India’s Foreign Policy

The public outcry of the Mumbai terrorist bombing in 2008, was strong enough for the Indian government to consider using the military option vis-a-vis Pakistan. It was soon realised that India no longer had the capability of imposing retribution and that it no longer enjoyed the kind of conventional superiority in the region as it had five decades back. This became the initiation of pursuing a defence modernisation programme estimated to be over US dollar 50 billion in the next five years.

Apart from this, a constant challenge that India faced was to maintain ties with two major powers; China and the US. It seemed a tough balancing act not condemning China when it cracked down on the Tibetan protests in Lhasa during the Olympic torch rally. These incidents are emblematic of India’s basic foreign policy problem at the dawn of the new millennium. As India rises through the global inter-state hierarchy, two problems have emerged as crucial to its future trajectory: utilising the international system to its advantage, and the concept of power, particularly its aversion to using hard force.

India is being called upon to shoulder global responsibilities and has indeed come a long way. Its economy is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. It is a nuclear weapon state and its armed forces are highly professional. Its vibrant democratic institutions are attracting global attention. According to the assessment of the Goldman Sachs, by 2040, the four largest economies Will be those of China, US, India and Japan. A nationā€˜s foreign policy flows from several sources; international system, domestic political imperatives, cultural factors and perception of individual decision makers. India is a rising power and his most certainly a leading contender for great power statue.

India’s lack of power instinct is most evident in the military, where, unlike other great global powers in the past and present, it has failed to master the design, deployment, and use of military instruments in support of its national goals. Since taking office, Modi has been busy interacting confidently with all of the world’s major powers. Modi has a golden opportunityto bring about a realignment of Indian foreign policy goals.

On the security front, a new deliberate reaction to China has been launched, with an emphasis on more efficient border control and defence procurement. There are undoubtedly hints of a fresh energy in bilateral ties with India’s neighbours, as New Delhi places a renewed emphasis on revitalising its regional reputation. The need of the hour is the right balance between enhancing economic ties with Beijing while building a deterrent military might. Modi has pursued a proactive foreign policy, expanding military relations with Australia, Japan, and Vietnam while attempting to reclaim strategic space in the Indian Ocean area. Modi travelled to Mongolia and South Korea after his May 2015 visit to China, showing that New Delhi is still keen in expanding its presence on China’s periphery. For many years, India was viewed as a roadblock to normalising Sino-Indian relations. Modi has flipped the script on Beijing and shown his willingness to go all-in.

The biggest issue for Modi and his government will be to shift away from an overly individualised foreign policy and toward more institutionalised foreign policy and national security decision-making. A flaw that past governments have failed to address.

Aishwarya Says:

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