Amitav Acharya – The End of American World Order

To the growing spate of books on rising powers and the future of the international order we can add Amitav Acharya’s The End of the American World Order. No other issue has garnered such voluminous interest over the recent in popular and academic literatures as the one of rising powers. What are they? What do they want? What does their rise portend for the global order and the United States? Acharya bravely takes a stab at all these questions (plus more) and comes out of the exercise not with flying colours but having substantively added value to the overarching discourse and discussions that many scholars have tripped up on. 

 The book is structured in five parts – the first section describes the main argument of the book: in that we need not refer to the extant geopolitical conjuncture as a multipolar order but as a multiplex order. Unlike multipolar orders that are characterised by several rising powers whose material capabilities are on the ascent, multiplex world or multiplex order is distinguished by different producers and actors (i.e. nations) that are staging their own shows in conjunction with other states. Unlike the unipolar world that ostensibly shows only one ‘movie’ (that of liberal internationalism) a multiplex order shows several ones. Here, the ‘making and management of the world is more diversified and decentralised with the involvement of emerging powers, states, global and regional bodies, and transnational non-state actors.’ What Acharya desires to depict is a fluid, polycentric world that is driven by multiple and cross-cutting forces that impinge on nations in unique ways. Convergence is meaningless to talk about. Despite the multiplicity of shows and actors, the underpinning edifice is, however, one and one that is shared by all actors – American power undergirds and sustains this infrastructure. Acharya’s visualisation is novel and rather refreshing. But it glosses over one critical element – other powers or actors maybe staging their own shows within the structure but they are highly dependent on the main show (i.e. US which Acharya admits) that underwrites the structure but they are also borrowing large parts of the main show in Acharya’s lexicon and still opt to exist in the main theatre as a cog and choose to exit and re-enter when it suits them best. Acharya’s argument also clearly distinguishes between the decline of the United States and the decline of the American world order. Rightfully, he points that the latter which is happening cannot be equated with the former, which other pundits and commentators have chosen to do. 
 

 
The second and third chapters focus on the United States and its fleeting unipolar moment. The decline of the AWO (American world order), Acharya argues, stems from not a misguided sense of isolationism but militant ‘adventurism’ captured by George Bush’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the attendant costs and implications to America’s power. By wading through the arguments, Acharya punctures the notion that unipolarity, as come claim, leads to stability and an international order that functions effectively. Disorder emanates out of reckless policies that has diminished the differences between the United States and other rising powers, who two decades ago paled in comparison when it came to hard and soft power.

Next, Acharya goes to effectively elucidate the myths of liberal hegemony or those that advocate for a rules-based international order underpinned by American power (a la Ikenberry). Superbly, Acharya knocks down the purported merits of the liberal international order that US has stewarded since the end of the war. To be clear, the order did not include all countries even after it was established. Several critical countries – China, India, Soviet Bloc, parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia were not constituent elements of the order. And all these countries, some more than others, worked to resist the edicts of the order that was instituted without the consent of the many. It was more coercive that consent based and it did not benefit many of these reluctant states for a long time. Critically, the American stamp or imprint that is widely projected wilfully ignores the agency and leadership of several emerging powers like India and other Latin American countries who worked to advance and solidify important norms and institutions in the 1940s and 50s. It was not an all-American affair as many Americans like to believe.  

 
The next chapter considers rising powers in some depth. Quite astutely, Acharya captures the maelstrom surrounding the rising power lexicon. There is great obfuscation surrounding rising power conceptions, very existence and their interests and intentions. Conceptual clarification is greatly lacking. As Acharya argues, there is a clear and conspicuous ‘accounting gap’ between the aspirations and capabilities of these emerging powers and the benefits and burdens they impose on the existing order. Empirically, there is not much work on measuring the intentions, perceptions and capacities of rising powers as they engage with the order. These variables could tilt their behaviour – either drive them to work with international institutions or outside them or a strategy that features both as per the issue. Despite their vaunted status in the current architecture, these powers are not in a state to assume any sort of leadership positions or drive collective action coalitions on problems that emerge. And the forums where emerging powers have been, at least on the face of it, a leading presence like the G-20 has not amounted for much. The wide grouping is now in a flailing state and without a raison d’être to guide its path in the choppy waters of international politics. Should it be a crisis manager or function more like a convenor? What issues should it cover going ahead? These are questions that will, no doubt, recur as emerging powers gain more stake within the international order. 
 
