India is entering a moment of extraordinary opportunities that will enhance its global standing and improve its diplomatic and geopolitical links, foreign policy expert Kishore Mahbubani said Tuesday.
"Since we cannot tell the future, we can never tell how long this moment will last. Hence, India should seize this moment while it can," said Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
Delivering the K. Subrahmanyam memorial lecture for 2014 at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) here, he said several powers including the US, Japan and Russia were concerned about the rise of China.
"As a result, these countries are looking for countries to balance China. As they look around China's neighbourhood, several have come to the conclusion that India is the best candidate to provide such a balance. This is why, for example, both the US and Japan have begun courting India," he said.
The India-US nuclear deal was a geopolitical gift America gave to draw India to its side, he said.
He said India should respond to this new courtship by being "cunning".
"It should welcome the courtship and take advantage of all the offers that come. Hence, it should welcome Japan's proposals for closer trade and investment links. Similarly, it should welcome a trade agreement with the US, although this is unlikely to surface soon.
"However, even while it accepts all these offers, India should not allow any of these great powers to assume that they can take India for granted. The best way for India to demonstrate this is to develop equally close relations with China, especially on the trade and economic front," he said.
He said India should use this opportunity of great courtship by the powers to push its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
"No great power wants to say no to India at this moment. However, India cannot get in alone. India's entry will have to be part of a package deal that also adds a permanent seat for Africa and Latin America. These two regional groups will block reform if they are not included. Hence, India should reconsider its policy of working with the G4 group (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan)," he said.
India could be as cunning in its policy towards Pakistan as China has been in its policy towards Taiwan.
Since India has a lot of "soft power" to deploy, especially through Bollywood, it can use it to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Pakistanis even if and when it has difficulties with the Pakistani government, he added.