Marking the third day of such a riveting three-day online certification training course on India’s G20 Presidency and Contours of Indian Foreign Policy organised by #IMPRI Centre for International Relation and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi programme was hosted by Ashwash Mahanta, a researcher at IMPRI, who welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the distinguished panellists.
Our first speaker for the day, Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, Former Indian Ambassador to Jordan, India and Malta, spoke on the subject, New India & New World Order- Geopolitics. He began by expressing his gratitude to IMPRI for inviting him and organising this event.
He opened his talk by asserting that fresh developments in the new world order or international politics had occurred in the 1980s. It didn’t even take more than 75 years after World War II, for it to be under immense stress. As can be seen, the liberal international order was established and effectively maintained until the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1990.
Many black swan occurrences have occurred since then, such as the Global Economic Crisis and other conflicts across the world. Functioning under the assumption that, as far as the world/all powers are concerned, state-to-state combat would be minimal. New obstacles began to arise; terrorism was on the increase and had become a serious issue since 9/11, resulting in not one, but two wars–the largest miscalculation. They were proven to be mistakes, the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003.
The fall of these governments fundamentally leads to an increase in extremism and terrorism. These continue to pose challenges to the international community, particularly India, which has long suffered from cross-border terrorism perpetrated by Pakistan, which exploits it as a tool in its foreign strategy.
China has become the most significant question since 1979-80 while being practically excluded from the Cold War syndrome. Richard Nixon brought them into the Western fold, and they have benefited from it, becoming an economic giant poised to dethrone the United States as the world’s dominant force.
According to many strategic papers published by our administration, our only dangers are Russia and China. China has become much too huge in this environment, and it is also our largest neighbour, with whom we play a zero-sum game. The difficulty occurs when it attempts to limit India inside the South Asian paradigm.
So, while discussing “New India,” we must include the intrinsic dynamics that exist inside the area and that we are experiencing. Furthermore, as we moved forward in this competitive era of benefits, it added to the existing problems between countries and among groups; however, two black swan events in the recent past have made us sit back and reflect on the transitional order we are living in or how we are going to work/transition into the next order- with the ambiguity surrounding as to what kind of order it will be.
Mr Trigunayat moved ahead to the Pandemic and its impact. The Pandemic essentially devastated economies and continues to have an influence; its entire impact has yet to be properly analysed, and we are still feeling the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, often known as the Eurasian War. Which, directly or indirectly, is a battle between two superpowers. Russia wanted NATO to cease its Eastward expansion, as agreed during the dismantling of the Berlin battle, but that did not occur. They persisted with the Western invasion into Russian space until it reached Russia’s red line, which was Ukraine, Georgia, or Belarus.
These were the places that Russia perceived to be inherent to them and that would serve as and become buffer states. After the Velvet Revolution began in Ukraine and Georgia, Russia did something unprecedented for a superpower: it invaded and declared war on Ukraine, launching “special operations” in the country. This has destabilised the entire globe; the conflict is no longer between Russia and Ukraine, but between Russia and the West, and particularly between Russia and the United States of America.
Attempts to end the war have been made, but simultaneously, there have been many lobbying groups in the United States for a government-less military-industrial complex, its geopolitical orientation, and the threat from Russia and China combined-all of these factors have prolonged the war in the same place and created new and more nuances. Particulars such as the Pandemic, were things we needed to concentrate on.
The Four ‘H’s
The Pandemic taught us to put more emphasis on the four ‘H’s, as Mr Trigunayat refers to them. Hunger, Habitat, High-Tech, and Health are the four ‘H’s. As the world goes forward in the twenty-first century, it must deal with them while viewing them through the prism of conflict.
It is not a normal war; it is a battle for one nation to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Western Might. On the other hand, invading another country’s territory or arbitrarily modifying geographical contours is fundamentally unethical.
The Three ‘F’s
The global order was established on the basis of the Second World War. The three ‘F’s, food, fertiliser, and fuel, have had a global influence.
When it comes to fuel, Europeans and Americans frequently criticise India for purchasing oil from Russia. As accurately argued by the External Affairs Minister of India, Mr S Jaishankar that Russia is a particular and privileged strategic partner of India, and hence we will maintain relations with them. At the same time, the United States is India’s comprehensive worldwide strategic partner.
Looking at the new or transitional world order, we observe the weaponization of the world’s financial institutions and mechanisms. When the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, the US imposed sanctions on Russia and froze 380-390 billion dollars in Russian assets held by the Swiss Bank, which is controlled by the US. In the long run, it has had little effect on Russia. Russia has previously accumulated enough gold since they anticipated sanctions from the West. Russia, on the other hand, began weaponizing energy and delivering it to Europeans and Americans.
Who is the most impacted/affected? the Global South, additionally referred to as developing countries. They are not a part of this game or even the conflict, yet we continue to suffer the most. But today, India is a country to be deemed with; we may not be a superpower or a major power, but India is a regional and aspiring power, and it is writing to create a narrative- that it does not want to be a rule follower but instead a rule maker in the world.
Thus by creating such a narrative, India does not want to become a military superpower but actually wants to have a strong enough military to protect its boundaries, prosper, or economic development. This is the central concept of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and his administration’s new foreign policy goal in the “New India.”
The New India Policy
The New India policy is a robust Indian foreign policy driven by our national interests. Our national interest is to ensure that our economic progress remains stable and that key energy sources are not disturbed. Technological cooperation should continue at the pace we are now, and we should join global supply value chains. On a worldwide scale, India’s foreign policy is known as “Vasudev Kutumbukam”-it is not only a statement to impress the world, but it is practically in India’s DNA. India has helped the Global South through this policy.