What does the arguable end of the AWO signify? What sort of governance is required to manage troubling collective actions that no nation can address alone? And how should emerging and emerged nations manage their rather tenuous and thin institutional accord? Acharya calls for greater emphasis on regional solutions. Now there are more regional orders and projects than ever before. These vehicles are tackling emergent issues as they arise. For instance, the Arctic Council that was pieced together to manage the growing resource issues in that part of the world. Other examples include the SCO and OSCE which are burgeoning security frameworks. Acharya places his faith on these projects given the maturation of several regional projects and growing number of regional economic agreements that dot the international landscape. Unlike the concert type of governance model, the regional model, in his words, holds more promise. If these regional orders are better linked and connected to international institutions like UN and UNSC, their relative writ could strengthen.  
 
Despite his enthusiasm, however, a regionalised world is unlikely to take over the responsibilities of international governance anytime soon. As Acharya carefully points out, some emerging powers find regionalisms and regional responsibilities a burden and not a boon. India and Indonesia have rather tepid connections with their regional counterparts and less inclined to divest considerable power and authority on SAARC and ASEAN to play a central role in regional affairs. Neither will South Africa, China or Russia for that matter. Acharya also does not consider the prospect of a G-2 that was much talked about sometime ago. Notwithstanding the differences between the US and China, there currently exists around 50 distinct bilateral dialogues between both nations on all public policy matters. Of late, we have also see renewed efforts and willingness from Washington and Beijing to come together and tackle climate change through joint measures. If these functional mechanisms deepen, they could present a viable means of addressing global problems despite the unease it will stir up in world capitals. What you might also see more of going ahead is organised anarchy characterised by a plethora of groupings and frameworks (bilateral, multilateral, mini lateral, plurilateral, public-private, south-south) uniting state, non-state, public and private actors working to address collective action problems. And that will require much more careful and judicious mapping if we are to better grapple with what will come after the American world order. It might not be multipolar or multiplex but multi-centric. 

Modi’s Foreign Policy – An Early Appraisal

Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s former ambassador to Brazil and the UN, provided a brief rendition of the new BJP government’s foreign policy priorities at the 7th India-Singapore Strategic Dialogue. Puri ran through some of the key themes and motifs of the government’s foreign policy agenda. First, the government sees a mandate to ‘reboot’ foreign and security policy. Second, there will a more pronounced focus on hard economic content in foreign policy or conferring more time and attention to commercial diplomacy by solidifying diplomatic relations with countries across the world, including South America and Africa. Third, regional relations within South Asia will be deepened. Lackadaisical neighbourhood policies weaken economic linkages between nations within South Asia and this lacuna will be addressed. And finally, an overarching maxim – that the nation’s foreign policy will be firmly tethered to its domestic policy agenda given historically infirm links between India’s domestic and foreign policy objectives. Going further, Puri also mentioned that key bilateral relationships with the United States, China and Japan will also be nurtured. And the ‘Look East’ policy will be given a shot in the arm.

In sum, the approach amounts to what Puri calls ‘Pragmatic Gradualism’ characterised by a focus on restoring economic growth, connecting the growth trajectory to the foreign policy agenda and ensuring that major power relations are balanced to prevent any abrupt shifts in the international security environment from hurting domestic priorities. Posturing will be eschewed. On security matters, however, the Modi administration will not display the reticence shown by the previous government when India comes under threat. It will act when necessary. Multilateralism will be kept within arms-length, restraining from committing or leading on international matters that do not directly affect India. With respect to the UNSC reform, India will continue its calls to make the forum more representative of extant international realities, especially they are expected to shoulder greater burdens vis-a-vis global public goods. 

