We came across an excellent article in the Armed Forces
Journal, by Brig Arun Saghal, a retired Armoured Corps officer and
Parama Sinha Palit, his colleague in the USI. They were perhaps the
first to coin the phrase, ‘The Singh Doctrine’ and they explain it
very cogently and we post it below for the benefit of our readers.
In the past we had often showered praise on
India's soft spoken
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. We recall 1991, when he saved
India from financial default as Finance Minister by garnering a $3b
loan from the Paris Club in Bangkok and then came to Singapore to
inform the world that India was open for investment in the power
sector. He then systematically ushered in the dual rate of exchange
for foreign capital, which skeptics like Deepak Nayyar said would
not work. He began liberalisation of the Indian economy for the
second time in India's history. The economy began to look up.
Unfortunately he then went into the opposition in Parliament
as a Rajya Sabha MP, but seldom spoke against the BJP Government's
economic policies because they were a continuation of what he had
begun. He continues on that path today as
India's PM. He had
then contested for Parliament from the
constituency, but had lost and that tells us many things about how
even the elite voters of India vote. A capable Leader was not able
to garner votes as in is honesty he did not woo voters with side
shows or personal promises but only touted his abilities. That in a
caste ridden and lawless
Delhi was a losing combination.
As PM Dr Manmohan Singh has steered the economy to a higher
plane despite the Left parties breathing down his neck. Sonia Gandhi
looks after the political housekeeping and so far the team is
working well and
India's economy is
on a fast growth path and we hope the Left does not derail it.
But the notable praise for the Government must be for its
strategic approach to the world and greater interest in security
affairs. Brig. Sahgal was posted in the Integrated Defence Staff and
spent time in the Pentagon appreciating the system called ‘Net
Assessment’ and has applied his honed skills to expound what he
calls ‘The Singh Doctrine’, which now includes a ‘Defense Framework’
with USA, close cooperation with Singapore
and five other states in operations, the full involvement of India’s Navy's in the
Indian Ocean Region and engagement with Pakistan and China.
India will have an
overseas presence in a military form in an airfield in Tajikistan
and is looking out for long term security interests which are linked
with energy security.
We also learn from the media that Dr. Manmohan Singh was
sounded out for the post of UN Secretary General. If true this would
be a rare honour indeed and even if he does not accept it, he should
inform the nation –– it is a feather in the Nation's and Dr.
Manmohan Singh's cap.
The ‘Singh Doctrine’
By Brigadier Arun Sahgal (Retd.) and Parama Sinha Palit
(Coutesy: The Armed Forces Journal)
Perhaps the most salient development in international
politics in the brief history of the 21st century is the budding
strategic partnership between the
U.S. and India.
America’s ideas about India are, unquestionably, changing. In
Washington, strategists project India as a “strong and independent”
nation representing “a strategic asset” even as Delhi insists that
it is only a “partner” and not a formal ally. In the emerging U.S.
view, the two countries’ interests are no longer at loggerheads.
Indeed, the recent “strategic coordination” being carved out
seems to suit both
and New Delhi’s long-term strategic objectives. Whether one refers
to the recent New Framework for the U.S.–India
Defence Relationship, agreed in June 2005, or the Joint Statement
signed the following month, or the bonhomie of President Bush’s
recent summit in India with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, both the
countries appear to be engaged in the opening courtship of an
increasingly intense relationship.
To say that this kind of partnership is unparalleled in the
history of Indo–U.S. relations is an understatement. While some degree of
cooperation was witnessed even during the Cold War years, we regard
this as a new phase of partnership between the two countries; it’s
the genuine article. This “transformed” relation seems to be in the
larger interest of the
U.S. and fits well
into what the Quadrennial Defense Review report underlines as
“America’s security role in the world” that “provides the basis for
a network of alliances and friendships.”
Our concern is that the two sides may have very different
perspectives about what is driving this relationship. While the
perspectives are routinely articulated both within the official
circles and plethora of American strategic think tanks, the Indian
perspective, on the other hand, is often more nuanced than really
ever clearly articulated. We hope to explain the logic and context
relations from an Indian perspective.
