India Foreign Policy

1 January 2017

India too has one. Foreign policy refers to the sum total of principles, interests and objectives which a country promotes while interacting with other countries. Even though there are certain basic features of a foreign policy it is not a fixed concept. The thrust of foreign policy keeps on changing according to changing international conditions. India’s foreign policy is shaped by several factors including its history, culture, geography and economy. Our Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, gave a definite shape to the country’s foreign policy.

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The Republic of India is the second most populous country and the world’s most-populous democracy and has one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world. With the world’s tenth largest military expenditures and eleventh largest economy by nominal rates or fourth largest by purchasing power parity, India is considered to be a regional power and a potential global power. It is India’s growing international influence that increasingly gives it a more prominent voice in global affairs. India has historically played a prominent role in several international organizations.

It has a long history of collaboration with several countries and is considered a leader of the developing world. India was one of the founding members of several international organizations, most notably the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Asian Development Bank and the G20 industrial nations. India has also played an important and influential role in other international organizations like East Asia Summit World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund (IMF) G8+5, and IBSA Dialogue Forum Regional organizations. India is also a member.

India has taken part in several UN peacekeeping missions and in 2007 it was the secondlargest troop contributor to the United Nations. India is currently seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, along with the G4 nations. Chanakya Desk 2001 and early 2002 following an attack on the Indian Parliament. While India’s military is vastly larger than Pakistan’s, this numerical supremacy is somewhat mitigated by the topographic limitations of their western border, which restricts the number of troops that India could deploy against Pakistan at any one time.

Further, India also has tense relations with another of its neighbors, China. In 1962, the two nations fought a war, lost quickly by India, a fact that has long stuck in the memories of many Indian military officers. While India has committed to expanding and modernizing its Air Force, and maintaining the stature and strength of its Army, three principal reasons have motivated their desire to expand their blue water navy. First is the need to counter China’s expansion into the region.

Second, the need to ensure the continued safe flow of goods and natural resources through the Bay of Bengal and finally, is India’s desire for a submarine force. Further another issue of concern to India is inter-border terrorism. Pakistan has used its soil to train terrorists against Indians. The parliament attack has been major incidence of terrorist attack. The Jammu and Kashmir region has been in midst of terrorist attacks. Except for its engagements with Pakistan and China, India’s military has not been called upon regionally in some while.

The nation is wary of such activity since its disastrous expedition to Sri Lanka in the late 1980’s in which India became dragged into the internal conflict, and which eventually led to the assassination in 1991 of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. More conventionally, India uses its diplomatic and economic leverage and soft power to help mitigate the conflicts of its neighbors, particularly Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. India, the United States, and the United Kingdom together played a powerful role in persuading Nepal’s King Gyanendra to stand down in February 2005.

India continues to have influence in Sri Lanka and in Bangladesh and provide a demonstration effect for democracy to these countries. In Afghanistan too, India has built on its long-standing relationship with the Northern Alliance and Prime Minister Hamid Karzai to support stability and growth in the country, including providing over $750 million in assistance and infrastructure support. It should be noted that India’s interest in Afghanistan is not just historical: lying as it does on Pakistan’s western border, close relations with Afghanistan (as with Iran) constitutes a significant strategic asset to India.

What Drives India’s Foreign Policy Today? In general, India’s foreign policy is driven by five principal considerations, through which lie its relationships to countries in international comity. Concern of conventional security As is necessary for any nation, India’s principal priority is ensuring conventional security for its country and its people. In recent years, India has built up a strong and capable Army, Navy and Air Force: the third, fourth and seventh largest in the world respectively.

India’s main conventional threat is perceived to be Pakistan. These two nations had a military stand-off in late  Economic Growth Economic growth is another sphere, which influences India’s foreign policy. Following the 1991 economic reforms led by the then-Finance Minister Manmohan 91 Singh, growth tripled, reaching 8% in 2004. The government is forecasting up to 10% growth, second only to that of China, for the coming decade.

