Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[op-ed snap] The world from Raisina.op-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India's foreign relation with 'Middle Power' countries-Prospects and opportunities.


Context:

As the world is moving from an era of predictability to an era of unpredictability led by the US and China, a new Middle Power coalition is the need of an hour.

The “Rising India” narrative and challenges

  • The narrative was scripted over the two post-Cold War decades, 1991 to 2011.
  • Narrative of plural secular democracy: It was based on the improving performance of the economy and India’s political ability to deal with many longstanding diplomatic challenges within a paradigm of realism.
  • Three successive prime ministers – scripted the narrative of India rising as a plural, secular democracy, as opposed to China’s rise within an authoritarian system.
  • Opening of new vistas: India’s improving economic performance had opened up new vistas for cooperation with major powers and neighbours.
  • New challenges to the narrative: Now the economy’s subdued performance and domestic political issues have created new challenges for Indian foreign policy.
    • The new approach to relations with India adopted by both President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping has created a more challenging external environment.

Relations with the US

  • New demands from the US: Each time New Delhi has tried to meet a US demand, Washington DC has come up with new demands.
  • US-China dispute resolution and effects for India: Any resolution of US differences with China, can only reduce whatever little bargaining clout India has.
  • Complaint at WTO: The US has, in fact, actively lodged complaints against India at the World Trade Organisation.
  • Geopolitical effects for India:  On the geopolitical side, US intervention in West Asia has always imposed an additional economic burden on India.

Relations with China

  • Consistent policy: There has been continuity and consistency in India-China policy over the past two decades, with some ups and downs.
  • Effects of power difference with China: As the bilateral power differential widens, China has little incentive or compulsion to be accommodative of Indian concerns, much less the interests
    • China never fails to remind India of the growing power differential between the two.
  • Building strength to deal with China: In dealing with China, India will have to, paraphrasing Deng Xiaoping, “build its strength and bide its time.

Russia’s focus

  • It will remain focused on Eurasian geopolitics.
  • It will also be concerned with the geo-economics of energy.
  • Implications for India: Both these factors define Russia’s relations with China, and increasingly, with Pakistan, posing a challenge for India.

 

Way forward in the relations with Pakistan

  • The government’s Pakistan policy has run its course.
    • It yielded some short-term results thanks to Pakistan’s efforts not to get “black-listed” by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
    • But the rest of the world is doing business with Pakistan, lending billions in aid.
  • The global community may increasingly accept future pleas from Pakistan that terror attacks in India are home-grown.
  • related to the situation in Kashmir or concerns about the welfare of Muslims, unless incontrovertible evidence to the contrary is offered.
  • The need for a new Pakistan policy: Backchannel talks should be resumed and visas should be given liberally to Pakistani intellectuals, media and entertainers to improve cross-border perceptions as a first step towards improving relations.

The Middle Powers and opportunities for India

  • What are the middle powers?  It is a mix of developed and developing economies, some friends of the US and other friends of China.
    • It is an amorphous group but can emerge into a grouping of the like-minded in a world of uncertainty capable of taming both the US and China.
    • A new Middle Powers coalition may be the need of the year.
  • Which countries can be part of it?  Germany, France, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and perhaps South Korea. One could include Russia, Nigeria and South Africa also in this group.
  • Stakes involved but no influence: Like India, these countries have a stake in what the US and China do, but little influence over either.
  • What India can do? These countries which constitute the part of the Middle Powers should engage the attention of India’s external affairs minister.

Disruptive policies not an option

  • Adoption of disruptive approach: There is a view among some policy analysts that India too can adopt a “disruptive” approach as a clever tactic in foreign affairs.
    • Disruption is not an end in itself. It has to be a means to an end.
    • Powerful nations can afford disruption as tactics.
  • Unchanged strategic elements: The strategic elements defining Indian foreign policy in the post-Cold War era have not changed.
  • Not an option: India cannot risk such tactics without measuring the risk they pose to strategy.

Conclusion

With the changing geopolitical atmosphere particularly with respect to the US and Chiana, India needs to adopt a suitable approach to its foreign policy especially involving the Middle Powers.

 

 

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