It’s The Economy, Stupid!
The current energy in the relationship flows from a new
awareness of common security and strategic concerns, from both
regional and global perspectives. While these are instrumental in
shaping the strategic partnership, it is really, in our judgment and
in the eyes of many Indians, economic imperatives that will provide
the most crucial, long-term drivers.
With India beginning to play an important role in determining
global economic prospects, the U.S. — and indeed much of the rest of
the world — is eager to seize the opportunity of expanding business
and commercial links with a “lumbering elephant” India. Greater
economic engagement entails a win-win scenario for both nations.
American businessmen anticipate lucrative returns from one of the
largest and fastest-growing markets in the world, while
seeks higher inflows of capital and, just as important, access to
advanced technology and global marketing networks through stronger
commercial links with the U.S.
As promising as this natural economic process is, it is
threatened by political land mines. Much of the optimism regarding a
buoyant Indian economy and its attractiveness to the
international investors depends on
ability to carry out further reforms for enhancing and sustaining
its growth levels. Let us be clear
Indian economic reform is a vital strategic interest for the U.S.
Sustained economic growth is not only a strategic interest
but also the key to what kind of great power
India will become,
how Delhi will view its role in the world. At the moment, among
developing Asian economies, China continues to outperform India.
India believes it needs to emulate the Chinese success for
translating its potential into outcomes. Keeping up with China is,
to an important degree, behind the policy shifts in India. The
Indian political elite has come to a fundamental realization that
the path to India playing a larger strategic role both in Asia and
the world is inextricably linked to sustainable economic development
through reforms and infrastructural development.
Consequently, growth-enhancing policies, capable of putting
India on a
high annual growth trajectory — the slogan is “8 percent plus” — are
essential if India is to lay aside its past strategy of
“nonalignment.” The U.S. needs to play a major role facilitating
economic and technological development, putting into place the kind
of trade and investment policies Washington has adopted vis-a-vis
China, while recognizing the vast strategic differences between
Delhi and Beijing. Such signals are important not only to reinforce
credentials as a leading world economy, but also to impart strong
internal momentum to Indo–U.S.
ties. No American should regard India as a “strategic competitor.”
Optimism And Doubts
This is, at its core, the key tenet of what might be called
the “Singh Doctrine.”
minister is also the father of
economic liberalization. He is not simply at the helm of the state
but is a larger figure in shaping India’s efforts at economic
reforms, and thus exercises a concomitant political influence as an
intrinsic part of India’s emergence on the world stage. By leading
in the direction of jettisoning the socialist model, Singh’s
policies are being looked upon the way in which, leveraging economic
and technology growth, India can realize its desire to be a
reckonable world player.
The key to the success of the Singh Doctrine is sustaining
economic progress while building strategic capabilities. There
remain many contradictions in
economic policy, and whether India can maintain its growth —
particularly if the U.S., in reaction to Chinese policies, moves to
limit the openness of its markets — is an open question.
economic progress in recent years has earned it the distinction of
being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. After
growing by a robust 8.5 percent in 2004, India recorded a growth
rate of almost 7 percent in 2005 and is expected to grow anywhere
between 7.5 to 8 percent in 2006. Recent history suggests that,
apart from China, no other major economy has been able to grow at
such high sustained rates. Indeed, the striking growth rates of
India have shifted
the momentum behind global economic expansion to developing Asia.
While the expansion of global economic activity used to be
determined primarily in the U.S., Europe and Japan, the balance
appears to have shifted decisively toward China and India.
Such a critical shift in the locus of global growth has
significant strategic implications. China’s continuing economic
prowess for more than a decade has already allowed it to
incrementally leverage its economic and trade potential to enhance
its political and strategic importance in Asia and, increasingly,
across the globe. Indeed, Chinese growth is such a key factor in
international politics that even the staunchest allies of the U.S.
in Asia, such as Australia, are unwilling to support policies that
bring their economic interests in conflict with China. The strategic
thrust of the Singh Doctrine and of sustained Indian economic growth
and trade relations in
Asia is to propel
India to a similar position.
