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Kishore Mahbubani: For India, Path to Power Not Military But Economy

In this episode of Beyond the Headlines, I spoke with Kishore Mahbubani, former Singaporean ambassador to the United Nations and the bestselling author of Has the West Lost It? and Has China Won? among other provocative books.

Mahbubani talked about the role of the Quad, the new Australia-UK-U.S. agreement (AUKUS), and why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is suspicious of these coalitions, despite its own troubles and disputes with China. He also dwelt with the broader contours of geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific and how India can become an influential world power.

On India’s troubles with China and Pakistan, Mahbubani argued that India should be more “cunning” and less emotional in its approach. “Geopolitics is a very cruel business,” he said, arguing that there are “a lot of lazy minds and wishful thinking when I read some of the Indian discourse on geopolitics.” He also further explained how India can deal more effectively with both its main adversaries.

He also passionately argued that India must open up its economy immediately and join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, saying that the RCEP is “not a ‘Chinese’ initiative” and that Indians have already proven that they can compete in global trade. “Indians are among the top performers – if not the top performers – in global competition,” he said.

Having served as Singapore’s ambassador in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Mahbubani said that India is “long overdue” for a permanent seat in the UNSC. He also explained his experience with advocating UNSC reform, revealed who is the biggest opponent to UNSC reform, and spoke about how India can make its dream a reality.

For more, listen to the conversation below, follow us on Spotify, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter for updates on these conversations.

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Mohamed Zeeshan is a Founding Partner and the Editor-in-Chief of Freedom Gazette. He is the author of Flying Blind: India's Quest for Global Leadership (Penguin 2021). He is currently a foreign affairs columnist for The Diplomat, South China Morning Post and Haaretz, and writes 'The Z Factor' - a monthly Sunday column in the Deccan Herald. He has previously worked at the United Nations in New York and with the global consulting firm Kearney in Dubai. He is a graduate of International Affairs from Columbia University.