Foreign policy the Indian way: Shaping, stabilizing and providing security

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump wave to participants at a rally in Houston’s NRG Stadium late last year. (AP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Foreign policy the Indian way: Shaping, stabilizing and providing security

  • The 25-million strong Indian diaspora will play an important role in building the New India, says Jaishankar

NEW DELHI: Purposeful, pragmatic and proactive. A shaper, not an abstainer. A stabilizer, rather than a disruptor. A security provider and a dispenser of global good. India’s foreign policy has found a new vocabulary and framework, as articulated by the country’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar at the Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi earlier this month.

Words matter in foreign policy so this new lexicon of a rising India encapsulates the current form and trajectory of the country’s foreign policy in a world undergoing unprecedented transformation. Purposeful pursuit of national interests, pragmatic issue-based alignment with countries, big and small, and proactive diplomatic outreach have come to characterize and configure India’s foreign policy and diplomacy in the 21st century.

What is powering the diverse strands of India’s foreign policy is the overarching goal of transforming the lives of over 1.3 billion people in the country and spurring the country’s rise as a leading power in an increasingly multipolar world.

A new India is emerging in the second decade of the 21st century, one that is proactively shaping the international agenda on a wide array of cross-cutting issues, including climate change, sustainable development, counterterrorism, maritime security and the architectural reconfiguration of global governance.

This new India, with an economy of around $3 trillion and the surging aspirations of a vast population, is poised to reclaim its place on the global stage.

In a wide-ranging conversation on “The India Way” at the Raisina Dialogue, Jaishankar highlighted key features of a new foreign policy for a new India. 

“The India way would be to be more of a decider or a shaper, rather than an abstainer,” he said, adding that India had made a difference in the last few years on issues like climate change and connectivity. More importantly he fleshed out the kind of power India would be in the next few years. 

“It is not the India way to be a disruptionist power internationally, we should be a stabilizing power. It’s also not the India way to be self-centered and to be mercantilist. The India way would be a country which brings its capacities to bear on the international system for global good,” he said.

India, driven by the ethos of mutual empowerment, has shared funds, technology and expertise with countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. 

This development cooperation, channeled through lines of credit and grants, includes assistance in capacity building, training and enhanced cooperation in education and health.

India has committed around $29 billion in lines of credit for a host of development projects in 160 countries in the spirit of south-south solidarity.

As India’s global stature rises, the Indian government has also embarked on an unprecedented diplomatic outreach mission to mobilize global support for national resurgence. 

Cutting across hemispheres, the last few years have seen a record number of high-level incoming and outgoing visits at the level of president, prime minister, vice president and ministers. 

BACKGROUND

What is powering the diverse strands of India’s foreign policy is the overarching goal of transforming the lives of over 1.3 billion people in the country and spurring the country’s rise as a leading power in an increasingly multipolar world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has traveled to over 70 countries in the last five-and-a-half years. In an evolving multipolar world, India has chosen the path of multi-alignment which entails forging issues-based alignment with like-minded countries and major power centers, without getting into “us versus them” zero-sum games.

What animates this outreach is the mantra of diplomacy for development which seeks to promote a national resurgence. With the Indian government setting an ambitious target of creating a $5 trillion economy, its foreign policy is being directed to harness the network of partnerships with all friendly countries to create a “New India” by 2022, the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Development–focused diplomacy is seen in the interweaving of flagship schemes of national renewal — like “Make in India,” and “Stand-up India” — with the country’s diplomatic outreach. Forging robust and sustainable partnerships in technology, innovation and start-ups will be crucial to creating a New India and making India count on the global stage. Doubling the gross domestic product to a $5 trillion economy is not possible without a conducive international environment and supportive external partnerships.

Looking ahead, with its growing global stature and the rising expectations that the world has of a resurgent India, Modi has advocated reformed multilateralism to create a new world order that reflects the ongoing shift of power and realities of the 21st century. India has also taken the lead in combating climate change by fulfilling its commitments under the Paris accord and taking a series of initiatives for promoting a low-carbon economy. 

In recognition of New Delhi’s leadership role in this area, more countries are joining the International Solar Alliance that seeks to usher in a white revolution for a clean and green world. India has launched a new international initiative called the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, which is finding greater global support.

The 25-million strong Indian diaspora, spread across different countries and continents, will play an important role in building the New India. As Jaishankar put it: “The India way would be really Brand India. Brand India in terms of what is unique to us as a power,” he said while alluding to the diaspora, Indian culture and heritage. Modi has also articulated the essence of Brand India. 

“All our endeavors are centered on 1.3 billion Indians,” Modi said in his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last year. 

“But the dreams that these efforts are trying to fulfil are the same dreams that the entire world has, that every country has, and that every society has.The efforts are ours, but their fruits are for all, for the entire world.”

Going forward, as it scripts its global ascent on its own terms, India will have to relentlessly assert its strategic autonomy as it navigates geopolitical rivalries to make independent decisions that benefit the country’s people.

This will entail dovetailing diplomacy with development and interweaving foreign policy with an unclouded vision of India as a leading power with a unique voice and narrative in a rapidly transforming world order.

• Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India and the World magazine and India Writes Network, a portal focused on global affairs.


Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Updated 27 February 2020

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.