‘Rising’ India still reluctant to lead: analysts

NEW DELHI, July 24, 2011 (AFP) – A US challenge to India to take a more assertive role on the global stage runs counter to a decades-old foreign policy that has nearly always valued diplomatic caution over strategic ambition. Since independence in 1947, India has sporadically flexed its diplomatic, economic and military muscles, but such instances have been largely restricted to its immediate neighbours.

During her visit here last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was time for India to wield its growing economic and political clout further outside its borders and help “shape the future” of the Asia region and beyond.

“This is not a time when any of us can afford to look inward at the expense of looking outward,” Clinton said. “This is a time to lead.”

While there is suspicion of what is widely seen as a US strategic imperative for India to become a counter-weight to China, many experts agree the time has come for the world’s largest democracy to make its voice heard more forcefully.

This is especially true, they argue, if India wants to prove its credentials for securing a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. “The 1991 economic reforms and the 1998 nuclear tests transformed India’s p