancing as a motive for alignment” and that “by itself, economic and military assistance has relatively little impact on alliance choices” (Walt 1987,5). It may be true that convergence in laws, customs, and habits of life have a certain influence on alignment motivations of states, but “many apparently ideological alliances are in fact a form of balancing behaviour” (Walt 1987, 5).
Balancing is thus the main cause why alliances are formed. Whereas Kenneth Waltz argues that states always react to imbalances of power Stephen Walt rejects this view or he rather modifies the balance of power theory by “emphasising the role played by threat perceptions in stimulating balancing behaviour among states” (Paul 2004, 8). According to Walt states do not form coalitions against the most powerful actor in the system but against the most threatening one:
“ Whereas balance of power theory predicts that states will react to imbalances of power, balance of threat theory predicts that ( … ) when one state or coalition appears especially dangerous, states will form alliances or increase their internal efforts in order to reduce their vulnerability ” (Walt 1987,263).
Even if this distinction may seem subtle it is important because the balance of threat theory provides a broader conception with a greater explanatory power in relation to the conventional balance of power hypotheses. The aggregation of power is an important component of threat but not the only one. The level of threat a state poses towards another is rather a product of power aggregation, geographic proximity, aggressive intentions and offensive capabilities - that is to say, the ability to threaten the sovereignty of another state at an acceptable cost. (see: Walt 1987, 21-26).
The balance of threat theory makes it possible to understand events we cannot explain by focusing solely on the distribution of power: To give an example, a state might align with the most powerful state in the system in order to balance another power, which is not a potential hegemon but which represents a bigger threat due to its geographic closeness.
Another aspect of the balance of power theory with opposing views among different scholars is the question whether states are rather keen on maximising security or maximising power. Defensive neorealists such as Kenneth Waltz argue that states are always striving to maintain their position within the international system which implies that security is on the first place on their scale of preferences. They are competing with other states for relative power because “power is the best means to survival” (Mearsheimer 2001, 19). The pure pursuance of absolute power, however, is not in their interest because such a strategy could provoke alignments against them which in turn is not desirable because it would threaten their security. Power maximisation is just a pursuable aim if it takes place at the rival’s expense.
Offensive neorealists whose leading defender is John Mearsheimer also consider power as “the key for survival” (Mearsheimer 2001, 21). However, they differ concerning the question how much power states want: Whereas defensive neorealists regard “preserving power, rather than increasing it” (Mearsheimer 2001,21) as the main goal of states, offensive neorealists are of the opinion that status quo powers hardly exist in world politics because the international system creates powerful incentives for states to look for opportunities to gain power at the expense of rivals, and to take advantage of those situations when the benefits outweigh the costs. The ultimate goal of states is to be the hegemon in the system (see: Mearsheimer 2001).
It may be true that Waltz and Mearsheimer strongly differ concerning their understanding of the role of power in international politics, but what they have in common is that they both have developed a systemic theory of international relations. According to them, when analysing a state system the structure and its interacting units have to be treated separately from each other, whereas the structure always influences the actions of the units and not inverse. Hence, the states’ foreign policy behaviour is always shaped “by their external environment and not by their internal characteristics” (Mearsheimer 2001, 17).
According to Waltz, it is not necessarily the motive of states but rather the structure of the system that provokes that “balance of power recurrently forms” (Waltz 1979, 128).
Following this understanding, balancing is not a strategy in foreign policy of states, the latter are rather forced by the anarchic structure to compete with each other for power which is the best means of survival. Since the states as units in the system are not functionally differentiated, that is to say, they all follow the goal of maximising their security, the balance of power system is permanently reproduced even if the states do not necessarily intend it with their behaviour. The “maintenance of the system is the unintended consequence of the actions of many states as each attempts to maximize its own interests under existing constraints” (Levy 2004, 32). However, not all balance of power theorists support this view of a law-like automatically functioning balance of power system.
According to Claude (1962, quoted in: Sheehan 1996, 67 and in: Levy 2004, 33) the idea of states operating automatically, without “constant vigilance” and deliberate policy choice is not “really plausible”, the equilibrium within a balance of power system is rather “a diplomatic contrivance”. He proposes a different conception: In a “manually operated” balance of power system “the balance is (…) willed by the leading statesmen, who conduct their states’ foreign policies with this end in view.” The balance is thus not a systemic effect created by automatic processes but instead the result of constant vigilance and conscious and deliberate strategic choices by individual states (see: Claude 1962, quoted in: Sheehan 1996,67).
