Huntington’s choice for India

29 Jan, 1998    ·   56

Dr. Giri Deshingkar feels that Dr Samuel P.Huntington's choice for India is specious. India and China have co-existed for 3,000 years and will continue to do so and India's isolation suits it fine

Indians have a weakness for Westerners-any kind-management gurus, economists, and diplomats, giving their opinions on what Indians should do. And Westerns oblige by doing precisely that when they are lecturing in India . The latest is Professor Samuel P. Huntington, who holds several important positions in Harvard University .



Huntington ’s thesis was put forward in his Clash of Civilizations and the Remarking of World Order. It has been critically commented upon ever since it was published as a book in 1996, and before that when it appeared as an article in Foreign Affairs. The Indian media has focussed on his recent advice to India that, as a civilization with no cultural affinities with others, it should buy protection against a "possible" future clash of civilizations with China allying itself with the United States . The assumption on which Huntington ’s sage advice is based is that China will emerge as a hegemonic power in Asia . India will simply have to accept Chinese leadership when it makes its Asian cultural assertion vis-à-vis the US-led Western assertion in Asia . Huntington ’s scheme foresees no clash between the Indian and US-led Western civilizations.



Large ideas and large assumptions. They are entertaining as abstractions to be manipulated as word play. But when it comes to policy-making, even Huntington has to descend from the abstract level of civilizations to the concrete level of nation-states. So, he speaks of "core states" representing civilizations. At this level, he will find few takers for his ideas. Is the US the core state of the Western civilization? Or is it the emerging European Union? The two entities show serious disagreements with states in the Islamic civilizational area and China . Closer home, what would be the constellation of circumstances that will persuade Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka to accept India as the core state of the Indic/Indian civilization?



Surprisingly, Huntington uncritically accepts the " China threats" scenario presented in the US media. This is something that has yet to find acceptance in US academic circles. For someone dealing with the concept of civilizations, Huntington presumes much too easily that China is, and will be, like any other European state, i.e. it would be competing for leadership, exercising hegemony, and using military force against others in its civilization area to assert its hegemony and leadership. This is not Cold War thinking: It goes right back to the 16th and 17th century Europe . Clearly Huntington still believes in a world of grand alliances positioning themselves on the world chessboard. Hence his advice to India to join the US in an alliance against China .



Non-aligned neutrality, Huntington says, will add to India ’s loneliness. But civilizations, by definition, are lonely, unique, isolationist entities. They are self-contained and interact with others only on their own terms. Throughout its history, China has been self-isolationist, and it still shows extreme reluctance to join alliances. India ’s non-alignment has been given a political interpretation, but there is a strong sub-stratum of civilizational/cultural preference in it. It is only in the case of the Semitic civilizations that the proselytizing streak in them, which erupts from time to time, made them engage in civilization conflicts to impose an order on the rest of the world.



No, Professor Huntington, India will be comfortable with its loneliness. Its two hundred years of proximity with the West was not particularly rewarding. In contrast, the Indian and Chinese civilizations have coexisted for two thousand years with only rewarding contacts. The thirty years of tensions between them cannot be called a clash of civilizations. Contrary to the view accepted by some in India that India and China are competing for the leadership of Asia , each has its own definition of Asia where the other exists only on its periphery, and a comfortably distant periphery at that. No danger of subordination therefore, and even less danger of a civilization clash.