Looking at the Modi’s foreign policy in practice over the last 80 days, one can safely say that it has stuck to what the government and the BJP had promised before assuming power. Regional relations has received top billing. From Modi’s generous invitation to all SAARC leaders to attend his inaugural and his first two foreign trips – to Bhutan and Nepal, the government clearly intends to make neighbourhood relations a chief priority. Moreover, from the deliberations in Thimphu and Kathmandu, it makes good economic sense to engage given the abundant opportunities that exist, especially with respect to joint energy projects, and also sound geopolitics given China’s overtures across the Himalayan plateau and the Indian Ocean rim that have more than matured over the past decade. Complementing these visits, Sushma Swaraj has visited another neighbour with whom relations have soured over the past decade – Bangladesh. From his remarks on Pakistan to date, Modi has remained firm, indicating and conveying his abiding intolerance for the violence stirred by proxy jihadi groups that continue to wage war across the valley, likely supported by elements within the Pakistani military establishment. With respect to Colombo, this government appears to prioritise economic and commercial ties, sidestepping and probably de-emphasising the ongoing tussles Colombo is having with UN Human Rights Council on the matter of national reconciliation. Though domestic politics will have some influence over diplomatic engagement with Sri Lanka, it is less likely to be as pronounced as during Manmohan Singh’s second term. This does not mean that the AIADMK will be any less vigilant or that the BJP government will be any more accommodating. Electoral compulsions within the Rajya Sabha will colour the government’s thinking on Sri Lanka as we tread ahead. But a more concerted economic and bilateral focus will trump multilateral exigencies. 

Speaking of the multilateral front, it is perhaps as advertised. Thus far, Modi government has exhibited a rather recalcitrant attitude on international policy concerns. Whether it is poor communication or poor policy that resulted in the scuttling of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), it was done on the basis of short-term interests and not long-term. The TFA desires to simplify international trade by streamlining customs processes, creating a single standard for all WTO member states. Eliminating this red tape alone is estimated to create an additional $1 trillion in global GDP and create 21 million new jobs across the world, boosting global GDP by 1%. Concurrent negotiations on agricultural stockpiling and distribution was the reason New Delhi balked on signing the treaty. Delhi refused to budge given existing WTO rules that would have prevented India from continuing to stockpile and distribute food. Linking policies on critical matters alone is not without precedent. But the way this particular scuppering unfolded leaves little hope that India will act on international issues when it does not directly affect it. Multilateralism will run via bilateralism. It will be more tempered and tepid as Hardeep Puri suggested. 

Plurilateralism, however, will be prioritised. As evidenced through the signing of the BRICS Bank, India is eager to extend its engagement with like-minded emerging powers on major strategic issues. A sense of self-assuredness coupled with a proactive desire is palpable here. Unlike previous negotiations within the framework that were tied down by the nitty-gritty details of where the institution will be located and who will direct it, the most recent summit ironed out these details. India sacrificed its desire to be the host of the institution to China whilst retaining the leadership of it for the first five years. It remains to be seen whether the momentum evident here will spill over to emboldening blocs within other issue-areas like climate change that are gripped by divisions between countries, especially at a time when India finds itself not fitting it closely with either of the groupings, be it the west or the G-77, given shifting interests. This multilateral-plurilateral divide needs to be scrutinised further, especially how they impinge upon and influence each other.

