"Best Theory of IR"
Monica Verma Theory of International Relations Essay II: Which theory/theories of International Relations do I like the most to understand International Relations? In my opinion, Morgenthau‟s theory of Realism explains international relations as precisely as no other theory does. In an anarchic international system, states resort to self-help in order to ensure their survival. They undertake struggle for power and coherently as single units pursue their own interests. Conflicts are an essential feature of the theory of realism and nations fight wars to gain power, maintain status quo or as an assertion of their power. This explanation of international relations is quite convincing and has been successfully able to explain important events like the two world wars but in an increasingly interdependent world, use of force has become costlier than benefits of cooperation and the notion of relative gain has given way to the notion of absolute gain. Thus when we look at decrease in use of force, multiple channels of contacts especially undermining of nation-state as the only principle actor (realist paradigm) and rise of transgovernmental and transnational actors and issues of security receiving less precedence over issues such as economic issues, theory of realism proves inadequate to explain certain aspects of international relations. Now when the countries of the world are complexly interdependent then use of realism alone, as an extreme cannot explain international relations as countries may even come on the verge of a conflict but conflict is often resolved by other means than war. As Keohane and Nye argue in their book, „Power and Interdependence‟, that if realism is one extreme, so is complex interdependence and most situations would fall in between them. A pertinent case in point is relations between China and India especially in the last decade. These theories may offer contradictory explanations but relations between India and China are marked by such contradictions only. There are areas where the theory of realism is applicable and aptly explains the conflicting issues between them, where as areas where these two nations are interdependent show great signs of cooperation. If we observe relations between the two countries in the past decade, we can clearly identify the areas where they cooperate and areas where they confront each other. Thus while in case of environment, trade and economic regimes cooperation can be seen between them, on the other hand these nations confirm to a typical realist setting as far as power politics are concerned. China and India are two powerful neighbors. While China grew at an average of 8% in the last decade, India is fast catching up at 9% or so 1. Both face competition from each other as far as FDI and energy resources are concerned. This competition translates into rivalry when both actually have an option to 1 According to data published by CEIC. cooperate too to decide the rules of the game.2 As realism dictates, that in an anarchic world these two nations cannot be certain of each other‟s motives, so prudence guides them to compete for resources alone rather than cooperate and lose because of a cheating partner. As far as power politics are concerned, China is wary of growing Indian power, it views any increase in India‟s power at the cost of its own. On his recent visit to India in the same year when leaders from other P-5 states visited India and supported India‟s bid for UNSC strongly, China‟s Wen Jiabao remained non- committal3 signaling that China would prefer a relative gain than an absolute one.4Territorial dispute between them is still unresolved. While China resolved its border dispute with Russia amicably, in case of India it does not want to be seen as conceding too much to a rising power and a prospective challenge, especially when a long disputed border suits its interest more than a settled one5. With an increase in its power, China has become aggressive and assertive on this front as one can read from its development projects in disputed areas, infrastructure projects in PoK (Disputed between India and Pakistan) and policy of issuing 2 Both the nations agreed to collectively leverage with energy suppliers to ‘be a price maker than a taker’ but rather than going for an open and fair regime, prudence dictated them to seek resources on their own. For more refer: http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/dec2010/gb20101215_795065.htm 3 In comparison to heads of other states who visited India the same year, Wen Jiabao made a routine statement of sorts with regards to role of developing countries in UN. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-12-17/india/28240380_1_unsc-role-in-world-affairs-wen- jiabao 4 India as a permanent member may help China and other P-5 nations to uphold multipolar world order against US’s tendency to go alone but instead of this absolute gain, China not sure of India in a realist world is content with its own relative gain over India. 