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Arzan Tarapore @arzandc

Author: Arzan Tarapore
Publication: Threadreaderapp.com
Date: March 4, 2021
URL:    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1367428101509029892.html?s=03

A famous @TIME cover story in 1989 declared India was "determinedly transforming itself into a regional superpower." Some really interesting nuggets on how the west saw India's rise then. A lot has changed. A lot hasn't. (1/n)

This was written in the midst of Sundarji-era capability improvements. The trend-lines looked impressive: Army expansion, new Navy port, nuclear program, & world's biggest arms importer.

And this was *before* the mania of the post-liberalization econ boom. (2/n)
At least as noteworthy, India in the 1980s had a very active military. In the article's recent past, Indian forces had seized Siachen, faced off vs China at Sumdorong Chu, muscled its way into Sri Lanka, and swiftly intervened in Maldives. (3/n)
Most analysts agreed, "India has pulled well ahead of its archfoe [Pakistan]."

In fact, it looked like it had slid into its new role as "regional policeman."

The US welcomed this. Reagan called the Maldives intervention a "valuable contribution." (4/n)
Interestingly, despite India's own threat perceptions, this article asserts China presented no real threat.

[Remember, this is April 1989, months before Tiananmen, when an erstwhile democracy movement was bubbling in Beijing.]

So even China wont stand in India's way. (5/n)

So the key Q was, "What does India intend to do with all that power?"

Despite some remarkable defence coop'n w/US (engines avionics, other help for the fledgling... LCA program!), it remained deeply tied to Soviet military support.

Its strategic intentions were unclear. (6/n)
More specifically, would a more muscular India pose a threat in the Indian Ocean?

"India's growing military machine, meanwhile, has gained the uneasy attention of its neighbors along the rim of the Indian Ocean, like Australia and Indonesia." (7/n)

The article gives the last word to Steve Cohen: "an India that is a regional bully threatening China or Pakistan would not be in American interests."

So, yeah, some things do change - a lot.

Link to full text: content.time.com/time/subscribe… (8/8)

To be clear (since apparently I wasn’t), Cohen wasn’t castigating India. He also said India could be a welcome stabilizing force. The point is not that he was arguing one way or the other, but that there was great uncertainty about India's trajectory. Full quote here: (9/9)    



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