As India enters her 76th year of independence, the relative volatility of the international landscape, in addition to the starkly different challenges in the contemporary context, has led to increased opportunities for her, as a prospective global player, to undertake the responsibility of the fulfillment of larger strategic commitments.
Against the backdrop of a tumultuous geopolitical mosaic, brought about by harsh instances of the Russo-Ukraine War, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the growing impoverishment of India’s South Asian neighbours, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the road to global spotlight for New Delhi, seems rather cumbersome. In the words of Samir Saran, the President of the renowned Observer Research Foundation (ORF), “The rise in protectionist sentiments as a bitter consequence of the brewing COVID-19 pandemic, gave rise to widespread instances of countries safeguarding their citizens, by closing off their borders”, indicating the lack of consensus and the sheer neglect of soft power tactics of dialogue and diplomacy, thereby accentuating unabated international animosity.
For India at 75, this very constrained international context, has given rise to multifarious complications in its geo-strategic calculus, with the imperative need to center the bulk of focus, around a relative adaptation to the post-pandemic realities, confronting mutual harmony and global integrity, especially with the assumption of the much awaited G-20 Presidency. This article therefore, seeks to delve into the broader shades of perspectives on the prospective road ahead with regards to India’s foreign policy objectives, not only in the present scenario, but also the next 25 years or so, marking its centenary of sovereignty.
India’s Historical and Present Geopolitical Rhetoric: Increased Diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific and Multilateralism
Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, while writing for the Gateway House, raised ta fundamental question: Is India a middle power? A great power? or an in between power? thereby indirectly drawing upon the larger pretext of multilateralism, which shall be discussed subsequently. Firstly, it is imperative to briefly take into account, the historical narrative that shaped a great deal of contemporary foreign policy making.
A study by Atul Kumar of the Kapur Surya Foundation, published in the Journal of International Issues, 2010, emphasized the “arguably impractical idealism of early post colonial years towards an increasingly pragmatic polity, founded on the perception of its national imperatives, as a predominant power in Asia”. This value driven aspect of Indian foreign policy, as stated by Alison Quinn, in her article entitled “How Historical Narrative Shaped India’s Foreign Policy Goals”, for “E-International Relations” “is characterised by Bharat Karnad’s conception of “moralpolitik”, a blend of both pragmatism and morality.
Moreover, a post-colonial orientation entailing warmer ties with Southeast, South Asian, African and Latin American nations, under the aegis of the Non-Aligned Movement, spearheaded by Pandit Nehru, sowed the seeds of balanced diplomatic aspirations. Turning to the contemporary pretext, it could be said that the strategic agenda to encompass trade, technology, energy and environment has emerged as a by product of this attested historical preoccupation.
Moving forward, larger Indian entanglements in the Indo-Pacific, inclusive of the recently revamped QUAD alongside Australia, Japan and the US and the finer multilateral institutions of the SCO, BRICS and the G20, have lent substantial character to her prospective regional prowess in the subcontinent. Moreover, with the hegemonic rise of nations like China, there has been a relative shift to broader levels of cooperation and dialogue, involving active Indian intervention.
The subsequent revamping of the rather limited “Look East Policy”, under the present brainchild of “The Act East Policy”, has strengthened India’s balanced foreign policy perspective, with increased cooperation with the ASEAN, through the recently proposed “Plan of Action Policy” (POA), under the Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Initiative , declaring 2022 as the “ASEAN-India Friendship Year”, coinciding with the 75th year of Indian Independence, with an objective to not only strengthen mutual ties, but also neutralize geopolitical imbalances.
Moreover, assuming the Presidency of both SCO and the G20, India has embarked on a project of showcasing its “global leadership”, as pointed out by the Diplomat, with a larger focus on developmental and economic issues, along with the three pillars of cooperation, entailing startups, science and technology and traditional medicine, coupled with the imperative need to strengthen its “economic heft”, to promote peace and prosperity.
Prospective Leadership Initiatives and Commitments: Changing Paradigm of Indian International Involvement
Given how India’s domestic circumstances have given impetus to its leadership initiatives, a pronounced prerequisite of bringing together key stakeholders to the negotiating table, has imposed additional responsibility, with regards to her scheme of things.
In line with its larger objectives of “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, and “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”( The World is one Family), India has been able to bring about a mutual consensus on both non security and political issues, as a regional realpolitik.
From an economic perspective, despite bleaker chances of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, India’s enhanced GDP and especially its IT prowess, has positioned it on a higher scale of leadership. Gone are the days, as her leader of the “have-nots”, with regards to the G-77, thereby shaping India as a responsible and rational power, concerning the management of world affairs.
Moreover, a relative emphasis on growth, inclusion and sustainability has also remained manifest in “Green Energy Initiatives”, with a larger focus on renewable energy, coupled with reduced measures of pollution. Furthermore, India’s brainchild of vaccine diplomacy during the pandemic, provided a thrust to the global pharmaceutical and chain, thereby enhancing India’s international reputation to newer dimensions, and adding up to its larger goal of “75 years and Beyond”.
Aside from this, India completed six decades of diplomatic relations with the EU, premised upon mutual connectivity needs that have remained inclusive, transparent and sustainable. Emphasizing India’s role in the larger geopolitical context, EU Ambassador to India, Mr. Ugo Agusto, affirmed broader ties centered around “links and not dependencies”, in the larger pursuit of comprehensive international welfare.
Unarguably, the increased role of the Indian youth in spearheading this larger vision, has also been extremely noteworthy. With deft and mature handling of foreign policy and community objectives, the youth have in active collaboration, with business tycoons and institutions paved the way forward for greater accentuation of reflection of India’s leadership priorities and commitment to international principles.
Challenges, Solutions and the Way Forward
Despite the relative strategic positioning of India, exercise of leadership won’t be easy, given the actions of its long standing ally Russia and its regional competitor, China. Moreover, progress in action building and adherence to international law, to be taken up in more than 200 meetings prior to the G20, has to give rise to concrete initiatives.
Likewise, an asseverated purpose of strengthening peace and co-operation at multilateral institutions of both BRICS and SCO, has to materialize, otherwise it would only add on to India’s tally of concerns. With the limited nature of the QUAD, despite greater opportunities in the Indo-Pacific, a streamlined policy of equilibrium in the exercise of international relations, has to be maintained, with an accommodation of both Indian and international interests, culminating in progressive global symphony.
The Kashmir Issue as raked up by Pakistan and China, every now and then, cannot be overlooked, as a lot still remains at stake from the global perspective. Therefore, India has to bring about consensus at regional, subregional, national and international levels to strengthen its claim and annihilate the baseless propositions of its counterparts, for greater diplomatic productivity.
Therefore, as the country waves the flags marking its 75th birth anniversary, India’s international landscape seems to be on the brighter side, if it can further its concrete foreign aspirations in a calibrated manner, along with the seamless redressal of the prospective impediments to the same.
[Photo by ChandraK Pradhan / Pixabay]
Ainesh Dey is an incoming freshman at St Xavier’s College, Kolkata. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.