The Singh Doctrine is, if nothing else, in synch with
emerging wisdom on
A much-discussed and debated report by Goldman Sachs indicates that
the so-called “BRIC” states — Brazil, Russia, India and China — are
expected to grow to account for GDP reaching about half that of the
six leading world economies — the U.S., France, Germany, Japan,
Italy and Great Britain — by 2025. The report goes on to single out
India as the one BRIC nation that can maintain growth rates above 3
percent until 2050, while the rates of growth in the rest slow down.
The report is indicative of the level of optimism across the
international financial community.
Doubts, however, continue to linger over the country’s
ability to sustain high growth rates in the short to medium term.
The euphoria over the country’s prospects continues to be shrouded
by its underperformance in social and human development. Until
India’s growth rates, as high as they have been, have remained
insufficient to make an appreciable difference in the large poverty
levels in the country. Indeed, it is difficult to envisage India
developing into a mature, capable and dynamic economy unless its
economic growth is able to significantly ameliorate poverty. These
doubts are quite similar to the ones expressed about the
sustainability of the Chinese economic miracle, where success in the
cities of the Pacific coast has yet to be replicated in the
hinterland. A similar failure in this regard is bound to have
repercussions on India’s economic and strategic capacities;
moreover, as a democracy, the government in Delhi cannot be as
cavalier about popular opinion.
Achieving and maintaining a growth rate of 8 percent or more
is a tall order. Although the Indian economy has huge untapped
potential, strategic success depends on radical reforms in key
sectors. Despite progressive removal of controls,
continues to remain inward-looking in some significant activities.
These include restrictive policies for foreign investment in retail
trade; minority foreign equity participation norms in civil
aviation, banking and insurance; rigid labor laws; prevalence of
largely inefficient food and fertilizer subsidies; and lack of a
coherent privatization policy. Infrastructure — a vital necessity
for higher growth — continues to suffer from low investment and poor
regulation in most components. On the other hand, limited public
finances constrain the abilities of the state and central
governments to deploy adequate resources to social and human
The Singh Doctrine will require a big push. The prime
minister exudes optimism about the prospects of economic reforms,
but divergent views within the ruling coalition are often emerging
as roadblocks. While Singh continues to wax eloquent on ushering in
liberal policies in politically sensitive segments of the economy,
opposition to reforms displayed by prominent interest groups such as
the left parties impede the emergence of a clear consensus on
reforms and cast doubt on the establishment’s ability to carry
forward the reform agenda.
Indian Growth And
The Singh Doctrine equates an economically strong
India with a
strategically secure India. The broader vision of security, which
moves beyond military security and encompasses political,
environmental and economic security, presupposes availability of
adequate resources for enhancing commercial, social and human
capabilities. In the eyes of many Indians,
is an outstanding example in this regard. The overall increase in
capabilities — including China’s growing military strength — is the
result of growth-enhancing reforms.
And here the role of the
U.S. is crucial.
While initiating and implementing reforms is, without doubt, a
necessary business for Indian domestic policy-makers, their
decisions alone won’t be sufficient. In a globalized world, Indian
economic reforms are unlikely to yield envisioned benefits without
effective partnerships. Mutual coordination between India and the
U.S. is significant in this regard; economic and strategic
cooperation are inseparable.
India looks forward
to the U.S. for securing greater inflow of foreign direct investment
in critical sectors, achieving technology upgrades and quality
benchmarks, and the best-practice systems of corporate governance.
has a growing domestic market, a well-educated and substantial
English-speaking workforce, mature legal traditions and relative
economic transparency. India is like China in many ways, but unlike
it in many crucial dimensions.
Indeed, over time, economic cooperation promises to be the
key plank in the development of any sustained strategic partnership
India. The faster
India grows, the deeper the partnership will become. From the
economic benefits — on both sides of the equation but most certainly
for India — will come the impetus and rationale for conjuring the
necessary will to make a geopolitical partnership work.
