India’s diplomatic influence rose last year with experts giving high marks to its leaders’ ability to pursue the nation’s interests in Asia and globally, a leading Australian think tank that ranks influencers in the region reported Sunday.
The Lowy Institute’s Asian Power Index2023, which ranked India fourth, said: “India’s Diplomatic Influence rose in 2022, with experts rating it highly for its leaders’ ability to prosecute the country’s national interests both in Asia and on the global stage.”
However, it also said that India “underperforms in relation to its resources” with its influence “concentrated in South Asia” and its possible role in East Asian flashpoints “unclear”.
Looking ahead, the report said: “Its sheer size means the country is almost certainly destined to be a major power behind only the United States and China”, which occupy the top spots on the index, which ranks them as “superpowers”.
“New Delhi’s Diplomatic Influence rose by one ranking in 2022 and is now just behind Japan in fourth place,” the institute said.
“India scores highly in the Future Resources measure, reflecting its likely greater share of economic, military and demographic weight in the decades to come,” the index said.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index, now in its fifth year, evaluates 26 countries and territories for the power they wield in the Indo-Pacific region based on eight factors ranging from military capability and future resources to economic power to cultural influence.
The US received the top rank, followed by China, which, it said, “registered the largest decline in comprehensive power of any country in the Asia Power Index 2023” as a result of its “tough zero-Covid policies that sharply curtailed its global and regional connectivity”.
China’s “core economic strength and ability to use the economy to geopolitical advantage”, it said, “is at its lowest level since 2018, with the United States again leading on this measure”.
On the other hand, Beijing “emerges more militarily capable than ever”, it said.
“The United States maintains an enduring advantage as the most powerful country in Asia and widened its lead slightly over China for a second year,” the Lowy Institute said.
Russia followed India on the index at the fifth spot, but “risks growing irrelevance” due to “Moscow’s loss of reputation and its strategic preoccupation with the invasion of Ukraine” and the war’s heavy impact on its military-industrial capacity which will affect its defence equipment trade, the report said.
Pakistan ranks 15 on the Index, Bangladesh 19, Sri Lanka 21, and Nepal 25.
India’s influence is “weighted towards security ties”, the index said, while also asserting that “India makes an uneven strategic contribution to the regional balance”.
“Its interests in balancing China overlap with those of Washington, including through the Quad partnership with Australia and Japan”, while also noting that “as for India, Japan’s contribution to a collective balancing strategy in response to China’s rise may be less than the United States hopes”.
A significant drawback cited by the report is in India’s economic relations with others in the region that “hamper its influence”, with it ranking ninth in that segment “in part due to its absence from the region’s major free trade deals”, it said.
India stayed away from the ten-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement that came into force last year.
The index also cited what it asserted was India’s “displacement by the United States and China as a top investor and trade partner for several South Asian neighbours in recent years”.
It noted that the US displaced “India as a top investor in two South Asian economies: Bangladesh and Nepal”.
In what seemed a contradiction to India’s overall diplomatic influence, the institute also reported that its “diplomatic service continues to receive low marks from the Index survey of experts, ranking tenth in the region” for that criterion.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @arulouis)