Finally, one issue that the Modi government has been rather oblivious about is the Middle East – that is currently aflame. Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iraq-ISIS and Saudi Arabia-Iran are all locked in overt and proxy wars that is tearing apart the structures of power across the region. And this vacuum is being filled by nefarious insurgent groups that are finding succour from the void currently being left behind. India has moved quickly to bring its citizens from conflict-prone high risk areas but has been rather silent otherwise. India has clear national interests within the region – remittances and energy come right to the fore. Disruptions in global oil markets will ricochet back and further balloon the precarious fiscal account. Moreover, India is also imperilled by the prospect of home-grown jihadi offshoots playing a role within unfolding conflagrations. It needs to come to grip with these challenges.  

Forged in Crisis: India and the United States since 1947

Forged in Crisis: India and the United States since 1947 – Rudra Chaudhuri

Rudra Chaudhuri’s recent history on Indo-US relations Forged in Crisis: India and the United States since 1947 is a book that is as ambitious as it is provocative. In it, Chaudhuri, embarks on a concerted myth-busting journey by revisiting some of India’s critical bilateral junctures with the United States over the course of sixty years with an intent to distill a clear and perceptive strategy underpinning its relations and approach toward the United States, the leading power of the international system since 1945. By doing so, Chaudhuri also attempts to debunk many of the lingering tropes characterising Indian foreign policy since 1947. Chief among these is India’s vaunted indigenous approach to managing foreign relations – ‘Non-Alignment.’ Through a forensic analysis of the archival materials supplemented ably by an array of primary and secondary sources and news clippings – Chaudhuri argues that India’s approach to the United States is characterised and influenced by a melding of ideas (‘who we are’) and material interests. The approach and conclusions make for an exhilarating and highly revealing, if not completely acceptable, read.
 
To make his case, Chaudhuri zeroes in on a series of diplomatic encounters with the United States. These are organised into three sections that are also deftly titled. The first on ’Negotiating Non-alignment’ looks at the early Nehru years and how Non-alignment as a political strategy and ideational construct was crafted and its relevance during India’s appeals for economic assistance following independence and during India’s tryst as a mediator with the Eisenhower administration during the Korean War. Both these junctures effectively laid the diplomatic infrastructure between both nations that has endured. The second section entitled ‘Negotiating Change’ deals with three crises – 1962 China war that purportedly dented the concept of nonalignment; subsequent negotiations with Pakistan over Kashmir and the 1971 Indo-Bangladesh War. These chapters deal with a rapidly shifting international climate that show how a chastened India maintained its dogged diplomatic approach of balancing ideas and interests following its ignominious defeat against China. And the final section, ‘Negotiating Engagement’ covers India’s contemporary engagement with the US on two important issues – Iraq War in 2003 and Indo-US Nuclear Deal, events that as many scholars claim witnessed a ‘new India’ that had shed its cold war shibboleths and was finally ready to engage as a major power. But these proclamations and declarations, Chaudhuri argues, do not withstand empirical scrutiny; instead, Indian behaviour allude to a clear and traceable continuity insofar as India’s foreign policy is concerned. The emphasis on ideas and interests and its complex intermeshing shaped New Delhi’s thinking when debating whether to send troops to Iraq and during the highly controversial, contested and laborious civil nuclear deal negotiations.   
 
As a thesis alone, the ideas and interests argument does not sound altogether novel. Nation states, as Charles De Gaulle once quipped, only have interests, no friends. And nations are generally understood to be governed by some normative or ideational influences as they attempt to accomplish their objectives within the international system. But what makes Chaudhuri’s argument novel and arresting is the actor in play – India and the legacy of Indian foreign policy, compounded by the literature covering it, that has disconcertingly clouded its diplomatic behaviour through a overbearing sense of idealpolitik, long wedded to Nehruvian consensus and channeled through principles of non-alignment. Burdening this trope is another one that claimed Indian foreign policy a la non-alignment was a red herring and a scaffold used to mask and advance a realist oriented foreign policy. In this context and backdrop, the book’s thesis is path-breaking since it questions and aims to delegitimise long-held views and understandings by empirically uncovering and substantiating Indian positions and those that ran its foreign policy, in this case – relations with Washington. 
 