The Challenges In
The trade relationship will have to be strong indeed to
weather the storms on the horizon in the region. Seen from
Delhi, Asia as a
whole is an increasingly complex geopolitical scenario in a marked
state of flux.
American political and strategic commentators often refer to
the 21st century as “the Asian century.” At the same time, the
to be disturbed by the manner in which Asian balance of power is
shaping up. While Asia’s growing economic power may translate into
greater political and economic power, the emergence of a volatile
Asia in the backdrop of growing Chinese political and economic
influence and massive military modernization poses serious concerns
to both Washington
and Delhi. It was perhaps this underlying concern that made the
Indian foreign secretary recently underscore the necessity of
maintaining the balance of power in Asia.
Indian strategists believe that a major realignment of power
Asia is afoot.
Going by the current trends, East Asia remains turbulent. North
Korea continues to simmer with no signs of early resolution of
proliferation crisis. Second, there is a pronounced deterioration in
Sino-Japanese relations among signs of Japanese military revivalism.
On the Korean peninsula, trends appear to be favoring reconciliation
between two estranged parts of the same country. On the crucial
question of the future of Taiwan, incremental integration through
political and economic influence appears to be only a matter of
time, even as China continues to flex its military muscle.
Southeast Asia appears to be increasingly under the economic and political
with growing dependency on trade and investments from mainland
China. With 15 percent to 25 percent of their gross domestic
products dependent upon mainland China, these countries are unlikely
to adopt a path of political or military confrontation, whatever the
Central Asia is marked by growing Chinese influence. The strategic
Russia and China, a
product of the immediate post-Cold War period but revived in recent
years through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has begun to
show results, particularly in regard to energy needs which are a
core concern in Beijing. The politics of oil pipelines, of which the
Kazhakstan-China pipeline is the recent manifestation, are at the
core of the matter in the region.
West Asia remains
in turmoil, evident from the growing Shiite-Sunni divide. This could
accelerate into a major communal confrontation, engulfing almost all
major oil-producing regions. The portents of proliferation which
today remain centered on Iran could extend beyond. There is also the
specter of growing Chinese influence as an alternative choice to
Western interests, particularly in infrastructural development and
military sales. Given the above profile, it is clear that the
balance of power is undoubtedly shifting to China-centric
Asia, in particular East and
Further, there are growing Chinese inroads into South Asia based on
military and defense cooperation, infrastructural projects and bases
in the Indian Ocean in what is often referred to as a “string of
Thus the “rise of
China,” which has
been peaceful until now, appears to worry America policy-makers who
concern about increasing volatility across
Asia. In fact, there is a strong undercurrent that the rise of
coupled with U.S. strategic overstretch on account of continuing
West Asia and
Afghanistan, is increasingly constraining American power and
Asia. Asian analysts see that the
U.S. is being
forced to operate within existing geostrategic constraints, thus
seriously impairing the U.S. capacity to force politico-military
The issue for Indians is whether the developing scenario is
likely to bring about peace and stability in
Asia or simply
create a new set of dependencies. Thus, we worry less about
containment or confrontation with China than creating an environment
where nations can make balanced choices based on their national
interests. And so we think that an economically and militarily
strong India augurs well for preserving the regional balance of
power, and that an Indo-American understanding can play a crucial
role in providing the stability in Asia that we seek. India’s goal
is to realize economic and social growth rather than geopolitical
India has much to
contribute to maintaining a stable balance. Straddling the main sea
lines of communication in the Indian Ocean and located on the flanks
of two important fault zones — that is, East Asia and West-Central
Asia — India can be an important swing player. India is already
following a three-pronged strategy of integrating itself with the
world economy, ensuring political integrity and security of the
country, and last, but not least, attempting to further its
interests in Asia, by leveraging its economic and political power.
It is in this that the true value of Indo-U.S. relations lies and
the essence of propelling India to play a larger strategic role