New Delhi: As Japan to the east prepares to shed its pacifist constitution and Iraq to the west struggles to remain unified, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to join the project of India’s rise with gaining peace in the South Asia neighbourhood. Will it work?

It has to. There is scarcely another way. It is how you interpret peace that spells the difference between Modi and some of his illustrious predecessors. Modi has in mind to impose an Indian peace in the region, not quite Pax Indica but getting there, and whether or not the world is amenable to the idea, he has intuited a strategic gap and an opportunity, and grabbed it.

The last time such an opportunity came by was when the Americans informally gave the go-ahead for India to bring to an end the civil war in Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi thoroughly messed it and paid with his life. The important difference from today was the opportunity was not created by India. It was pointed to its existence by a great power and India bungled in. You cannot fight somebody else’s war and hope to win.

Narendra Modi, on the other hand, is starting from scratch. From the political, economic, industrial and military rubble left behind by 10 years of United Progressive Alliance rule, he is forging a rising power. As the largest democracy in the region (and of course the world), he is returning to India the centrality in South Asian affairs. Tellingly, he inaugurated India’s new aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya, as soon as he took charge. At the same time, today, he asked space scientists at the PSLV C-23 launch to develop a satellite for the countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

A country’s rise is a multi-dimensional affair. The prime minister entirely recognizes this. His decisions taken as a whole convey such thinking. But imposing peace is never easy business. World War I resulted from the failure of the Central Powers to impose peace in the Balkans. Peace as an outcome of balance of power also failed with the Entente States unable to deter Prussian militarism. They failed again with Nazi Germany.

China and Pakistan constitute the biggest impediments to Pax Indica. Pakistan’s state failure can be attributed to the United States, firstly, and, secondly, to China, both of them privileging the military over civilian rule. The United States is moving away compelled by domestic isolationist pressures. So far, China had a free run with Japan tied down by a pacifist constitution, which is about to change. Its other East Asian neighbours are also growing hostile to its expansionism. Would it open two fronts, one with Japan and the other with India?

If China is managed, half the Pakistani menace is tamed. Close India-Japan political, economic and military ties will send the appropriate messages. These ties have to be built incrementally, but they have to assume alliance status sooner or later. India cannot shy from making alliances anymore. An India-Japan alliance will send a hopeful message to the rest of East Asia and even hearten Australia.

Carefully, Narendra Modi is not ignoring Pakistan in his strategic gambits, but giving it special attention. At a purely political level, relations cannot be friendlier. But the army and the jihadis are the problem. Significantly, today, the Pakistan army launched ground operations in North Waziristan against the Pakistan Taliban. Pakistan would never do so unless it had a measure of confidence of peace on its eastern border with India. Somewhere, somehow, that confidence-building has happened. It is important not to get excited, but perhaps there is some Modi effect there.

How would the United States consider Pax Indica-lite? There is no firm answer to this. If it suits its interest -- as it does presently -- it would approve. Like all the great powers of history, the United States is experiencing imperial overstretch. Its intervention in Iraq is minimal and calibrated. It backs Japanese militarization as a counter to China. If India takes charge of the Indian Ocean, Washington will not break into a sweat.

But regardless of United States’ reaction, Modi’s India has thrust forward. He has manufactured an opportunity and seized it. This is how states rise. India was at an inflexion point. It would go down if it didn’t rise. Narendra Modi’s inauguration was timely. He has paced the rise nicely so far, managing the multiple challenges of domestic and international politics, a failed economy, collapsed manufacturing, and a military unprepared and underequipped to fight on two fronts.

Even so, this is only the beginning. His best laid plans could be skewed by Chinese or Pakistani belligerence. He is due in Jammu and Kashmir for a security review. Energy security is a crisis area worsened by the Middle East conflagration. Within three years, the electorate would have decided in their minds about Narendra Modi. He has a small window of opportunity. It now entirely depends what he makes of it. But his geo-strategic architecture cannot be bettered.