- GS-2: Indian and its neighbourhood
- GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India & Eurasia Policy
Context: India’s intense Indo-Pacific diplomacy is about Delhi’s new maritime geopolitics and now it is time to devote similar energy to the development of a “Eurasian” policy that helps in recalibration of India’s continental strategy.
History of India’s Eurasian Foreign Policy
- There are references to India’s ancient civilisational links with Eurasia.
- The collaboration between the Sangha and the Shreni in the Buddhist era produced lasting interaction between the two regions.
- India’s inward orientation after the decline of Buddhism did not stop the flow of Central Asian forces into the subcontinent.
- The Colonial times saw the outward projection of India’s influence into Central Asia. British rivalry with Russia during the Great Game in the 19th and early 20th centuries put Eurasian geopolitics at the top of undivided India’s security agenda.
- Before independence, many Indian nationalists turned to Europe to secure the nation’s liberation from British colonialism. After independence, India’s drift towards an alliance with Russia saw India neglect Europe’s strategic significance.
- The Partition of the subcontinent and India’s physical disconnection from inner Asia, however, cut India off from Eurasian geopolitics.
Challenges in Eurasia
- Persistent problem with Pakistan
- National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has invited his counterparts from Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, Russia, and China to join the consultations in Delhi on the crisis in Afghanistan. Pakistan has decline to join while China is not clear on joining.
- Pakistan’s reluctance to engage with India on Afghanistan reveals Delhi’s challenges & the urgency in shaping a new Eurasian strategy.
- Meaning of Eurasia
- There is no shared international understanding of what constitutes the Eurasia region.
- In geographical terms, Eurasia is the name of a tectonic plate that lies under much of what we know as Europe and Asia.
- In Russia’s definition, Eurasia covers the former territories of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. In other words, it is about Russia’s political claim to a sphere of influence in its “near abroad”.
- Given the deep connection between Muslim Central Asia and West Asia, some prefer the term “Greater Middle East” to describe parts of this region.
- For India, it makes sense to use the broadest possible definition of Eurasia in reimagining the region.
- Rise of China
- The most important development in Eurasia today is the dramatic rise of China and its growing strategic assertiveness, expanding economic power and rising political influence
- Beijing’s muscular approach to the long and disputed border with Bhutan and India, its pursuit for a security presence in Tajikistan, the active search for a larger role in Afghanistan are examples of China’s assertiveness.
- Physical proximity multiplies China’s economic impact on the inner Asian regions.
- China’s Belt and Road initiative and Europe’s growing economic interdependence with China have added to Beijing’s powerful leverages in Eurasia
- US rethink of its strategic commitments to Eurasia.
- The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is just the beginning of a long-overdue redefinition of US global strategic priorities.
- US and EU are now trying to rebalance the trans-Atlantic responsibilities for Europe’s collective defence.
- As a result of US resizing its presence in Eurasia region, regional powers are going to reshape Eurasia.
Way Ahead for India to evolve Eurasian Policy
- India has certainly dealt with Eurasia’s constituent spaces separately over the decades. What Delhi now needs is an integrated approach to Eurasia.
- Overcoming the geographic limitation — represented by the Pakistan barrier— will be central to an expanded Indian role in Eurasian geopolitics.
- A dedicated military office in the Indian mission to Brussels, where both EU and NATO are headquartered, will be a crucial step towards a sustained security dialogue with Europe.
- Indian needs to intensify the dialogue on Eurasian security with Russia. While Indo-Russian differences on the Indo-Pacific, the Quad, China, and the Taliban are real, Delhi and Moscow have good reasons to narrow their differences on Eurasia.
- There is a need for substantive Indian collaboration with both Persia (for strategic location) and Arabia (for religious influence). These partnership are needed in overcoming Turkey’s alliance with Pakistan that is hostile to Delhi.
- India will surely encounter many contradictions in each of the three areas — between and among America, Europe, Russia, China, Iran, and the Arab Gulf. As in the Indo-Pacific, so in Eurasia, Delhi should not let these contradictions hold India back.
Connecting the dots: