India: More than a Market

World leaders who have recently visited India may have been here on behalf of contract-driven diplomacy, but only India can truly determine how its message is heard on the world stage

01 January 2011
President Sarkozy with PM Singh on his recent visit to India.

OVER THE LAST SIX MONTHS, some of the most powerful leaders in the world have paid official visits to India. Most of them came primarily to sign contracts, especially those from Western countries facing economic crises. Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy claimed that they sold respectively 15 billion dollars and 15 billion euros worth of civil and military equipment to India. The former immediately converted his figure into jobs, declaring that these contracts represented 50,000 American jobs.

India, with an annual seven percent growth rate over the past ten years, has become one of the world’s most dynamic economies, second only to China among emerging countries. It needs to build infrastructure in transportation, communication and energy—and the West is more than happy to not only sell the needed equipment, but also to transfer the technology when India asks for it.

This contract-driven diplomacy results in new attitudes among Western visitors. First, it exacerbates competition between them. This is especially problematic for the Europeans who are supposed to be part of a ‘Union.’ The Indians will find it more and more difficult to look at the EU as a political entity if member leaders continue to come, one after another, to sell their industrial products—something they can use to bring prices down. Second, this competition for markets leads many Western visitors to indulge in a new form of Pakistan-bashing. David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy described India’s neighbour as a crucible of terrorism while on Indian soil, something unimaginable before.

Christophe Jafferlot  is a Contributing Editor at The Caravan. He has authored several books including The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics and Sangh Parivar.

Keywords: china India Pakistan Manmohan Singh France USA Christophe Jaffrelot Obama EU Russia diplomacy Wen Jiabo Nicolas Sarkozy Medvedev UN Security Council Afghan Policy