On November 7, 2018, South Asia specialist and British diplomat Ambassador Alexander Evans gave a talk at The Fletcher School on the topics of India and great power politics in Eurasia. This interview was conducted by Lukas Bundonis and Laura Handly, Web Staff Editors with The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.
FF: Could you tell us about the current great power politics in Eurasia and the key points of tension we’re seeing?
AE: In terms of Asian geopolitics, I think the key factor at the moment is uncertainty. We’ve moved from an extremely predictable 20th century framework based on the Cold War that was superimposed on Asia, into a post-Cold War period where it looked like we might see a new framework based on norms and rules derived from a lack of nationalism and a lack of disputes.
Perhaps, as we hit the tail end of the 20th century, this new framework has given way to a new realism about the way in which the world operates. That doesn’t mean we’re back to nationalism and conflict and war, but it means that we’re back to diplomacy and hedging and uncertainty. This is happening across Asia not just between the big states, but also with the smaller states in the continent. In fact, you can often see it more visibly when you’re sitting in a small state rather than a big state.
FF: Both the United States and Russia have significant economic ties to India. How well is India navigating the competition between these two forces, and how could it better leverage its position?
AE: India is a remarkably successful diplomatic actor, and I think one example of that is the way it has managed to combine much improved relations with the United States since the 1990s while still maintaining good relations with Russia. There are times when that comes into sharp relief. For example, how is India going to respond to a situation like Syria or a situation like Crimea? But I think for India, Russia is an important part of the Asian geopolitical space. India is always attentive to what Russia and China are doing together, and it doesn’t want to see Russia and China move far closer together because to a certain extent, India fears that if this happens, it might be at India’s expense. Despite these concerns, I do think India navigates these relationships well. You see that diplomatic practice also in evidence in the Middle East, where India enjoys good relations with Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. That’s quite an impressive achievement.
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