3.2 Liberal Critiques of the Balance of Power Theory
Despite or even because of its popularity neorealism has always been criticised. In particular „the end of the Cold War has triggered new debates about international relations theory” (Deudney/Ikenberry 1999, 179) and the explanatory power of neorealism was strongly challenged. Some scholars even predicted the death for realist theory. It was mainly criticised because of its poor predictive power:
Neorealists were neither able to foresee the breakdown of communism nor could they explain the system change after the end of the Cold War. Whereas during the conflict-ridden period between 1939 and 1989 (neo)realism had constituted the leading theory in international relations because it could best account for the pervasive arms race, the obsession for military security and imperial expansion, the events and developments after the end of the Cold War did not fit with its expectations (see: Kegley 1996,6). The challengers of neorealism even questioned its descriptive power by arguing that “somehow the reality falls through the interstices of realist theories” (Draper 1992, 8). Liberal critics of neorealism primarily stress that the theory is not up to date any more because it cannot “account meaningfully for the new issues and cleavages that define today’s global agenda” (Kegley 1996, 6).
Globalisation and modernisation have led to an increased interdependence among the nation states. The growing inter-state trade has created high economic complexities and consequently governments and peoples are affected by what happens elsewhere and, by the actions of their counterparts in other countries.
Furthermore, our world today is confronted with universal problems such as terrorism, climate change or energy scarcity. Due to their global character these difficulties can be better tackled collectively which forces states to subordinate their national interests and to give priority to collective problem resolution. This also implies that military power is not equivalent to political control any more (Masala 2005, 63) which in turn explains why liberals reject the distinction between “high” and “low” politics that is common for neorealists. Whereas the latter are of the opinion that security considerations predominate in international politics, and other policy fields are secondary, liberals rather focus on what neorealists call “low politics” that is to say, economics and social affairs:
Throughout history states have always sought power by means of military force and territorial expansion. Today however, - so the liberal point of view - not the possession of territory and ample natural resources but a highly qualified labour force, access to information and financial capital are the keys to success (see: Jackson/Sorenson 2003,112). According to liberals, for highly industrialised countries “economic development and foreign trade are more adequate and less costly means of achieving prominence and prosperity” (Jackson/Sorenson 2003,112) than military strength. Liberals even highlight that the mutual dependence rather constrains balance of power politics because military interventions initiated by a state could harm its own economy: ”States intertwined by trade investment, and commercial flows are less likely (…) to engage in (…) intense competition (…) or in aggressive behaviour that would make them all vulnerable to war’s economic disruptions” (Paul 2004,10).
Based on these assumptions one can explain why liberals see international politics as a positive or negative sum game, instead of a zero sum game. For them it is rather absolute gains that count and consequently, the mutually dependant states can either win together or lose together.
This also implies a different reasoning why inter-state cooperation takes place: Whereas according to the neorealist view the counterbalancing against a dominant power is regarded as the only motive for states working together, liberals see in the perspective for mutual benefits and in the convergence of interests the engine for collaboration between states: “Liberals do not think that the existence of a hegemonic power is necessary for cooperation; rather, mutual interests can sustain international regimes.” (Zacher/Matthew 1996, 119)
According to Cooper (1972, 179 quoted in: Zacher/Matthew 1996,19) “the growing interdependence of the world economy creates pressures for common policies, and hence for procedures whereby countries discuss and coordinate actions that hitherto were regarded as being of domestic concern exclusively.” This process is not limited to economic issues but also leads to a stronger political integration and to the founding of institutions such as international organisations or regimes. Liberals argue that in comparison to the alliances in balance of power theory institutions are able to overcome or at least to mitigate the anarchy in the international system.
The continuous integration into an international organisation leads to a decrease of sovereignty among the states which “are losing a degree of control over their economies because of economic interdependence” (Zacher/Mathew 1996, 125).
However, liberals emphasise that the delegation of sovereignty to an international institution generates a number of advantages for the states which explains why they accept the reduction of their autonomy: “Institutions help to alleviate collective action problems and help reduce transaction costs, making cooperation possible” (Paul 2004, 10). Hence, the institutionalisation also reduces the degree of uncertainty for nation states, and so they can better assess what their counterparts in the international system intend to do.
