“The long sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalized nations has disappeared on account of its newfound role in the emerging global order.’ Elaborate (15 Marks)

Mentor Comments:

  • Discuss how modern India prefers to prioritize its own national interests over the collective interests of developing nations.
  • In the 1st part of the main body, discuss how and why India, has long been hailed as a leader of the oppressed and marginalized nations or least developed nations 
  • You can quote examples of formation NAM, G77, etc.
  • In the 2nd part of the main body, highlight how in post-economic liberalization (especially in the 21st century) economic prosperity is seen as the key to a county’s attainment of great power status and has been the driving force in India’s current worldview.
  • You can give an example of how India has engaged in economic development in Africa, securing oil fields in Central Asia, being Israel’s biggest arms market.
  • So now, modern India prefers to prioritize its own national interests over the collective interests of developing nations.
  • Conclude the answer with a suitable summary of the whole answer.


India has been taking an increasingly pragmatic stance in the conduct of its foreign affairs in recent times. This shows a gradual shift from a conventional foreign policy that India had adopted. 

How Historically India was the leader of the oppressed and marginalized Nations

  • India took control of narratives regarding various developing and marginalized nations in the first 4 decades since independence.
  • Important among them were NAM and G-77.
  • G77 is a coalition of 134 developing nations (including China) at the United Nations.
  • Traditionally G77 speaks with a single voice before the 193-member General Assembly and also at all UN committee meetings and at international conferences.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement is a movement of countries representing the interests and priorities of developing and oppressed countries. 
  • India was a founding member of this grouping.
  • India was at the forefront of these attempts to create a global space for developing nations and regions whose voices went unheard.
  • This policy continued throughout the Cold War when India leaned toward the Soviet Union while deftly maintaining strategic autonomy and charting its own course in a bipolar international order.

India’s newfound role in the emerging global order:

  • This worldview began to evolve following the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic crisis at home. 
  • A newfound pragmatism began to emerge and by the late 1990s India was willing to place its own national interest – both economic and security – ahead of broader ideas of global justice and equity.
  • The high rates of economic growth ushered through domestic reforms attracted international investors and India quickly captured this opportunity. 
  • Economic attractiveness gave the country space to engage the rest of the world on its own terms. 
  • This meant that India would not give in easily on strategic issues, but it would at the same time be flexible and engage with the rest of the world to achieve win-win outcomes.
  • This shift, which is ongoing today, seeks to position India among the great powers by showcasing a willingness to take on more international responsibilities. 
  • Today India is at the center of the international security architecture, and a key to the economic and technological debates of the age. 
  • By virtue of its economic growth, its world-class space program, and its contributions from medicine to IT, India has become indispensable to global needs and a shaper of the world economy, not just as a market, but also as an engine of growth and ideas.

How India is maintaining its current foreign policy using realpolitik:

  • India now prefers multi alignment rather than Non- alignment. Ex, SCO, BRICS, QUAD, etc.
  • There is a growing convergence of views between India and the U.S. on the security and diplomatic architecture of the Asia- Pacific. 
  • India deals with China with confidence and candor. This is the new normal in the relationship. India and China engage, cooperate and compete simultaneously
  • India is taking a dehyphenation stance on Israel and Palestine. That means India’s relationship with Israel would stand on its own merit and will be independent of her relationship with Palestine.
  • India has pursued a strong Indian Ocean policy and unveiled a vision framework for the Indian Ocean. India has announced a new initiative, SAGAR- Security And Growth for All in the Region- not only to safeguard India and its island territories but to broaden economic and security cooperation in the region.
  • India has coupled diplomacy and development in a turn towards quantifiable outcomes. Prime Minister’s foreign visits have focussed on the search for technology, resources, and best practice.
  • India is willing to shoulder the responsibility of securing the global commons. 
  • This was demonstrated by humanitarian relief operations in Yemen, Nepal, South Sudan, Fiji, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and in India’s continuing lead in UN peacekeeping operations. 
  • India stood in the frontlines in keeping the maritime commons safe and secure, and in global negotiations, such as on climate change.
  • Active engagement in development work across the globe. Ex. African nations, Afghanistan, etc. 
  • Focus on better suited regional groupings like BIMSTEC or ASEAN over SAARC.
  • Wooing foreign investments and at the same time investing big in other nations. Ex. Vankor Oil Field; Taas-Yuryakh; Lower Zakum Concession etc.
  • At the same time, Indian companies have become one of the biggest sources of FDIs in countries like Britain, Nigeria, South Africa, etc.
  • So we can see that now India cooperates with other countries but on its own terms and defects when it is not able to do so

At the global level, we see a shift towards playing a leading world role, rather than a mere balancing one, with ambition, energy, and confidence. There is a realization in the government that, to become a truly great power, India will need to set the agenda on the burning international issues of the day, rather than merely shaping outcomes. At the end of the Second World War, India was a passive witness to the creation of a new security architecture for the world, as decisions concerning India were made by the British. But India now is prepared to lead the negotiation of global covenants.


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