India, the giant that does not align and wants to be the power of the future
In today’s global geopolitics, the logic of “He who is not with us is against us.” Just look at the balance of power dynamics set up by the two major powers as they assiduously try to develop axes of influence on the other side of the world to counterbalance their rival’s dominance. But the largest democracy on the planet permanently navigates this dichotomy gracefully. India sits at the table with the United States, Australia and Japan to develop joint policies that strengthen security in the Indo-Pacific while agreeing with China to work on space cooperation to form a “virtual constellation” that allows data sharing between the BRICS countries. And he does all this while he sends humanitarian aid to Ukraine and calls for an immediate end to the violence, but without directly condemning or punishing Russia, its largest arms supplier.
“India does not think in black and white, it does not think in terms of blocs. India is agnostic”explains to THE NATION Harsh V. Pant, an expert on Indian foreign policy at King’s College London, while noting that the country has decided to resort to “a very energetic diplomacy” and “in multiple directions” in recent years.
India’s balancing act, according to experts, responds to a historic push for maintain a non-aligned and independent foreign policy, whose main objective is to serve the internal agenda of the government and promote a development-driven approach by fostering ties with a large number of countries that, in some cases, may be hostile to each other. “That is why it walks hand in hand with the West on some issues but also seeks to cooperate with emerging powers on others,” says Pant.
At a time when your enormous diplomatic, economic weight, and demographic — a UN report estimates that India will overtake China as the planet’s most populous country next year — provide it with ample maneuverability, New Delhi’s stances on issues of international concern are viewed with increased scrutiny.
But to understand what the main motivations and objectives of India are, it is necessary to take a brief historical tour.
During the early years of the Cold War, India launched the Non-Aligned Movement in order to resist the weakening of its sovereignty; while rebuilding its economy and consolidating its integrity, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar explained. at a keynote in 2019.
But as the conflict intensified, India entered informally into the Soviet orbit mainly to counteract the United States’ strategic alliance with Pakistan, its great subcontinental adversary. Since partition in 1947, the two nations have fought three wars over Kashmir, a region that remains a repeated source of tension.
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, however, the deal between India and the United States improved remarkably. This has been greatly aided by the fact that both nations are democracies and maintain a close trade relationship. “India is a great example of democracy. She is very devout, she has various religious leaders, but they are all comfortable with their religion. The world needs India,” said George W. Bush – who was described by New York Times as “the most pro-India president” – on a state visit to the city of Hyderabad in 2006.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the India’s extensive contribution to the War on Terroralong with the growth of its economy, favored diplomatic relations not only with the United States but with several NATO countries.
Even in 2004, Washington signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with New Delhi despite the fact that it was not part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, under the argument that its solid record made it an exception and giving up the condition of the country close to that of a pariah state.
The connections continued to flourish significantly during the tenure of Narendra Modi. The prime minister’s Hindu nationalist party, the Indian People’s Party (IPP), focused on a broadly liberal economic policy that prioritizes globalization and economic growth, is more favorable to increasing ties with the Westas Antía Mato Bouzas, professor of Politics and International Relations at the London Metropolitan University, wrote in an article by the Elcano Royal Institute.
This new chapter has been accompanied by a considerable increase in trade. In fiscal year 2021-22, US overtook China to become India’s top trading partner. Bilateral trade between the two nations stood at $119.42 billion, 11.5% of India’s total trade. This increase was also transferred to trade with the European Union, which reached the highest figure of all time in 2021: 88.1 billion, as reported by EuroNews.
India’s strategic partnership with the US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific has also deepened in recent years, given the challenge of managing an increasingly assertive China. In the end, Beijing is India’s main strategic adversary, with which it shares a disputed 3,000-kilometre border.
But although Modi government tries to benefit from initiatives that contain China, can not afford enmity with a superpower and, therefore, is willing to collaborate with it in certain areas.
Thus, India’s foreign policy is in a crossroads: New geopolitical currents, stemming mainly from China’s military and economic rise, have brought New Delhi closer to Washington and its allies; however, it must address its own conception of managing perceptions of security threats inherent in its immediate and extended neighborhood (which includes both China and Pakistan, both nuclear powers). And this is where Russia comes in.
Maintaining healthy ties with the Kremlin is an important piece of this larger geopolitical puzzle. Moscow remains the backbone of Indian military hardware: the Russian market represents more than 46% of all the weapons that New Delhi bought between 2017 and 2021As reported Foreign Policy.
Furthermore, Indian companies have started to increase purchases of Russian oil after Moscow offered a $35 per barrel discount. According to an estimate published by Reuters, India has bought at least 40 million barrels since the beginning of the invasion; more than double what he bought in all of 2021.
But the West is willing to ignore all of this. “From a security perspective, the war in Ukraine is just a minor setback in the US-European relationship with India; they need it too much as a regional counterweight to China,” explains Pant.
In fact, the United States House of Representatives approved on Thursday a legislative amendment approving a specific exemption for India of the punitive sanctions of the CAATSA – the US law to counter adversaries through sanctions – for its purchase of the S-400 anti-missile defense system from Russia, as reported by The Times of India.
Beyond the juggling that the Modi government must do with its foreign policy, what still prevails, according to the expert, are national interests and the strategy through which the country faces the main global challenges contemplates a form of diplomacy in the that it is easier to promote certain internal concerns. “India is not focused on becoming a world superpower. It is still a very poor country. At this point the most important goal is to become a developed nation. Domestic development is high on the list of priorities. And foreign policy accompanies that end “stands out.
The 2021 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) showed that 27.9% of the Indian population was multidimensionally poor. The country occupies ranked 62 out of 109 in the index.
That is why India intends to act jointly with other less favored countries in the main international forums to promote measures in various areas (economy, technology, research, education, logistics, defense and climate change, among others) that take into account their interests. compared to those of rich countries. In this way, the Modi Administration has paid special attention to the Neighborhood First Policy, a central component in peaceful relations and collaborative synergistic co-development with its South Asian neighbors. But it has also strengthened ties with countries in other regions. Argentina is an example.
According to the Embassy of India in Argentina, relations between the two countries were raised to the level of Strategic Association during the state visit to India in 2019 of then President Mauricio Macri. The multifaceted relations between the two countries have grown stronger over the years and encompass cooperation at the political, economic, cultural, scientific and technological levels.
Likewise, bilateral trade recorded a historical peak of 5.7 billion dollars in 2021, with a growth rate of 72% compared to 2020, with 1.4 billion in exports from India to Argentina and 4.3 billion in imports from India from Argentina, according to Indec data. Thus, India became the fourth trading partner in 2021.