On 5th March 2021, the Takshashila Institution hosted Mohamed Zeeshan to discuss his new book, Flying Blind: India’s Quest for Global Leadership. He is a policy analyst and Editor-in-Chief of Freedom Gazette, a policy advocate site based in India.
Gaurav Jabulee anchored the event, Asia Legal Director at Texas Instruments, and the panellists included Ruturaj Gowaikar, Narayan Kannan and Deepali Dewan, alumni from Takshashila. The discussion starts with Zeeshan talking about his book. He mentioned that India’s influence is not on par with its size. Answering the question as to how India can build more influence on the global stage, he said India must influence international interest groups, build up its bilateral bargaining power, have a coherent grand strategy and resolve the fundamental debate about what its foreign policy stands for to become an important political player in the world. He also says that India must be actively involved with regions like the Middle East to strengthen partnership with big powers like the US.
The discussion steers towards the relationship between India and the UNSC. Zeeshan emphasises that the UN veto is an important bargaining chip and that if India wants to hold a permanent seat one day, it needs support from other countries. He says India must be actively engaged in these countries to achieve this, so they must build alliances inside and outside the security council.
Upon being asked the question on whether India has the institutional capacity to help other countries, Zeeshan gives the example of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) which has been giving advice to other countries on institution building. He continues to say that India must build international development platforms that are more inclusive and take lessons from other countries, as well as with sharing lessons with them. This will make India a developing partner.
The conversation continues and Zeeshan stresses that India cannot achieve much internationally if their own neighbourhood becomes a liability. He asserts that India’s size and its geographic position is what makes other countries suspicious of them, so building trust is crucial to bridge the gaps.
Finally, as the discussion comes to an end, Zeeshan reiterates the fact that India must avoid behaving in an ad-hoc manner and take stands on important and sensitive international issues, where they can play a key role.
A link to the recorded session can be found below: