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From Great Powers to Asia – India is raising its diplomatic game

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations


Source: IE

 Context: The Indian PM’s decision to stop in Cairo (Egypt) on his way back from Washington and Abu Dhabi (UAE) as he came home from Paris suggests India is looking for greater engagement in Africa, Asia and the waters (Indo-Pacific) that connect them.


Other similar engagements: India’s External Affairs Minister is currently engaging (in Jakarta and Bangkok) with –

  • The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN),
  • The ASEAN “plus one” meeting,
  • The East Asia Summit (EAS),
  • The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF),
  • The Forum for Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC), and
  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).


The focus of these engagements:

  • India’s neighbourhood figured prominently:
    • For example, the Indian PM and French President issued a declaration on the Indo-Pacific Roadmap for wide-ranging cooperation in countries of Africa, the Indian Ocean Region, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
    • Similarly, the joint statement issued by the Indian PM and the US President included a section on the strategic collaboration in the Indo-Pacific through the Quad.
  • To boost cooperation in bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral arrangements: Like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, the Indian Ocean Commission, the Djibouti Code of Conduct, and the ASEAN-led institutions.


Why are these engagements not business as usual in Indian diplomacy?

  • India’s relations with its Asian neighbourhood since independence were treated as separate from Delhi’s engagement with the great powers.
    • It was based on the proposition that India must keep the major powers out of the region to create an “area of peace” in Asia.
    • However, Delhi neither had the power to stop the great powers from coming into the region nor prevent its Asian neighbours from aligning with outside powers.
  • The main criterion for membership in the non-aligned movement (NAM) is that NAM members should not have deep military-strategic cooperation with great powers.


Implications of these policies:

  • Violated the essence of international politics – the sovereign will protect themselves with whatever resources s/he can mobilise and can’t put ideology ahead of survival.
  • Delhi also ignored that most threats to a sovereign arise from problems with neighbours.



When did things start changing?

  • After the end of the Cold War and the new compulsions on India to liberalise its economy.
  • India’s new focus was on trade and investment and connectivity in relations with its neighbours in Asia that were long neglected.
  • Delhi also broke the rule of keeping political distance from the major powers.


What led to recent changes in Indian diplomacy?

  • Deterioration in India-China relations:
    • As a result, Delhi embraced the Indo-Pacific framework and the Quad initiated by Japan and supported by the US in East Asia.
    • To the West, India joined Israel, UAE, and the US to launch the so-called I2U2 forum.
    • India’s strategic partnership with the Western powers is rising compared to its engagement with Russia and China.



  • Delhi now takes an integrated view of its interests and pursues them through new and cross-cutting forums (for example, the Quad and the ASEAN are seen as complementary to each other).
  • As India becomes a major economic entity with significant geopolitical force, its ability to shape the intersection between its extended neighbourhood and the world will rapidly grow.


Insta Links:

Diplomacy, with a change in terms of reference


Mains Links:

How will I2U2 (India, Israel, UAE and USA) grouping transform India’s Position in global politics? (UPSC 2022)