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“Outside In” India: Changing Dynamics in Asia

Marshall M. Bouton (L) and Aisha De Sequeira (R) in Mumbai on September 11, 2014. (Asia Society India Centre)
by Antaraa Vasudev
12 September 2014

MUMBAI, September 11, 2014 -- At Mumbai’s Nehru Centre, Marshall M. Bouton, Interim Director of the Asia Society Policy Institute, and Aisha De Sequeira, Co-Country Head and Head of Investment Banking Division, Morgan Stanley India, discussed India’s position, roles, objectives and concerns amid a rapidly changing Asia.

The programme began with brief comments by Marshall M. Bouton about changing political and economic dynamics around the world. He sees a rising Asia as the greatest driver of change in the international system, with regional politics replacing global economics as the dominant regulator of our time. As we move to a multi-polar world, with nationalism on the rise, there is potential for a major power conflict in Asia for the first time since the end of the Second World War. How nations respond to this changing landscape will determine whether or not we have peace. How to deal with an increasingly powerful and assertive China, whether or not to accept Japan’s economic and military embraces, whether or not to become a maritime power and expand its reach in the oceans and how to engage with the United States are among some of the questions facing India. According to Bouton, in India, ‘Look East’ has to be not just a diplomatic policy but also a “way of mind”.

In the discussion that followed, Aisha De Sequeira spoke of how India’s youthful population and large emerging workforce means immense potential that is yet to be fulfilled, and reiterated what the new Government has been saying, that a major priority for India, should be to look for ways to attract foreign investment to boost India’s economic growth. Bouton and De Sequeira then discussed what nations India could look to and alliances it could build to this end, focusing on India’s recent closeness to Japan. Both agreed that the reasons for this closeness are primarily geopolitical, with De Sequeira adding that Japan has the “right form of capital to drive the kind of growth that India needs” and that the trust existing between business people in both countries has arisen from years of interaction in the form of investments and partnerships. However, while Japan could be an important political ally and provider of capital, it is not going to be the solution to all of India’s problems. De Sequeira said with abundant liquidity around the world India could attract foreign capital but that improved economic growth and successful projects that are clear for the world to see will be crucial in attracting foreign capital, particularly for India’s Greenfield sites.

The evening ended with questions from an engaged audience, not just on the aforementioned topics but also Asian issues that the two speakers had not had a chance to discuss, such as the situation in Pakistan and how India and China’s policies towards and actions in Burma could play out in the near future.

Reported by Adhiraaj Anand, Intern, Asia Society India Centre

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