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Indian foreign policy: Smart diplomacy in five moves

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Indian foreign policy: Smart diplomacy in five moves

Context of Indian foreign policy:

The changing nature and dynamics in the Southern Asian countries show the geopolitical shift with volatility in the region, the domination of some and violence points to greater implications generally for the region and particularly for India.

Background of Indian foreign policy:

  • With the rise of great power competition in the region with the U.S., on one hand, struggling to survive its dominance with reluctance and fading glory at the same time challenged by China and Russia in the regional geopolitical landscape.
  • Which is leading to short-sighted decisions and confused policies of the U.S. which are not only limited to traditional geopolitics but also inching towards space, power, and influence in the regional scheme can be seen through the shifting allegiance of the countries.

Three points need utmost attention in the region

  1. The growing role of China:

  • The emergence of theChina pivot in the region. Washington’s role as the regional pivot and power manager is becoming a thing of the past.
  • Regional geopolitics, from Iran to Central Asia and from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean region, is increasingly being shaped by China.
  • China is the new regional hegemon with states in the region jumping on its bandwagon without much resistance.
  • When new powers are on an ascendance, its neighbours tend to recalibrate their policies and old partnerships and alliances.
  1. Trust deficit:

  • India and Pakistan or China and India do not trust each other is not news, but a trust deficit exists between even seemingly congenial partners such as the U.S. and India, Russia and China, and among traditional partners such as Iran and India, and Russia and India.
  • The varying degrees of trust deficit, when combined with other factors such as unresolved conflicts, misunderstandings or the occurrence of a crisis, could easily push the region towards more conflict and friction, and obviously less cooperation and regional integration.
  1. War talk:

  • The possibility of a military conflict between Iran and the U.S. (a path the hawks in Washington are pushing U.S. President Donald Trump to pursue) which in turn would draw many more countries in the region into it leading to widespread instability
  • Potential for India-Pakistan border skirmishes and possible escalation, an escalating China-U.S. trade war, and the many proxy and cold wars in Afghanistan and West Asia will keep the temperature high in the region for the foreseeable future.

Five stances India should take in such a situation:

  1. Balance its innate desire to get closer to the U.S. with unavoidable necessities of not excessively provoking China both in the maritime and continental domains and vice versa.
  2. India’s West Asia policy of its energy and other interests with Iran and not alienate the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Israel by doing so and alienating Iran might not suit India’s strategic interests in the longer run.
  3. Dealing with the Russia-China partnership will be crucial for India’s continental strategy. New Delhi should be clever enough to exploit the not-so-apparent fissures between Beijing and Moscow.
  4. The strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. While Pakistan is the revisionist power in the region, China, is a rising superpower and an already status quo power in the region, could potentially be persuaded to check Pakistan’s revisionist tendencies.
  5. Finally, if India is serious about having a say in Afghanistan’s future, it would need to enact several balancing acts there: between Russia and China, China and Pakistan, the Taliban and Kabul, and the Taliban and Pakistan.

Way forward:

New Delhi should keep in mind that it must, by all means, be careful to avoid getting caught in a nutcracker geopolitical situation in the region. Engaging in a delicate balancing game is undeniably the need of the hour, and let us remember that balancing such seeming contradictions is what smart diplomacy is meant to achieve.

Source: The Hindu

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