- From the time India first attained independence in 1947, its foreign policy during the Cold War period evolved from being pro-Soviet and antithetical to Western interests, to now becoming an important Western strategic partner and providing a counterweight to China.
- Over the last six-and-half decade India has massively expanded its influence worldwide, primarily through diplomacy and trade, which has seen it emerge as an influential power in global politics.
- There are many aspects that played important role in determining India’s foreign policy over period of time.
Challenges in Front of India
- A Stronger China: China is the only major country that had a positive growth rate at the end of 2020, and its economy is poised to grow even faster in 2021.
- Militarily, China has further strengthened itself and now seeks to dominate the Indo-Pacific Ocean with its announcement of its third aircraft carrier’s launch in 2021.
- In this context, any breakthrough in Sino-Indian relations is unlikely to occur, and the confrontation between Indian and Chinese armed forces is expected to continue.
- Growing Russia-China Axis: Russia is beginning to display more significant interest in its periphery’s affairs. Moreover, the sanctions imposed on Russia after Crimea’s annexation in 2014 has pushed Russia towards a tighter embrace of China.
- This seems to signal reduced interest in countries such as India. FOREIGN POLICY
- Also, India’s closeness to the U.S. has weakened its links with traditional friends such as Russia and Iran.
- Changing Middle East Equations: The US-brokered rapprochement between Israel and four Arab countries — the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — reflected the changing landscape in the region.
- However, despite the hype surrounding Abraham Accords, the situation remains fluid and has not reduced the risk of a confrontation between Iran and Israel.
- Given the region’s strategic flux, Iran could well be tempted to use its nuclear capability to enhance its position.
- This does pose problems for India since both have relations with it. FOREIGN POLICY
- Self-Imposed Isolation of India: Currently, India remains isolated from two important supranational bodies of which it used to be a founding member, viz., the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation ( SAARC). FOREIGN POLICY
- Moreover, India has opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP) .
- This self-imposed isolation doesn’t synergise with India’s aspiration of becoming a global power.
- Weakening Ties with Neighbors: A more worrying concern for Indian foreign policy is weakening ties with the neighbours.
- This can be seen from instances like China’s Cheque Book Diplomacy vis-a-vis Sri Lanka, strain in relation with Bangladesh on NRC issue and recent border controversy with Nepal due to the release of the new map.
Status of India’s domestic politics?
- At least two decisions taken by the government mainly keeping its citizens in mind have had foreign policy consequences.
- First, the passing of the CAA. The official narrative has been that India is offering citizenship to the persecuted minorities of select countries in its neighbourhood. There were two problems.
- One, this is regionalisation of the domestic problems of the countries in India’s neighbourhood.
- Two, Muslims, including those subsects persecuted in neighbouring countries, were by design excluded from the citizenship programme.
- Second, the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. It led to the suspension of fundamental rights in the Kashmir Valley for a prolonged period that damaged India’s reputation as a responsible democratic power. FOREIGN POLICY
- The change of status quo in Jammu and Kashmir, including the bifurcation and reduction of the erstwhile State into Union Territories, could be another factor that prompted the Chinese to move aggressively towards the border in Ladakh.
What India should learn from past experiences?
- Need for greater realism in policy: India needs to change the image of a reluctant power. India should realize that soft power diplomacy is not sufficient for protecting the country.
- Need for Strong economy: An expansionary foreign policy cannot be built on the margins of the global economy. There is a need for India to build a strong economic foundation to fulfill the aspiration of global power. FOREIGN POLICY
- In the backdrop of setbacks, especially in the neighbourhood, India has to reconsider its diplomacy’s trajectory as India’s official policy is that it is committed to multilateralism. Even after India started moving away from non-alignment, which it calls irrelevant in the post-Cold War world order, India should maintain the strategic autonomy as the bedrock of its policy thinking.