 
Some of these unsubstantiated tropes run through and influence the literature on Indo-US relations. As Chaudhuri demonstrates, earlier accounts of the relationship, notably Dennis Kux’s book characterised India and the United States as ‘estranged democracies’, whose relationship had long been victim to the exigencies of the cold war and the ideological proclivities of both nations that pitted them at opposite ends. Strobe Talbott followed a similar argument by presenting the relationship as one that had crossed a ‘difficult half century’ before setting forth to describe his diplomatic encounters with Jaswant Singh in the 1990s. Chaudhuri’s efforts are clearly aimed to set the record straight against these accounts which he claims severely ‘misreads the history of the relationship’ between both nations. The truth, as he argues, is more complex. Contrary to existing interpretations, Chaudhuri’s picture depicts two democracies that, from the outset, frustrate and test one another but not at the expense of the larger relationship that as time progressed, proved to be more resilient and capable of withstanding minor irritants (la affaire Khobragade). 
 
The revisionist interpretation also seeks to challenge and contest long-held myths in Indian foreign policy, notably that of non-alignment and what it constituted. As Chaudhuri makes clear, non-alignment was not much of a nebulous construct as some critics have charged. It had solid roots in the core notion of non-dependence and this impulse has persisted and influenced India’s approach with the US since 1947. Moreover, he challenges contemporary accounts of Indian foreign policy that point to non-alignment’s demise following a fundamental structural transformation has taken place over the past thirty years since liberalisation took hold. Though sympathetic to broader structural shifts, Chaudhuri dismisses these and other culturalist arguments pertaining to the conduct of Indian foreign policy.

Chaudhuri’s work is firmly anchored within the new historical turn in the study of Indian international relations that, according to Kanti Bajpai, revisits and unpacks some of India’s pivotal diplomatic moments to lay bare how these affected and continue to affect policies and choices today. Such scholarship tends to be inductive and interpretative and light on theory but strong on its descriptive understanding of critical junctures. What these historical accounts and interpretations also convey is that is prudent to be more cautious over some of independent India’s founding foreign policy principles that are heavily influenced by ideas of independence and sovereignty, greatly shaped by legacies of colonialism and partition. Scholars like Srinath Raghavan and Chaudhuri argue that we must guard against essentialising these beliefs and instead adopt a more measured attitude when examining their relevance. 

 
In every sense provocative, Chaudhuri’s work aims to inform and introspect. Despite its many positives, there is one rather negligible blemish. Nowhere in the book is there a definition of what a crisis is. Gleaning from the cases that are under focus, it is implicitly clear that periods that precede or follow a military conflict are understood as moments of crisis. If clearly defined early on and well explained as to why these particular moments were chosen, the reader would have gained more perspective. But this does not detract from the deft and solid research and analysis that accords this book considerable esteem.  

Revisiting the Obama Doctrine

One of the first books to muse on Obama’s foreign policy was James Mann’s The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power. Briefly, Mann argued that Obama’s approach to international affairs and his view of the world was starkly different than that of his predecessor. Obama understood that American primacy was on the wane; Washington could not unilaterally dictate outcomes across the international landscape to its favour. Power was more diffuse and decentered. Multiple poles were flexing their muscles, having emerged. And the United States had to alter its core outlook and approach – It had to build coalitions with these emerging poles, cobble together frameworks that will include and integrate these nations by providing them greater voice within the international order and make them equal stakeholders. Doing so would, in Washington’s hopes, elicit their participation and leadership in contributing to the provision of global public goods. Years later, this approach appears to be in tatters. Regional powers have risen further. China’s ascent has roiled American efforts in integration. Russia under Putin has proven to be America’s chief irritant on the international stage. India has obstinately refused to be seen as an American partner and instead chosen to mark its distance. Other countries like Brazil and Turkey have intermittently squabbled with Washington, perceptively straining their bilateral relationships. These countries have banded together to cooperate within other institutional mechanisms like BRICS, IBSA, etc, that appear to be maturing after years of discord. Obama’s vision, though reflective of extant power realities, has not proven to be much of a guide insofar as official policymaking is concerned; the President’s grand strategy has effectively floundered. 

