This is the dawning of the ‘Age of India’



Hardly a breath passes in today’s busy world without the mention of India. It is as if that emerging power’s presence reaches in all directions, demanding a voice in every significant global conversation. Indeed, some have argued that the “Age of India” is upon us.

At the very least, the 21st century will witness New Delhi’s continued rise as one of the principal centers of influence. As such, the community of nations should extend to India more of the benefits that its status warrants, including permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council.

Now, I am not bringing this up simply because British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made it an issue during his visit to India recently, although I was pleased to hear his comments. Both Brown and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for India to have a permanent seat, largely because of the country’s growing economic clout.

It is time.

I have long believed that the thinking behind the current U.N. Security Council configuration was appropriate for its moment in history, that is, the period following World War II. In the interim, however, several additional nations have climbed to prominence. The old order should change, even though that could dilute the power of the permanent five: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

In considering candidates, India is a logical one, as are Japan, Brazil, Germany, Nigeria, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Egypt and perhaps others. One appealing proposal would increase the total number of permanent seats to 10, while adding four more revolving positions. In the end, though, an acceptable modification of the U.N. Security Council could happen in several ways.

Brown also discussed the benefits of having New Delhi join an international group — the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force — that combats money laundering and terrorist financing. India’s long experience with political violence, combined with its increasing role in the global economy, offers a compelling reason for its participation.

No longer dominant

Finally, Brown shared words that no doubt resonated with many Indians when he stressed that Britain — the former colonial power in India until 1947 — was no longer the dominant partner in their relationship. Even though some might argue that he was stating the obvious, it was no small gesture to emphasize the new reality. A dose of humility goes a long way in building international ties — a lesson that President George W. Bush once advocated but appears to have essentially forgotten.

“Ours is a strategic partnership of equals. A confident, modern, 21st-century India and a confident, modern, 21st-century Britain,” Brown said.

Such respectful dialogue creates the basis for mutually beneficial, enduring cooperation, whether the coming era is the “Age of India” or an environment where several heavyweights — including the United States, China, Europe and India — share the stage.

X John C. Bersia, who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing for the Orlando Sentinel in 2000, is the special assistant to the president for global perspectives at the University of Central Florida. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.