Historically, India’s growth has been internally driven, stemming largely from its past socialist ideology. Now increasingly India is attracting foreign investment and drawing on international resources and markets to support this growth. In 2010 several important trade agreements have been signed with the US, France, Russia and China. In the early 1990’s, the Indian Government launched a “Look East” policy intended to promote engagement between India and its South East Asian neighbors . The raison d’etre of this policy was economic.

This policy never truly realized the hoped for benefits, in large part due to the 1997 financial crisis that interrupted economic development in the region. Nevertheless, today India is increasingly engaging with the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) including working on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and continues to engage bilaterally with the members and others with trade agreements completed or in process with countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Korea, Singapore and Japan. eapon powers on its borders – China and Pakistan and one would-be nuclear weapons power in its immediate locale – Iran. As seen through historical facts, relations with these first two powers are unstable; India has fought wars with both in recent decades and tensions rise and fall over border disagreements. In this context, India continues to attend to its own nuclear resources, and is very sensitive to intimidation of control by any other power.

The-BJP-led Government in 1998 conducted nuclear tests to respond to what was perceived as the principal nuclear threat coming from China. As the scenario is perceived by my eyes, India will continue to build its capabilities in this area until it achieves a “credible minimum deterrent” that is capable of countering not just China’s nuclear weapons but also Pakistan’s. Further with the civil nuclear treaty with US and NSG passage, India can have nuclear trade with different countries.

Major countries have sought to ease nuclear trade with India such as US, Britain and Russia. Thus India needs to build its nuclear capability in order to gain stature in international scenario, though it needs to continue raising its voice against nuclear proliferation. Energy Security Further in order to sustain economic growth at around 10%, India must ensure energy security its third major area of focus. As per statistics, India currently imports 70% of its oil and 50% of its gas; by 2025 it is projected that India will import 80% of its energy needs.

In an effort to ensure access to energy resources, India will continue to focus on the Middle East region (which supplies two-thirds of their oil), and particularly on Iran. Iran currently provides 10% of India’s oil (its fourth largest provider after Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Kuwait) and, albeit unlikely, if the proposed pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to India becomes a reality, the three nations will be tied more intimately together, something that has both positive and negative consequences.

In addition to the Gulf, India, like China, is expanding its search for energy resources beyond its immediate neighborhood into Africa and Latin America. Today India only gets 3% of its electricity generation from nuclear power (compared to 30% in Japan and 78% in France); it wants to expand its nuclear energy production by 9% a year through to 2050. This current low level of production was one of the driving factors behind the July 2005 civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States.

On August 18, 2008 the IAEA Board of Governors approved, and on February 2, 2009, India signed an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The 45-nation NSG granted the waiver to India on September 6, 2008 allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries. The implementation of this waiver makes India the only known country with nuclear weapons, which is not a party to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world. Thus India’s foreign policy is shaped a lot by its energy needs.

Stature in comity of nations The final priority to me of New Delhi’s government is for the need of India to take its “rightful” place on the global stage. In so doing, they will recognize the importance of building their strategic stature and leadership. Despite already being a leader of the developing world, India wants its status recognized in the developed world. Given South Asia’s instability, there is much scope for India to focus these assets on helping to alleviate the conflicts in its neighborhood mentioned earlier such as those in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

India’s positive role in Afghanistan is also now recognized by the US, France and Britain. India has an impressive array of memberships of regional organizations and continues to drive for more including a formal association with the Associated of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and joining the AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group. India is also thinking globally, whether through UN peacekeeping or in its bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. In 2010, heads of state of the US, France and Britain accepted the rightful place of India as Security Council.

While thus far the goal of a permanent seat has been unsuccessful, it has resulted in a number of indirect benefits in raising its profile as a serious contender following UN reform. Meanwhile, India continues to lead the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement and in this capacity negotiates on behalf of the developing nations in the UN General Assembly and WTO Doha talks. India has thus improved relationships with the US, France, Japan and Britain. Russia has also recognized the growing power of India. However relations with China are still tense because of border disputes.

Similarly with Pakistan too on the issue of terrorism and Kashmir issue tension continues. Given India’s impressive military and soft-power capabilities, as India builds confidence and finds its voice, anticipate that it will become more active in helping to create a regional security regime and in pushing stability outwards.

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