GS Paper 2
Syllabus: International Relations
Context: India should follow a path of multi-engagement and not multi-alignment.
- India has consistently resisted international pressure to criticise Russia and its actions.
- For example, India has once again abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution that condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The global order in international relations:
- After the end of the 2nd World War: A bipolar world, led by the U.S. and the Soviet Union, emerged.
- Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union (1991): Unipolarity replaced bipolarity, with the U.S. being its centre.
- However, there have been discussions about whether American unipolarity has passed and a new world order (multipolar) has emerged.
Signs of the new world order:
- China’s rapid rise
- Russia’s aggressive foreign policy – the invasion of Ukraine, challenged the post-Cold War security equilibrium in Europe.
- The S.’s ability to shape geopolitical outcomes is clearly in decline (withdrawal from Afghanistan).
Impact of this transition (from uni to multipolarity):
- Leaving the world in flux. Lack of clarity on which direction the world is headed makes policy-making harder for middle powers like India.
- While many governments (including India, Russia and China), welcome multipolarity, the U.S. remains the world’s most powerful military power.
India and the Non-alignment success:
- When India became independent, the Cold War was in its early stages.
- India’s non-alignment foreign policy doctrine (equidistant from both blocs) did well in managing most of its (ideological and geopolitical) challenges.
- Criticised as too idealistic, India has actually been flexible in readapting itself to the changes in the global and regional equations.
- In the 1970s, after China started moving closer to the U.S., India started tilting towards the Soviet Union but stayed out of any Soviet-led military alliances.
- When the Soviet Union collapsed, India sought to transform its ties with the U.S. and integrate itself with the global economy in the new era of globalisation.
- But it also maintained close defence and strategic ties with Russia and built a vibrant economic partnership with China.
A new set of challenges for India in the new global disorder:
- S.-China’s great power contest in Asia is unfolding right in India’s neighbourhood.
- The power imbalance between India and China, tempted India to join the American bloc.
- Abandoning its strategic autonomy and joining the U.S.-led bloc would limit India’s options, besides provoking China.
- Border disputes between India and China.
- China has developed a strategic partnership with Pakistan and is raising its influence in other South Asian and Indian Ocean countries.
- So, on all fronts (including challenges to India’s maritime influence), India faces the heat of China’s rise.
Other challenges faced by India: U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power.
How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has complicated the situation for India?
- Russia is a traditional partner with which India has deep defence ties.
- As the West has moved to isolate Russia with heavy sanctions, India is under huge pressure to take a more critical position on Russia’s actions.
- The West’s move to isolate Russia in Europe would push the country further into the Chinese embrace.
Way ahead for India:
- Learning from China. In the 1970s, China broke away from the Soviet communist fold and built a quasi-alliance with the U.S. and helped the ‘imperialist bloc’ defeat the Soviet communists.
- Once China acquired enough economic and military power, it started gradually challenging the U.S.
- Therefore, India’s primary focus should be on transforming itself economically and militarily, bridging the gap with China.
- India should present itself as a natural stabilising power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, and a source of prosperity.
- To address its continental security challenges, India has to work with Eurasian powers such as Russia and Iran, both of which are at odds with the U.S.
Conclusion: India should opt for multi-engagement (not multi-alignment) for a multipolar world, creating new pillars of the new global order through engagement and partnership with middle powers.
“The long sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalised nations has disappeared on account of its newfound role in the emerging global order.’ Elaborate (UPSC 2019)