Opinions and counter-opinions floated as experts from diverse fields engaged in a discussion on "India's emerging relationship with major powers" at the Black Dog presents Bengal Chamber Think, in association with The Telegraph and Techno India Group and powered by Tower.
"It is a timely initiative, when you have just had the presidential elections in the United States which is arguably our the most important international partner and of course the oldest and most powerful democracy. Then we have just completed the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China… the fifth leadership transition there and it's also the second largest economy in the world and also our largest immediate neighbour," said Ronen Sen, former ambassador to the US, Germany, Russia and Mexico and former high commissioner to the UK.
He was delivering the keynote address at the Palladian Lounge event on Friday evening.
Among the other members were US consul-general Dean Thompson, MP Saugata Roy, Lt Gen. (retd) John Ranjan Mukherjee and former foreign secretary K. Srinivasan. Rudrangshu Mukherjee of The Telegraph moderated the discussion.
Roy, second to speak after Sen, felt that if India aspired to be a global power by 2020 or 2025, it should start thinking more seriously about building its own block. "The Brics ' Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa ' would be a viable alternative."
He reiterated his party Trinamul's stand against FDI in multi-brand retail, referring to the Indo-US nuclear treaty in an attempt to back his point.
"How many American-aided nuclear plants have started working (in India) since then (the signing of the pact). Now we are trying to open FDI in retail in the hope that Walmart may salvage us.... Walmart sources 80 per cent of its products from China. So how does it really improve our situation?" the former junior urban development minister at the Centre asked.
Roy also asked how much American investments "in real solid terms" have come to our country. The old diplomatic niceties are no longer relevant where "international relations are in omnishambles," he asserted.
Is India riding piggyback too much on the United States to gain a so-called super power status, the moderator floated the question before requesting Thompson to speak.
"The people-to-people relationship between India and the United States is enormous. 100,000 Indian students (are) studying in the US…. Next I think is the business to business level. The economic relationship between the two countries has been growing significantly over the last five to 10 years in particular," said the consul-general.
Thompson quoted Barrack Obama: "The US and India is going to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."
Lt Gen. (retd) Mukherjee, however, highlighted the element of "distrust" in bilateral relationship as Americans have "let Indians down" too many times. "Even in the last aircraft deal they were giving us substandard technology, so finally we went to France."
When his turn came, former foreign secretary Srinivasan chose to negate Roy's optimism about the possibility of India emerging as a world power.
"If I look into the future I am sorry I am going to disappoint many of our audience here. I don't see India as a major power. I don't see India as a superpower or a great power. I see India certainly as a regional influence. I see India as an important voice in the international community but I think we have exceeded our aspirations if we think of ourselves in the major league by let's say 2020 or 2025."