The South Asia Programme at RSIS and the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore, jointly held a workshop titled “India – Rising Power in an Age of Uncertainty” from 28 February to 1 March 2019. The day-and-a-half-long event brought together about twenty cross-disciplinary experts from India and Singapore. Participants examined India’s external challenges and internal capabilities, and assessed whether the state – a rising power – can cope in an environment of strategic uncertainty.
The speakers tackled India’s challenges on two fronts: the shifts in the international system from a post-Cold war consensus, as well as India’s struggles with building internal capacities. The presentations focused on these interconnected issues and the efforts by policymakers to meet such challenges. Discussions on the first day were led by RSIS and focused on India’s trajectories vis-à-vis its foreign, defence, and security policies. The panels debated the contours of India’s national security strategy, its relations with key strategic partners like the US, and adversaries Pakistan and China in addition to the regional outlook from its own neighbourhood, South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The state’s military capacity, foreign aid, and investment policies were some other critical issues that featured in these deliberations. The second day of the workshop focused on the barriers to India’s development that impact its emergence as a global power. Speakers analysed this domestic dimension and how the Indian state could overcome these challenges by investigating the present status of India’s democratic institutions, its societal cohesion, and economic reforms.
The RSIS-ISAS joint workshop aimed to present a coherent picture of India’s place in the new international order. Participants were in agreement that the most pressing problem the Indian state faced was building internal capabilities to power its external rise. At the same time, they expressed cautious optimism on its future.