5 If Sino-Indian border dispute gets resolved than India would deploy military on India-Pak border, which would not be a welcome change for China’s ally Pakistan. http://www.apcss.org/Publications/SAS/AsiaBilateralRelations/India-ChinaRelationsMalik.pdf stapled visas to Indians from disputed territories6. China and India lack confidence in each other for now to resolve border dispute- joint communiqué issued at the end of Wen‟s visit in 2010 barely mentioned it. In addition to competing for resources and indirectly for power, they also have gone about building influences in each other‟s strategic backyard. China‟s strings of pearls strategy vs India‟s Look East policy mark past few years. 7 As a final conclusion to realism in their attitude towards each other, it would be correct to point out strategic defence buildup in both the countries aimed at each other, which makes discounting of a possibility of an armed conflict between the two in future possible.8 In complete contrast to their rivalry in areas of strategic power, disputed territories and areas of influence lies their cooperation with each other in case of environment, trade and reform of international economic regimes. Both nations are each other‟s biggest trade partners with China replacing US as India‟s biggest trade partner in the world and India emerging as China‟s biggest trade partner in South Asia.9 Although the balance of payments is heavily skewed in 6 For facts on how incursions on Indian territory have increased in the past refer: http://www.sunday- guardian.com/analysis/let-facts-speak-for-themselves-on-india-china-border 7 China is building its influence in areas that extend from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the Arabian Gulf- Its String of pearls strategy is seen as a move to encircle India (http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2009/07/28/india-encircled-by-chinas-string-of- pearls/) while India’s Look East Policy is aimed at building spheres of influence in East and South East Asia as a way to counter China (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/harsh-v-pant-indias-look- east-policy-gathers-momentum/426638/). 8 As China finds India increasingly becoming powerful, out of nervousness it may attack India as a defence specialist in India predicts: http://news.rediff.com/slide-show/2009/jul/11/slide-show-1-why-china-may- attack-india.htm 9 China became India’s largest trading partner in 2008.For more: http://www.ipcs.org/pdf_file/issue/IB153-Ghoshal-IndiaChina.pdf favour of China but for India, importing from China is much beneficial then importing from elsewhere.10 Similarly both consciously try to discourage their respective media from reporting news of prospective conflicts and military exercises of the two fearing cooperation on economic issues may take a toll.11 Even if either of the nations look to set agenda in terms of realism, increased interdependence on each other and due to pressure by transnational and transgovernmental actors, both are compelled to cooperate with each other12. China thus inspite of being more powerful of the two cannot set the agenda alone with its manufacturing dominated economy needing Indian market all the more. China found itself being supported a great deal by India at the Copenhagen Climate Summit when West tried to „ambush‟ China, world‟s worst emitter of green house gases.13 China and India are active partners in groupings like - BRICS & BASIC where they along with other emerging powers look to influence current agenda of world bodies like IMF in their favour.14 These are the areas where relations between them confirm to politics between two complexly interdependent countries. 10 China’s cost of production comes much lower than in US: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_49/b3911401.htm 11 For example recently Manmohan slammed Indian and Chinese media for being ‘unnecessarily high- pitched ’: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2552809.ece 12 To name a few: Tata Steel to increase investment in China by 5% in 2012 Chinese Firm TBEA planning Rs. 500 Crores FDI in Gujarat 13 Then Indian Environment Minister pointed out how India bailed out China at Copenhagen.http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_india-bailed-out-china-from-us-eu-ambush-at- copenhagen-jairam-ramesh_1380945 14 In April this year, BRICS nation in principle agreed to reform IMF and World Bank. For more: http://rt.com/politics/brics-summit-imf-reform/ Thus it would be apt to say that China and India fit a realist model in areas where their interests are at loggerheads while the areas where their interests are mutual, one can see politics of complex interdependence playing out. References Morgenthau H. (1948), Politics Among Nations. The Struggle for Power and Peace, New York, Knopf, 1985, 6th edition, (first edition 1948) Keohane, Robert and Nye, Joseph (1977), Power and Interdependence, New York, Longman, 2000, 3rd edition. Chakravarty, Pratap (2010), “India-China border tensions belie warm words”,[online:web] URL:http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g0hqvd91bv6 qhrRIogdcpKx_mGLA?docId=CNG.f9f35e312275753acb9bd147d6582f48. 1f1