[Editorial Analysis] Reframing India’s foreign policy priorities

Mains Paper 2: International relations
Prelims level: India’s foreign policy
Mains level: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing Countries on India’s interests


• India’s foreign policy priorities, apart from an ideational restructuring, prudent plans, achievable objectives and a line of continuity are a must.

• Geopolitical move of Europe, EU has turned its back on the U.S. and revived its China links; Europe has thus shattered all hope that China would remain ostracised in 2021.

• The concern of India remains isolated from two important supranational bodies of which it used to be a founding member.

Is China stronger ever in 2021?

• Europe has turned its back on the U.S. and revived its China links, by ‘concluding in principle the negotiations for an EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment’. In one swift move, Europe has thus shattered all hope that China would remain ostracised in 2021.

• China is only major country which had a positive rate of growth at the end of 2020, and its economy is poised to grow even faster in 2021.

• Militarily, China has further strengthened itself, and now seeks to dominate the Indo-Pacific Ocean with its announcement of the launch of its third aircraft carrier in 2021.

• China is seeking to strengthen its military coordination with Russia. Consequent on all this and notwithstanding Chinese intransigence in several matters including its heavy-handed actions in Hong Kong and Uighur, China’s position across Asia is, if anything, stronger than in 2020.

India issue with china:

Trade deficit issue:

• Since the beginning of the 21st century, trade between China and India has grown from less than $3 billion to nearly $100 billion, an increase of about 32 times. In 2019, the trade volume between China and India was $92.68 billion.

• In fiscal year 2019-20, India’s trade deficit with China was $48.64 billion which was lower than the trade deficit of $53.56 billion in 2018-19.

A border issue with China:

• 1962: India-China War and origin of LAC,
• 1967: In Sikkim, India pushes China back
• 2013: Stand-off at Daulat Beg Oldi.
• 2017: Doklam Stand-off
• 2020: Ladakh stand-off (lake Pangong Tso)
• Gilgit-Baltistan, as an implicit attack on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over the South China Sea.

Is Economy first for Europe?

• Europe, minus Britain following Brexit, and the retirement of Germany’s Angela Merkel, could become even less relevant in world affairs.

• The China-EU Investment Treaty which saw Europe capitulating to China’s brandishments is an indication that Europe values its economy more than its politics.

• Russia is beginning to display greater interest in the affairs of countries on its periphery and, together with strengthening ties with China and reaching an entente with Turkey, this seems to signal reduced interest in countries such as India.
• Saudi Arabia could find the going difficult in 2021, with a Biden Administration taking charge in Washington. The healing of wounds among the Sunni Arab states in the region should be viewed as a pyrrhic victory at best for Saudi Arabia.

India issues with European Union:

• Free Trade Agreement Talks on an EU-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement have stalled after failing to resolve differences related to matters such as the level of FDI and market access, manufacture of generic drugs, greenhouse gas emissions.

India issues with Russia:

• India’s biggest problem with Russia is its dependency on the latter for its arms’ spare parts.

• Continuously sourcing spares from Russia and ensuring that Indian weapon systems eventually move away from Russian machinery is no lean task.

India issues with Saudi Arabia:

• Issues such as the Arab Israeli conflict and India’s principled support to the Arab Peace Initiative started by Saudi and on various counter terrorism issues.

Is India isolated?

• No breakthrough in Sino-Indian relations has, or is likely to occur, and the confrontation between Indian and Chinese armed forces is expected to continue.

• Tensions between the two neighbours, and in the process, also helped Pakistan to cement its relations with China.

• India has made valiant efforts to improve relations with some of its neighbours such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but as of now worthwhile results are not evident.

• India is Founding member, of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) but not interested in his policy so enough.

• Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), objective has hardly been successful.

• India has opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (a majority of Asian countries are members), and failed to take advantage of the RIC, or the Russia, India and China grouping, even as relations with Russia and China have deteriorated.

• Today seem to be a mixture of misplaced confidence, sometimes verging on hubris (as in the case of Nepal), a lack of understanding of the sensitivities of neighbours such as Bangladesh and long-time friends (such as Vietnam and Iran).

India fare of influence is widens:

• India’s foreign policy objectives are to widen its sphere of influence, enhance its role across nations, and make its presence felt as an emerging power in an increasingly disruptive global system

• India’s voice and counsel are seldom sought, or listened to. This is a far cry from what used to happen previously.

• India will serve as the president of the powerful UN Security Council for the month of August, 2021.

• Quad (India, USA, Japan, and Australia).The growing geopolitical imbalance in the Indo-Pacific.

Way forward:

• Despite China’s rise, the world will remain committed to multi-polar order. The article highlights the emerging trends in the global order against the backdrop of a pandemic and explains how there could be an opportunity for India.

• The opportunity, as well as challenge, is that the two nations are at very different levels of development. There can be converging and diverging interests.

• There is a need for India and China to sit together to deliberate on the consequences of such misadventures in an area where massive earthquakes are bound to take place.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Aligarh Muslim University, consider the following statements:

1. AMU became a University in 1920, through an Act of Indian Legislative Council by elevating the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College to the status of a Central University.

2. MAO College was set up in 1910 by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

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