But has Obama’s view shifted despite his inability to execute his vision and strategy? His recent interview with The Economist allow us to make a judgment on that. Here’s the excerpt from the interview: 

The Economist: Can I push you a bit on that—using Africa as an example for a thing about general foreign policy? You worked really hard on this idea of getting responsible powers to work together. And I suppose as you look back, you might say the two problems you’ve had are, first, dealing with people who aren’t rational or are extremely difficult to deal with—like Mr Putin—or secondly, the problem is allies who aren’t prepared to put stuff in. And South Africa would seem to be emblematic of other new emerging powers. You’ve got South Africa, you’ve got Indonesia, you’ve got India. A lot of things you’ve tried to get them to back, they haven’t. And why do you think that is? Is that a phase they’re going through? What’s changing?

Mr Obama: Well, look, there’s no doubt that a robust, interventionist foreign policy on behalf of certain principles, ideals or international rules is not a tradition that most countries embrace. And in the 20th century and in the early stages of the 21st century, the United States continues to be the one indispensable power that is willing to spend blood and treasure on that. And part of my job has been to try to persuade countries that the United States will always shoulder a greater burden than others, but we still cannot do it alone given the complexity and interconnectedness of today’s world.

So when it comes to South Africa, we recognise a suspicion they may have about meddling too much in the affairs of Zimbabwe, for example. But my argument to them would be, ultimately, as a key regional power, if they fail to invest in the kind of international order or regional order that helps ordinary Zimbabweans thrive, then they’re going to have an immigration problem—which they already do. That, in turn, is going to put more pressure on them and their economies. And ultimately, those chickens will come home to roost.

I think there’s a recognition that that may be the case, but I think there’s still a worry on the part of many regional powers that if they are too meddlesome then they’re also exposing themselves to criticism from the outside. And so there’s a little bit of a north-south, traditional, non-aligned culture that dates back 20, 30 years that may take some time and may require a new generation of leadership to discard so that they can move forward in a more effective way.

Obama clearly sounds chastened. Although he hasn’t given up (complete) hope that these powers will and can play a role in sustaining the liberal international order that the United States establish and continues to run, one can clearly discern the naiveté of his earlier approach. Urging emerging powers to place international rules and norms above their interests even though, at times, their interests could be strengthened by those rules proved to be an unsound strategy. But his idealistic side does not lose hope that these countries will one day come to realise that the choice between nationalism and internationalism is a false one. However, countries like India, Indonesia and South Africa, leaving China and Russia aside, are countries focused on bolstering and fortifying their domestic economic trajectories for the foreseeable future and are unlikely to sign on to or subscribe to international norms or rules that are contrary to their interest. Domestic economic compulsions will drive their particular grand strategies and this will inevitably clash with the demands of emboldening and protecting the integrity of international rules. American grand strategy must operate from this particular assumption and work to see where domestic and international compulsions of these emerging powers align and forge an approach appropriate to that conjuncture. But this approach will result in a rather fluid and anarchic international order that is managed by stitching together political coalitions between countries as per the issue and not one that is governed by a series of institutions and rules aiming to regularise the conduct of managing global problems. And this is something that will require pragmatic and prudent leadership from the United States, capable on seeing problems independent, not interdependent, of each other. 

Modi and the Rejuvenation of Indian Think Tanks?

