14 January 2020
By Prof TV Paul
James McGill Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal, Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
Lecture by T.V.Paul
T.V.Paul, a leading scholar of international security, regional security, and South Asia visited NIAS. An interactive session was held in which he spoke extensively about status attached to a country. Why do states seek status? The fact that the intrinsic psychological value of humans, the desire to be recognized by a peer group can be analogous for states to attain status. He analyzed the constraints and opportunities that have led states to achieve the 'status' in the global arena and brought out the fact that smaller countries are also up in the race of status quest. He draws a line in differentiating the concepts of status and power. He shared his research on the subject of 'status in world politics’ with the scholars at the institute.
Prof Paul talks about the existence of a general perception that countries pursue policies purely for security or economic prosperity. There are different indicators for every state fulfilling their status. Developed countries like the US, have established their status based on military, economic power. On the other hand, for a smaller country like Denmark, its assets lie in diplomacy, good governance, gender equality, and quality education. There is a constant pursuit of status among countries that have played an important role in international relations.
He brings in two pivotal points that accorded status to the current power system. One was the creation of the United Nations in 1945 by allied powers after winning World War II. There have been no major global wars since the existence of such institutions except for the cold war. Alternatively, another factor is NPT since 1968, which was a cutoff point for nuclear-weapon states.
Presently, there is a lot of interest in status with rising powers especially China. The means adopted for status accommodation could be through peace or violence; this remains debatable and therefore he defines status as "collective beliefs about a given state ranking on valued attributes such as wealth, coercive capabilities, demographic position, socio-political organizations, diplomatic ties". The underlying fact here is that the great power status is accorded by others and one's status with all attributes will not be a power until and unless it’s a part of any institution. Any state aiming to become global power needs to have elements like economic power, military power, technological power, demographic power, leadership role in institutions, culture and civilizations, state capacity, strategy and diplomacy in its top tier.
In the case of India, he spoke about the challenges to attain the status it has today. The struggle of the Indian regime was concerned with its status, essentially when it rejected the status hierarchy imposed by the great power system during the cold war. India did not have a material base in 1947 and it could have gained more material by joining a western alliance. Indian leadership coming out of its freedom struggle decided that the country needs to seek status to defend the underdeveloped countries on moral claims. Whatever residual status increase India got was because of economic growth and prominence and the demographic dividend. Some of the constraints were eased for India at the end of the cold war and from liberalization. India's participation in international organizations including BRICS, SAARC, G20 has made considerable progress. Every great power was once a great regional player. India always had a difficult part of this, and it has been grappling with many issues with its neighbors especially with Pakistan. The speaker concludes that there is a misunderstanding in the contemporary debate on what is required to be treated with higher status especially whether a certain type of religious nationalism or culture is going to be enough, whether outsiders recognize based on these markers or we need other markers to make India stand out.