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Indian Foreign Policy UPSC NOTE

 Challenges and dilemmas faced by Indian foreign policy

  • Contemporary Indian foreign policy has an ambitious vision from being the leader of the global South, to be an arbiter in global geopolitical contestations.

  • Making a serious claim to be a pole in world politics. 

  • But South Asia is not only not keen to jump on the bandwagon of the India story, but it is also seemingly holding India back, albeit indirectly.

  • Neighbourhoods are difficult for any major power, but contemporary India is faced with an exceptionally hard one, complicated by a rising superpower in its neighbourhood, for the first time in its history.

  • In general, there are three types of dilemmas that India faces in the neighbourhood. 

  1. The rise of politically anti-India regimes in South Asia such as the one in the Maldives where the new government is effectively asking Indians to pack up and leave. While the Maldives is anti-India in an instrumental sense, a Khaleda Zia-led government in Dhaka, which goes to the elections early next year, could turn out to be ideologically anti-India

  2. The type of dilemma India faces in the neighbourhood is structural, resulting from Beijing’s growing influence in South Asia.

  3. The growing entanglement of the region’s smaller

states in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other Chinese projects. 

  • Beijing’s assiduous outreach to South Asian states when the rest of the international community abandons or avoids them for normative reasons.

  • Taliban-led Afghanistan, military-ruled Myanmar and crisis-hit Sri Lanka

  • China’s desire to settle border disputes with its neighbours (minus India), as seen in the case of Bhutan, is also a strategy to win over the region.

  • If we do not take innovative measures, there is a good chance that we will be geopolitically locked in within an unfriendly South Asia

  • There are three broad sets of causes behind the dilemmas India faces in the neighbourhood. 

  • The first is the regional geopolitical architecture characterised by five overlapping elements.

  • Contemporary South Asia is characterised by a diminishing presence of the United States, which, for a long time, was a geopolitical constant in the region. 

  • For New Delhi, Washington’s departure is definitely disadvantageous, in particular given how China has filled the power vacuum created by Washington’s departure

  • Second is aggressive and stupendous rise of China has come as a ‘geopolitical buffer’, at least for now, 

for the smaller states in the region. 

  • While our neighbours are keen to practise strategic autonomy with us, there is little appetite to do so vis-à-vis China.

  • Third, in one of the least interconnected regions in the world, and poor, it is natural that the inhabitants of the region will tilt towards a power with the ability to cater to their material needs. 

  • Fourth, India, for the most part, has had a normative and political approach towards the region, with the states in the region acquiescing, rebelling, and falling in line given the absence of choices. 

Achilles Heel of Indian Foreign Policy

  • It is time India made a mental switch and acknowledged that South Asia and its balance of power have changed fundamentally

  • Southern Asia which has pretty much replaced South Asia is a space where China has emerged as a serious contender for regional primacy.

  • India’s neighbours and periphery are China’s too, even if we do not like it. 

  • Such a realistic and pragmatic framing would help India deal with the reality as it is rather than working with the mental frame of Indian primacy which is long gone.

  • Second, New Delhi must proactively pursue the involvement of friendly external actors in the region. 

  • That is the only way to deal with the impending possibility of the region becoming Sino-centric.

  • Third, Indian diplomacy must be flexible enough to engage multiple actors in each of the neighbouring countries. 

  • The art of diplomacy is not about hating the anti-India elements in the neighbourhood, but, instead, lessening their anti-India attitude

  • Finally, here is the highlighting of an issue that has been spoken of ad nauseum — India needs more hands for its diplomatic pursuits

  • The glaring shortage of sufficient diplomats to implement the foreign policy of a country of 1.4 billion people will prove to be India’s single most crucial challenge going forward. 

  • The more India’s role in world affairs grows, the more the shortage of personnel will be felt by us and others. 

  • If the current state of affairs continues, there will be no one to show up with the Indian flag when opportunities beckon or crises emerge.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Indian Foreign Policy UPSC NOTE
Indian Foreign Policy UPSC NOTE
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