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India’s Foreign Policy: FRESH LOOK BY NEW GOVT, By Prof Arvind Kumar, 15 April, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 15 April 2014

India’s Foreign Policy


By Prof Arvind Kumar

Dept of Geopolitics & Intl Relations, Manipal Univ


India’s foreign policy has always been a dominant mode of discourse, centering round the challenges faced and its evolving contours, among the members of the academic and strategic community. Such debates have gained salience especially in the context of the emerging intricacies of India’s policies in dealing with the world. The forthcoming national elections have too raised a distinct debate whether the probable new dispensation needs to give a new look to the larger issues confronting foreign policy choices, intents and fundamental goals.


Undoubtedly, India’s foreign policy has been confronting with a number of complex interpretations and choices. It very much depends upon what matters most to New Delhi, its acceptance in the international system and how it is going to be largely reflected. The primary task of India’s foreign policy has been to ensure an external environment that would be conducive to India’s transformation and development. It would be pertinent to highlight here that a peaceful and prosperous periphery around India’s neighbourhood would be an essential requirement for the country’s rise too.


India’s evolving relationship with major powers is also very important in the context of the overall priority and accommodation of interests. However, it has been seen that India’s foreign policy confronts challenge of achieving national goals with the limited means available. It is, obviously, complex and difficult because it is unlike the domestic policy. An attempt is being made by India to maximise its interests and attain one’s own goals in a milieu which remains outside of one’s own control.


The competition and cooperation with other States’ takes place in a perpetually changing external environment. In that respect, India would require to understand the evolving contours and modify its policies in accordance and in tune with the existing reality. Any analysis on the foreign policy requires a deeper understanding of a number of international relations, concepts including the balance of power, game theory and many other dynamic notions. The tools used in India’s foreign policy should mainly help in regulating and not merely changing the behaviour of other States. The regulation mainly means adjusting the behaviour of other States’ to suit one’s own interest, as best as possible. Foreign policy tools are concerned with both change and status quo as long as the national interest is served and protected.


It is, therefore, important and essential for various political parties in India to understand the nuances as well as complexities of international relations and prioritise national interests. It is, however, unfortunate that the understanding of foreign policy issues seem to be either limited or has not attracted the attention it deserves. The mere mention of certain issues in the manifestoes has no real meaning unless and until India prioritises its national interests.


The concepts such as the relevance of non-alignment as a pursuit of India’s foreign policy even after the Cold War got over should be articulated clearly. It was because of clear articulation, NAM was always misperceived by the rest of the world. The NAM as a pursuit of India’s foreign policy was mainly to deal with bipolar system and maximise the advantages from both the sides. It helped in asserting identity and autonomy in the decision-making process.


India certainly requires the independence of choice and action in external affairs. The foreseeable future will again be some sort of management of contradictions in India’s foreign policy in the new dispensation. A concerted effort on the part of the government would be required to be put especially in dealing with terrorism, extremism and also in maintaining comprehensive national security, which not only encompasses border surveillance and management but also addresses the other equally important military security; economic security; cyber security; energy, food and water and health security. The understanding on the notion of national security needs to be expanded as well as a clear roadmap to address the intricacies. This can only be possible when the country will have a decisive government with a long-term vision.


Undoubtedly, the new dispensation would require evolving a robust anti-terror structure to counter it. Further, the role of NIA must be given a new look. India shall augment its counter-terrorism efforts with a number of countries, including the United States on a priority. 


The new dispensation shall also have to signal to the rest of the world about its ability to negotiate from a position of strength. It shall have to review the country’s nuclear deterrent capability in tune with the emerging geopolitical realities. This is so because it’s high time that India be taken seriously among the comity of nations and also its voices are well heard. 

New Delhi needs to be pragmatic and in its neighbourhood despite the challenges, it shall need to make an effort to work with adversaries. Non-reciprocity as a policy also requires a comprehensive assessment while dealing with the other countries of India’s neighbourhood. It would be a worthwhile exercise to re-look into all the major regional organisations and see how India can maximise its interests and compete with China in all the major regional organisations including SCO.

The leadership would require to work towards strengthening other regional forums like SAARC and ASEAN.  A roadmap of India’s active economic diplomacy in BRICS needs to be evolved in the foreseeable future. In fact, India’s economic power will also require to be assessed and a systematic planning be done in the new dispensation especially in the improvement of India’s gross domestic product growth rate. A systematic study on the role of the Indian Diaspora is also needed to evolve a coherent framework of policies. How the Diaspora can help build the country’s image across the international system too needs to be analysed.

Indeed, economic interdependence will be a continuing factor in the overall approach of its foreign policy.  At the same time, India would certainly assess its position in a much complicated world in the foreseeable future. National interest will remain paramount. Diplomatic skills and maneuvering will be equally important in demonstrating India’s assertiveness and strategic autonomy in the decision-making process.

The foreseeable future in the new dispensation will be largely a cohort of interests where the objectives and frameworks would be formulated on the basis of learning India has got through all its past mistakes in the foreign policy domain. ---INFA  

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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