Few days ago, the Indian economic daily, The Business Standard published an article on the recent arrival of several former officials of the right-wing think tank Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) into the Modi administration. As the article claims, six new officials have been anointed positions that have not been revealed. But given their national-security backgrounds (all but one), it appears that these former officials will be given high ranking positions within the national security and foreign policy apparatus. And this infusion already complements the heavyweight appointments that the think tank has given the incoming administration including NSA Ajit Doval, PS to PM (or Chief of Staff) Nripendra Mishra and PS to PM PK Mishra. These three individuals form the inner sanctum of the PM’s orbit and function as the gatekeepers to Modi and his principal advisors insofar as what the agenda is and how issues should be tackled once they emerge. They will, no doubt, wield enormous influence. These developments and additions present several interesting questions on the nature of the policymaking arena in New Delhi, the linkages between existing think tanks and policymakers and the larger, more abstract, relationship between ideas and policy. Has Modi’s arrival and his penchant to use and leverage experts and their expertise in the past herald a new era for Indian think tanks? How should Indian think tanks read this development? And what is one to make of the Indian think tank circuit as a whole? 

Let us briefly consider each question with the final one first. By last count, India has about 300 think tanks with most centred in New Delhi with others located in metro cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. In terms of function, most think tanks have their own core agenda or issue (i.e. security, economics, energy, economics, etc.) and seek to advance public understanding on issues pertaining to their mandate. For instance, ICRIER (Indian Council on International Economic Relations) expends considerable energy on international economic issues, CSTEP (Centre for the Study of Science, Technology, and Policy) focuses heavily on energy related issues and technology part of that problem, ORF (Observer Research Foundation) owns the emerging international issues terrain and issues like south-south cooperation, global governance, etc; CEEW (Centre on Energy, Environment and Water) covers as eponymously suggested tackles the energy-environment-water issue as one;  CSE (Centre on Science and Environment) has been a force to reckon with on environmental and various public health issues.

Most think tanks are bound by their issue focus. One exception is CPR (Centre for Policy Research) that has a rather broad mandate and covers several critical areas including national security, energy and climate change, governance and regulation, etc. Ideologically, it is not very easy to define them. Though some, like VIF, have clearly tilted toward the right and hold more hawkish positions on issues they cover, other think tanks are more focused on generating applicable research and knowledge to describe and eventually address public policy problems. Some have close ties to government and government entities and are intermittently tasked to hold workshops, conferences on various salient issues that are attended by relevant ministry officials. Some think tanks are occasionally summoned to provide summary papers or memorandums on particular problems that the government confronts.  Although linkages are present, the policy terrain is not well networked and institutionalised. Most think tanks rely on external and foreign sources for funding; the government chips in with support for overheads when necessary. As such, the demand for greater research and advice is rather weak and the supply given low demand is not poised to fill the void due to institutional and infrastructural deficits that disconcertingly fester. Thought these features describe most of the think tanks, not all. Some like the ORF are well funded and managed with deep links to think tanks in Europe and North America. On the whole, the think tank landscape is rather fallow. 

Given this condition, the links between think tanks and policymakers need to be nurtured. And this brings us back to Modi and the BJP government and whether they can infuse some energy into the policy terrain, especially between policymakers and think tanks that are situated outside government. The public policy literature suggests that the entry of a new government functions as a ‘critical juncture’ where new ideas get jostled within policy corridors to address existing problems. As such, think tanks should find a new lifeline given circumstances. And this is further emboldened by Modi’s penchant to rely on knowledge and experts to address public problems as evidenced by his premiership in Gujarat (Although his premiership has also provided evidence of centralisation of power). The entry of several prominent conservative and nationalist-leaning think tankers into government, however, does suggest that this government will aim to keep a tight leash on major policy issues, especially on sensitive matters related to national security and geopolitical issues. But their economic agenda that is so far centred on issues like energy, infrastructure, agriculture, urbanisation and public health offers tremendous scope insofar as tapping external advice is concerned. And based on what has been said by Modi himself during the campaign and after he assumed office and past experience, there is also hope that more think tank counsel will be sought when necessary. But the question of whether think tanks can meet and fulfil that demand remains to be seen.