[4 May 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: The paradox of India’s Global rise, its Regional decline

PYQ Relevance:


Q Evaluate the economic and strategic dimensions of India’s Look East Policy in the context of the post-Cold War international scenario..(UPSC IAS/2016)

Q India needs to strengthen measures to promote the pink revolution in food industry for ensuring better nutrition and health. Critically elucidate the statement.(UPSC IAS/2013)


Prelims: NA

Mains: Challenges facing by India in south Asia,Factors contributing to India’s regional decline,

Mentor comments:India’s paradoxical foreign policy sees a rising global stature fueled by economic growth, military strength, and multilateral engagements like the Quad and BRICS. Yet, regionally, it faces weakning influence due to relative power shifts vis-à-vis China, loss of primacy in South Asia, and evolving geopolitics in the region.

Why in the news? 

In contemporary Indian foreign policy, a perplexing paradox emerges as India rises on the global stage while concurrently experiencing a decline in regional influence.

Factors contributing to India’s Regional decline:

  • American withdrawal and China’s influence: The withdrawal of the United States from the region has created a power vacuum, allowing China to expand its influence. This has been disadvantageous to India’s regional influence but has also led to increased interest from the United States and its allies in accommodating India’s global interests to counterbalance China.
  • Indo-Pacific focus: While India’s focus on the Indo-Pacific has garnered global attention, it may have stretched India’s resources too thin in its continental neighborhood. This shift in focus towards the great power balance in the Indo-Pacific has potentially contributed to India’s declining influence in South Asia.
  • Dynamic of comparative power: India’s regional decline is a result of the dynamics of comparative power, where the rise of China and the geopolitical choices made by the region’s smaller powers have shifted the balance of influence. Overlooking the balancing acts of smaller regional powers in favor of solely focusing on great power dynamics could be counterproductive for understanding the complexities of India’s regional decline.

Challenges faced by India in South Asia: 

  • Rise of China: China’s ascent poses a significant challenge to India’s regional influence, with its growing power shifting the balance in South Asia.
  • Shift in regional dynamics: The arrival of China in South Asia, coupled with the withdrawal of the U.S. from the region, has altered the regional balance of power, creating geopolitical competition for influence.
  • Strategies of smaller South Asian nations: India’s smaller neighbors are adopting various strategies, such as balancing, bargaining, hedging, and bandwagoning, in response to the changing power dynamics, often viewing China as a useful hedge against India.
  • Obsolescence of South Asia as a geopolitical construct: The traditional concept of South Asia as a geopolitical entity is becoming obsolete, further challenging India’s hold on the region.

What needs to be done? 

  • Revisiting traditional conceptions: India must reassess its traditional conceptions of the region and modernize its approach to maintain primacy in South Asia.
  • Accepting changing realities: Acknowledging the fundamental changes in the region’s geopolitics is crucial for India to effectively address the challenges it faces.
  • Focus on strengths: India should leverage its strengths rather than attempting to match China’s might in every aspect. Reclaiming its traditional strengths, such as its Buddhist heritage, can be beneficial.
  • Leveraging maritime advantages: Given the challenges in its continental strategy, India should capitalize on its maritime advantages in the Indo-Pacific to enhance trade, form minilaterals, and build issue-based coalitions.
  • Engaging with smaller South Asian neighbors: India should include its smaller South Asian neighbors in Indo-Pacific strategic conversations to wean them away from China’s regional grand strategy and strengthen partnerships with key players like Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bangladesh.
  • Adopting a non-India centric approach: India’s willingness to view the region through a non-India centric lens signals openness to collaborating with external friendly partners in addressing common challenges in the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

Way Forward 

  • Diversify Engagement: India should diversify its engagement strategies to encompass both global and regional interests effectively. This could involve maintaining robust relationships with global powers while simultaneously strengthening ties with regional neighbors.
  • Enhance Regional Cooperation: India should prioritize enhancing cooperation and collaboration within South Asia. This could involve revitalizing initiatives like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and promoting bilateral partnerships with individual South Asian countries.
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