This in turn makes it comprehensible why liberals argue in favour of positive sum games as a result of international outcomes instead of zero sum games as is the case with neorealists. According to liberals, absolute gains are on the one hand possible because the mutual dependence reduces the degree of threat posed by other states. On the other hand the opportunity for mutual gains in our world today is connected to the strong economic growth and prosperity: Ikenberry and Deudney (1999,190) point out that “advanced capitalism creates such high prospects for absolute gains that states attempt to mitigate anarchy between themselves so as to avoid the need to pursue relative gains” Complete autonomy of nation states like neorealists often promote it, is - according to liberals - neither possible nor desirable. Morse (1976, 97, quoted in: Zacher/Mathew 1995, 125) writes that “no amount of political will can recreate a world where independence and autonomy can be obtained, except perhaps at costs that no governments are willing to incur because losses in wealth that would accompany increased autonomy would handicap the legitimacy of those governments in the eyes of their citizens.”
By mentioning the citizens Morse highlights another fundamental content of the liberal view of international relations which sharply distinguishes it from the neorealist theory: Liberals accuse neorealists to be one-sided because they consider the sovereign nation states as the main actors in international relations. According to liberals, international relations are not only about government relations; they are also about trans-national relations such as relations between people, groups, and organisations belonging to different countries (see: Jackson/Sorenson 2003, 109). Moreover, liberals blame neorealists for seeing states as a “black box” and for neglecting developments on domestic level which are - according to liberals - equally important for understanding global politics.
Liberals disapprove the neorealist view of states as uniform actors which just differ in regard to the distribution of capabilities. When analysing developments in international relations it is also important for liberals to consider the characteristics of the states, that is to say, if the interacting states have a democratic or a rather dictatorial political system. Since democracies rarely fight one another when satisfied democratic states are in ascendance, they tend to treat other democracies less belligerently than they treat non-democracies” (Paul 2004, 9).
Furthermore, liberals put a strong focus on the role of individuals in international relations. Individuals have independent preferences which they try to channel by forming societal groups. The pooling of interests makes it possible to better promote the interests on governmental level. “Individuals turn to the state to achieve goals that private behaviour is unable to achieve efficiently” (Moravcsik 1997, 518).
Government policy in turn is constrained “by the underlying identities, interests and power of individuals and groups (…) who constantly pressure the central decision makers to pursue policies consistent with their preferences” (Moravcsik 1997, 518). Due to the fact that governments always want to maintain and increase their legitimacy they try to incorporate the societal preferences in their policy formation. Hence, states’ interests are not primarily determined by the distribution of power in international relations but rather by the influence of domestic groups which try to shape the policies of their government in accordance with their interests. Or, as Moravcsik (1997,518) puts it “the state is not an actor but a representative institution constantly subject to capture and recapture, construction and reconstruction by coalitions of social actors”
This explains why according to the liberalist point of view, the main goals of states usually are economic prosperity and welfare.
However, this does not mean that states are always following policies that bring advantages for the entire society. They rather try to focus on the interests of the most influential domestic groups. No government rests on universal or unbiased political representation; every government represents “some segment of domestic society” (Moravcsik 1992, 9) on the basis of whose interests state officials define state preferences and act purposively in world politics. Hence, some individuals and groups are always more fully represented than others. In an extreme hypothetical case, representation might empower a narrow bureaucratic class or even a single tyrannical individual. (see: Moravcsik 1997,518).
What results from all these explanations is that liberals do not consider the sovereign states as the central actors in international relations, but individuals who shape the governments’ actions instead.
3.3 The Balance of Power Theory in the twenty-first century
To summarise the last chapter, liberals consider neorealim as obsolete because it cannot explain the “new” challenges and developments that characterise the twenty-first century: The impacts of globalisation and interdependence are negated by balance of power theorists, and due to their strong focussing on nation states the crucial role of societal actors for international politics is highly underestimated. Neorealists do - according to their liberal challengers - not take into account the modernisation-driven shift of state goals from pure power politics to political economy and they ignore the possibility for absolute gains.
Although all these critiques seem plausible and are well reasoned, I use the neorealist balance of power theory and not the liberal theory for assessing India’s Look East Policy. It may be true that also the liberal point of view is traceable and that liberals can at first sight even better account for the developments in international relations of the current century. However, there are several reasons why I nevertheless argue in favour of the balance of power theory.
1 Association of Southeast Asian Nations
2 Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
3 Bharatiya Janata Party, translation: Indian People's Party
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