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.
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.
- 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.
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.