- GS-2: Foreign Policy & International Relations
A strategy for India in a world that is adrift
Context: Today, we are neither in a bipolar Cold War nor in a multipolar world, though perhaps tending towards a world of several power centres.
- The lack of a coherent international response to the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of an absence of international order and of the ineffectiveness of multilateral institutions.
Changing Geopolitical Development
- Secular stagnation in the global and Indian economies
- The regionalisation of trade
- Rise of China
- The geopolitical and economic centres of gravity have shifted from the Atlantic to Asia
- Structural China-United States strategic rivalry.
- Inequality between and within states has bred a narrow nationalism and parochialism.
- Retreat from globalisation
- Emergence of new polarised information age
- Ecological crises and climate change as an existential threat.
Rise of China & its implication on India
- Over the next decade Asia will become the main platform for geopolitical rivalries.
- U.S. remains the most formidable power, though its relative power is declining.
- China sees a window of opportunity but acts in a hurry believing that window may close or is already closing due to pushback from the West and others.
- China’s crowded geography constrains her both on land and at sea.
- There is a slim prospect of Chinese hegemony in Asia with its expanding profile & power, particularly in our periphery.
- The result is likely continued friction, some cooperation, and quasi-adversarial relations between India and China, which others will take advantage of.
- As neighbours and in the present situation, a mix of confrontation and cooperation is likely to continue to mark India’s relations with China.
- Overall, we do not expect conventional conflict between the great powers in Asia, though other forms and levels of violence and contention in the international system will rise, with Taiwan a special case.
Opportunities for India amidst this transformation
- Increasing security congruence with the U.S. could enable growing cooperation in fields significant for India’s transformation: energy, trade, investment, education and health.
- Other areas in which India and the U.S. could increase cooperation are: climate change and energy, on tech solutions for renewable energy, and on digital cooperation.
- Several middle powers are now India’s natural partners. There is also an increasing possibility of working with partners in the developing world building broader coalitions on issues of common interest.
- This time of transition between orders is also when new standards and norms are being developed, particularly in the digital space. India can and must be present while devising these new norms.
Way Forward for India
- Creation of a Maritime Commission, a Bay of Bengal Initiative with partner countries, to further cement India’s favourable position in maritime arena.
- Increasing what India does with South East Asia in maritime security, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism. India should aim for multipolarity in Asia.
- India’s foreign policy should be based on the core strategic principles in Non-Alignment 2.0 which are still relevant:
- Independent judgement
- Developing our capacities
- Creating an equitable and enabling international order for India’s transformation.
- India has no choice but to engage with the uncertain and more volatile world. One productive way to do so would be through issue-based coalitions including different actors, depending on who has an interest and capability.
- Self-strengthening to reinvigorate India’s interests in neighbourhood
- The over securitisation of policy towards our neighbours has driven trade underground, criminalised our borders, and enabled large-scale entry of Chinese goods destroying local industry in the northeast.
- While lessening dependence on China, and seeking external balancing, our primary effort has to concentrate on self-strengthening.
- Globalisation has been central to India’s growth. Self-reliance in today’s world and technologies can only be realised if India is a part of the global economy.
Connecting the dots: