Following is the response to James Carafano’s review of my book that I have posted at http://nationalinterest.org/feature/indias-machiavellian-moment-14691?page=show.
Bharat Karnad •
Dr. Carafano has been generous in his review of my book, and I thank him for it. His main disagreement is about whether India is too big and consequential in the 21st Century effectively to play the US off against China, as it did during the Cold War when the country was admittedly “peripheral” to the interests of both the US and the Soviet Union and could, therefore, gain from the competing attentions of both, i.e., afford to play the nonaligned card. However, the implicit premise of the book in the Machiavellian context is precisely that China and Russia are too big, too powerful, and too proximal to India for New Delhi to alienate both by joining the American-led Western “club” even if this fetches it many “benefits” of a “real strategic relationship”with the US.
Per Machiavelli, a Prince primarily needs two things: military prowess (hard power) and what he calls luck or “fortune” (what I call the software of hard power), to improve his rank order and, by way of strategy, differentiated treatment of nobles at the Court . In this paradigm, if the prince is substituted by nation-state, Court by the extant global order, and nobles by the current great powers — the five Security Council members, India as an aspiring great power would best enhance its “fortune” by creating for itself both the space for maneuver and the latitude for action with deft foreign and military policies based on contingent cooperation with the extant big powers and by playing the balancer, taking care to see it is always on the right side of the changing “correlation of forces”. Indeed, it is India’s bigness and potential heft and its capacity to tilt the “correlation” this way or that as between the US and China, the US and China+Russia, and at the regional level between Iran and Israel, etc, that makes India “ïndispensable” to the global and regional balance of power systems as well as the international economy, and an entity none of the big powers or regional powers can ignore. It is this situation that provides India with opportunities. To capitalize on them, however, requires, as I argue in the book, that India arm itself with a sense of its own worth and a grand strategic vision, pursue agile Asia-girdling geopolitics and an elastic and calculative strategy and game-plan, acquire meaningful conventional and thermonuclear military capabilities able to blunt the major China threat and, hence, neutralize minor regional adversaries (such as Pakistan), and become genuinely self-sufficient in arms.
In the event, for India to side wholly with the US as Dr. Carafano counsels, could lose the country its “strategic autonomy” and curtail its strategic policy options. Whatever else it might do, it will not help India become a great power.