Selective alignment to universal engagement of Indian diplomacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India's engagement with the world


In 2021, Indian diplomacy was characterised by a readiness to deal with friends and foes alike.

Challenges faced by India diplomacy in 2021

  • The US leadership change: Coping with the change from President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden and the consequent changes in U.S. policy were big enough to keep the world leaders on tenterhooks.
  • Pandemic:  With the increased onslaught of the pandemic, India suddenly became the epicentre of the tragedy.
  • The exposure of the inefficiency of India’s health system and put the country in the defensive and weakened its credibility as it tried to contribute to the resolution of global issues.
  • Aggression by China: For India, the biggest preoccupation of 2021 was the effort to get China to disengage in areas in Ladakh.
  • Dialogue, military preparedness and economic pressure met with limited success.
  • Afghanistan crisis: Afghanistan turned out to be a bigger crisis than expected, with the Taliban’s walkover in Kabul.
  • Bringing some civility to the Taliban in Kabul became a high priority in the face of a Pakistan-China-Taliban axis with some support from Russia and Iran.
  • Issue of permanent membership of the UN Security Council: Unprecedented in the history of the UN, an event at the Security Council was chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • Significant inputs were provided during discussions on issues like maritime security, peacekeeping and anti-terrorism for active consideration in the future.
  • Although it is illusory to believe that the way has been cleared for India’s permanent membership of the Security Council, India’s diplomatic capabilities and its commitment to the UN have demonstrated yet again.

What marks the change in the style of Indian diplomacy?

  • From selective alignment, India moved to universal engagement, even to the extent of convening meetings with antagonists.
  • Engagements with the U.S. went beyond familiarisation with the new government to increased commitment to Quad and acceptance of AUKUS and formation of the ‘western Quad’, with the U.S., Israel and the UAE.
  • Engagement with Russia: Major agreements were signed with Russia, despite the American threat of CAATSA against S-400 missiles and the Russian inclination to align with China in the days to come.
  • The engagement with China at the level of commanders and diplomats was intense, and ministerial interaction continued even when China tore up many fundamental agreements that sustained the dialogue for many years.
  • Patience, diligence and firmness: India attended a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, where a sub-group led by China took its own decisions on Afghanistan.
  • We also attended a meeting of Russia, China and India.
  • Perhaps because of the unique geopolitical situation, India gave particular importance to its presidency of the UN Security Council in August 2021.
  • Engagement with Myanmar: The Foreign Secretary’s visit to Myanmar to engage the military junta at a time when opposition leaders are in prison may raise eyebrows in many countries, but this is another instance of India’s readiness to engage those in power to explore possibilities of friendship and co-operation.
  •  The intention is to prevent China from having a field day in Myanmar.


Sadly, the extraordinary efforts made by India have not been fruitful in the cases of China and Afghanistan.  But India’s new style of diplomacy will have an impact in shaping the world of the future.

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