The cornerstones of Indian foreign policy

In my last post, I had spoken about Indo-US foreign policy and why Washington finds New Delhi to be a difficult bargainer who refuses to play to the former’s music. In this post, let’s go through the main objectives of Indian foreign policy.

New Delhi’s foremost objective involves pacifying the region lying northwest of the subcontinent, known as the AfPak region in US diplomatic circles. All of the great empire states of India, in the last 2,500 years, right from Mauryans to the then all-powerful British Empire, have had to endure trouble in controlling this turbulent territory across the Indus, that frame the Indian subcontinent’s western frontier. However, weakened by its partition in 1947 and in the face of Chinese and US support to Pakistan during the Cold war years, India has had little space and time to manage its northwest. 

While US commentators often discount the Pak military’s threat to India, the latter can’t afford that luxury. New Delhi has no options but to cooperate with Washington for stabilizing its northwest. This involves encouraging the US to think differently of Pak and its relations with India and Afghanistan. And that demands making US mount pressure on the Pak army to stop exporting extremism to India and Afghanistan.  

Both Washington and New Delhi want to push the AfPak region towards economic modernization, political moderation, and regional integration. But notably, both the sides have failed in moving forward together, leave alone commence coordinating their plans.

The second major objective involves making the country an obligatory power in the Indian Ocean littorals and in south western Pacific. For over two centuries, until the 1947 partition, the British Empire was the only source of stability and the chief harbinger of security in the said region. But post-independence, India opted for an inward economic orientation and chose to focus on global mobilization of third world during Cold War. And not surprisingly, New Delhi resented the dominance of Anglo-US powers in its own strategic backyard.

As the influence of a rising Beijing radiates across the subcontinent, the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, balancing China has become a pertinent matter, especially because of the relative decline of US. India, earlier, had balanced Beijing via its de facto alliance with the USSR. Today, it requires a strategic partnership with Washington for ensuring that Beijing’s rise be peaceful. But with the US yet to determine on how best to tackle China, India has no choice left but to hedge against an increasing Chinese power as also the inherent dangers of a potential Sino-US condominium. This would necessarily involve more nuanced political and economical engagement with Beijing, albeit with eyes wide open.

Meanwhile, New Delhi’s focus is now trained on Beijing’s neighbours. It is clinging on to its tested partnership with Moscow, besides stepping up its security and economic cooperation with South Korea, Japan and Mongolia. It’s also augmenting its strategic and economic profile in Australasia and Southeast Asia. It can be safely concluded that New Delhi is finally beginning to play more proactive in regional and sub-regional power balance.

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