By Shreya Krishna – Research Assistant SAFN*
India celebrated its 76th year of independence in August 2023. From 1947 to 2023, India’s foreign policy decisions and tactics have shifted. In Aparna Pande’s From Chanakya to Modi: The Evolution of India’s’ Foreign Policy, she discusses how Indian exceptionalism and its historic strategy of autonomy have guided its policy decisions. The four key aspects of India’s foreign policy include imperialism, messianic idealism, realism, and isolationism. India has experienced different eras of these various tactics, ranging from its colonial era to the present. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi taps into messianic idealism and these moralistic guiding principles, which are reflected in certain aspects of India’s politicaldecisions. Additionally, India’s past isolationist policy has influenced its lack of involvement in global conflict and hesitancy to send troops abroad. However, India’s foreign policy has been evolving and heading towards more international collaboration.
The Russian-Ukraine war has propelled India to expand its alliances and further strengthen its defence production. India and France launched the India-France Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. They are working on expanding their collaborations with Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). PM Modi visited the UAE following his visit to France in July 2023, signalling strong messages of collaboration and drive. PM Modi’s three-nation tour in 2023 further solidified New Delhi’s impact and position in global politics. Moreover, India’s presence at the G7, its collaboration with Australia, its G20 meeting, and its meeting with the Ukrainian president are all examples of India’s expansion and New Delhi’s strength.
“India has succeeded in conveying a message that while it doesn’t want to disrupt the extant order, despite its visible dysfunctionalities, New Delhi will not shy away from standing up for its interests and priorities.”
In light of significant world events like Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Russia, it is interesting to see how India’s global presence is shifting. India’s role will be crucial to the emerging global order, and its presidency of the G20 in 2023 will allow it to influence the global agenda. Various factors, such as its domestic political, economic, and military strength and collaborations with other nations, allow New Delhi to have a greater role in the global order.
When considering India’s policies, it is critical to evaluate US-India relations.
“treating India as a key partner will help the United States in its geopolitical rivalry with China. ”
The US ultimately desires India’s partnership when there is an eventual regional conflict with China. Thus, the Biden administration is working on policies such as increasing India’s access to new technology and overlooking any Indian policies that may veer away from democracy. India, however, will likely not interject in a US conflict with Beijing unless there is a matter of its own security. India’s past political decisions imply that it doesn’t believe it needs to support the US in every crisis, and because of its lower defence budget, it is more hesitant to come into conflict with the country it shares one of its borders with China.
Additionally, the US wants the creation of a foreign military, but as New Delhi is significantly weaker than Beijing, joining a US-led military effort would put it in more danger. In the global scene, India historically only partakes in matters such as vaccine distribution, infrastructure projects, diversifying investments, and similar matters, so it is difficult to predict whether India will aid the US in its efforts against China. The twist in this relation is that in the case that there is an India-China conflict, India wants the US’s support. India is in a tricky spot where it does not want to become “the junior partner” of a large power like the US, yet still wants to maintain a positive relationship.
This past summer, PM Modi and President Biden’s meeting led to developments regarding the US-India relationship. Experts believe that the true results of this meeting will only be revealed with time. This event was important and successful because Biden showed his good-heartedness and highlighted how much the US values its relationship with India. On Modi’s end, he conveyed his support for the US and appreciated the hospitality of the White House.
There are, however, areas for improvement within the US-India relationship. Some of these areas include addressing and coming to terms with ideological differences and more policy decisions in India to reach a level of economic harmony. One way to improve upon this could be to ease the operation ability of US technology and defence with India. Additionally, a more genuine interest in India from the US in regard to matters separate from its conflict with China would help strengthen this relationship. If India creates more opportunities for US success, this could also lead to more opportunities for policy change.
While US-India relations are improving, India-Russia relations are weakening. India has historically bought oil and defence equipment from Russia, but the Ukraine-Russia war has made it unlikely for Russia to be able to provide and support India in terms of technology and resources. Furthermore, Russia depends on Chinese technology, which conflicts with India’s hesitancies and caution about China and its technology.
Since India’s independence, it has gone through many developments in its policies and strategy. As New Delhi rises in the global order, it will be interesting to see how its relationships and policies advance, especially in light of the existing and upcoming world conflicts.
* Author –Shreya Krishna is a Research Assistant (Intern) at South Asia Foresight Network (SAFN). She is a student from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.