India’s foreign policy at the crossroads

The Hindu January 26, 2015

Country drawing attention as its economy grows and market expands

India’s foreign policy is once again at a crossroads. Another period of adjustment becomes necessary. But the high sense of drama when the Berlin Wall collapsed is absent today, and a big reset of the compass as such is not needed. Simply put, it is about a recalibration to cope with new imperatives in the contemporary world situation as well as India’s development trajectory.

The signs are that the tectonic plates in world politics are shifting once again and the quarter century since the end of the Cold War is drifting away, while a new world order is struggling to be born. The ‘unipolarity’ that seemed to be the leitmotif of the twenty-first century has vanished and despite the United States remaining the only superpower, this does not look at all like the New American Century it was supposed to be.

However, the residues of the delusionary ‘unipolar predicament’ still linger in many quarters and it creates contradictions. Eurasia and the Middle East are theatres where the dialectic is most visible today. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization remains the only military alliance system remaining in world politics but its identity as a bloc needs to be constantly fostered and its raison d’etre has become questionable.

How does India cope with a multipolar world? The former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had once said with great prescience in one of his last interviews after leaving office and as he was walking into the sunset that India’s challenge is going to be that its non-alignment would have “a better chance of success” in a multipolar world because “you don’t have to choose between the two” and the choice will be so wide that “on any particular issue you can formulate a stand that is really non-aligned.”

After all, within the span of 10 days, the Russian Defence Minister and the American President came to India and the Indian Foreign Minister would travel to Beijing to confer with her Chinese and Russian counterparts and to set the ball rolling for a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China. In sum, much of the confusion today stems from the fact that the concept of non-alignment itself is not properly understood. Mr. Rao had said, “The break-up of two blocs into many blocs is in itself a kind of movement in a particular direction… The combinations of the world have become much more complex. We have to view it in this perspective before we can understand the role of non-alignment.”

Getting the fundamentals straight becomes extremely important because the security environment in our immediate neighbourhood, which has been characterised by regional conflicts for decades and has become an epicentre of international terrorism, is in all probability also about to witness Great Power confrontation of a kind India has not known since independence. The Indian Ocean politics is churning and threatens to form new whirlpools. Our capacity to deal with these trends and events will be crucial to our ability (and success) of achieving our national objectives of development. Read Fullstory>>

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