Even as India enjoys a new season of acceptance as the world's largest democracy intimately wedded to a peaceful rise, it brings with it huge responsibilities that the country must shoulder with care and caution.

Most fundamentally, India must have to strike a balance between the pursuit of legitimate national and national-security interests and what the world expects of it.

The world itself broadly may be divided into the existing order which may seek to perpetuate itself and the new-order-in-the-making that expects India to be just to its aspirations as a decolonized country.

India's national and national-security interests are the easiest to quantify although they may be the hardest to address. Internally, India must be at peace and the ruling classes must be accountable to the people without which the benefits of growth won't spread equitably. Without equitable growth, internal peace cannot be won (paramilitary action won't vanquish Maoism, for example), and India's national and national-security interests will be horribly compromised. India is lurching in this direction, and timely corrections have to be made on the basis of political consensus.

India's external security threats come from Pakistan-Afghanistan and from China. India has put its best foot forward in Afghanistan, investing massively in infrastructure, healthcare and other areas. But all this may be nullified if the Taliban/ Al-Qaeda return to power forcing India and like-minded powers to back an opposition alliance.

The point to emphasize is that while India remains committed to a "peaceful rise", it has to protect its national interests. If localizing the war to Afghanistan is the only means available to prevent Talibanization from affecting vulnerable states like Jammu and Kashmir, India has to do what's to be done.

Threats from Pakistan and China are of another kind. A dialogue with Pakistan won't even gain time. It is sinking and should be allowed to. But it is of utmost importance that Indian territories are protected from Pakistani terrorism and -- this may seem alarmist -- even nuclear terrorism. With China, relations will worsen in direct proportion to India's peaceful rise. The Middle East's troubles are slowly but surely impacting on the country, and the authorities are typically overreacting. Rising prices are worsening internal troubles and regional and class imbalances.

Like all authoritarian states, China will try to deflect attention with an external aggression. India in the Indian Ocean presents a juicy target that would fulfill multiple objectives, including warning the United States.

India, therefore, must be prepared to counter Chinese aggression anytime. And as noted before, this will not discolour India's "peaceful rise".

But in areas beyond core national and national-security interests, India must do everything to burnish its image of a peacefully rising democratic giant. In doing so, India may run at odds sometimes with the existing order, lead in the main by the United States. But the country must remain firm in purpose and vision.

For example, with his bloodthirstiness, the Libyan tyrant made the UN Security Council sanctions and the referral to the International Criminal Court inevitable. India had to go with this decision. But in its two years as a non-permanent UNSC member, India will see the Middle East and some other parts of the world transform. If it must come out winner at term-end, India must be seen to have always acted judiciously while remaining true to its dharma of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

This is the special responsibility for India mentioned in the first paragraph. The existing order and particularly Pax Americana have outlived their time and utility. Absolute military power has lost its capacity to shock and awe.

While protecting and advancing its legitimate interests, India must maximize the attractions of its peaceful rise and the charm of its democracy without becoming evangelical. It's good that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has requested a role for the Indian election commission at a suitable time. But all important constituents of Egyptian polity (including the military) should come on board before India agrees.

Truly, circumstances have arrived to advance India's interests without the necessity, for instance, of becoming a permanent UN Security Council member. The most conceivably honourable role for India in the UNSC now and in future is to correct the distortions coming from the near-monopolization of power by the US and the West. The bamboozling of the UN, among other things, to legitimize the Iraq War remains a matter of enduring shame.

A lot rides on India to bring a new just order, and its significant peaceful rise makes this eminently possible.