Immediately following independence, we contributed to the formation of the Non-Alignment movement, battled against colonialism and campaigned for the decolonization of numerous nations throughout the world, and helped to form the Non-Alignment movement or the South-South Cooperation movement. India has supplied enormous help and continues to do so in over 161 nations today.
Instead of delaying vaccine production and stockpiling during the Pandemic, India was/is regarded as the world’s pharmacy, supplying supplies to over 150 nations and vaccines to almost 100 countries, despite having the second-biggest population at the time and the largest population now. It has been demonstrated and proven to the world that we are not only concerned with ourselves and vaccinating our present and future generations, but we are also concerned with helping the rest of the world. This is the foundation of the Vishnu Guru policy.
The Vishnu Guru Policy
According to the Vishnu Guru policy, we will not be Vishnu Guru by force, but rather by accepting the benevolent policies of the People of India. In terms of the greater global community, it aims to be more benign and inclusive. India may not yet be a superpower, but no equation in the global world can function without India being involved, since we are a nuclear and space power, the fifth largest economy in the world, and on our way to being the third. Despite the epidemic, the only rising economy recovered quicker than the rest of the globe, particularly the Western world, which is presently in recession.
In the last two months, India has surpassed China as the world’s most populous country. We have the world’s highest dividend utilisation, which will endure until 2050. Therefore, by 2047, India’s GDP might be worth $30 trillion, and the gap between India and China could potentially be closed.
India’s initial posture in the Russia-Ukraine war was guided by two variables.
One was that 20,000 Indians and Indian students were in Ukraine and needed to be evacuated, which required the assistance of Russians and Ukrainians. Simultaneously, send humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in the form of various flights, clothes, and relief product payloads. India, which held the UN Security Council leadership at the time, emphasised unequivocally that discussion and diplomacy are the only approaches to establishing peace.
Respecting the UN Charter, while discussing territorial integrity, one should consider Russia invading Ukraine because Russia was within Ukraine’s boundaries. Second, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded Russian President Vladimir Putin that the era of war was finished, which is significant in India’s G20 presidency.
The United States discusses issues but isn’t a member of any institution that tackles them; they talk about crimes against humanity but are not a member of the ICC. Every treaty that the United States government had been terminated by the Trump administration. The US also desired the withdrawal of the WHO and the WTO. This uncertainty is what holds the world order and these multinational bodies prisoner by their guarantors, leading to players like Russia and China adopting the guarantors’ roles and presenting alternatives. While their option will not be approved or appreciated by the majority of the globe, both are powerful economies and resource-rich countries.
From supporting the United Nations and being a founding member, India wants to believe in these institutions and multilateral institutions, despite the UN not undertaking its reforms and hoping that somehow it will conduct its reforms leading to its greater relevance for which they were created, so India is a unique country in that sense.
Thus India pursues a strategy of strategic autonomy. Many nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are anti-West and have no ties to either side. They would want to be given the opportunity to use their foreign policy to build their country, which is exactly what they have been seeking. And, because many of these countries lack the necessary muscle to do so, India can do it. As a result, these nations may join the Global Network, or “Nations for Strategic Autonomy,” as Ambassador Anil refers to it, as he believes that the way India has handled the G20 has done its job for all of the major groupings of the world.
“Dialogue and diplomacy are of the utmost importance,” this is not only a message for and from India, but rather a statement for and from the world. We have difficulties with China, a country that has invaded us, produced problems in Galwan and Tawang, and generated other problems on the border on a regular basis, and forces are clashing. However we still prefer to communicate, rather than allowing arguments to escalate into violence, and therefore we speak to them at the border, with some instruments suspended since 2019. Prime Minister Modi has met with President Xi Jinping 18 times.
As a member of BRICS, which is expected to grow in size under South Africa’s presidency. We are a member of the RIC, which includes Russia, India, and China. We are a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Group, which also includes Russia and China. Apart from the G20, which India is a member of and Russia and China are partners, these are significant.
On the other hand, we are a member of the Quad because the West has begun to pay special attention to the Indo-Pacific as the economic pivot has shifted southward. With China’s growth story, this oppositional account for the global world is what the US and the West would like to restrict, but it will not be a simple endeavour.
As a result, they have identical policies to us, such as our Policy of Competition and Collaboration. China has a similar policy. Any incident in Taiwan, the East China Sea, or the South China Sea might have a significant impact on this. India has repeatedly demonstrated to China that it would not compromise when it comes to its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that there is ample room for both countries. But, in reaction to China’s strategies, whether through BRI or the string of pearls, India developed its own Doctrine, Sagar- development for everyone in the region.
In this day and age, maritime security is critical because we have two border enemies: China and Pakistan, and simultaneously many friends.
PM Modi has sustained India’s foreign policy with a more robust and result-oriented approach during the last 8-10 years, making India significantly more prominent on the world stage. Today’s India is powerful and aspires to be a rule maker that is equitable, just, and beneficial to all, while also caring for the global good and commons for the greater community. Therefore, Vasudev Kutumbakam does not remain a question of philosophy or policy in India, it should become a global issue.
Another concern today is climate change, which has split the world into developed and underdeveloped regions amid several conferences taking place throughout the world. Green development is critical to humanity’s survival, and India has taken the lead in this area as well. For example, in the worldwide solar alliance, India has made the first multilateral step since the non-alignment movement, and it is being carried through with France. If China and Russia work together as partners, the world will enter a Cold War 2.0 situation, unless Russia and the West have nuclear weapons.
We have seen that disarmament has been placed on hold, that efforts to achieve the SDGs’ developmental goals are no longer on the horizon, and that the developing world is bearing the brunt of it all. All of these policies and multilateral organisations are barely sufficient to deal with the day-to-day issues of the current complex environment.
Ambassador Anil Trigunayat concluded his speech with the assertion that it is difficult to predict the form of the international order that would prevail, but India is prepared to play a leading role. No authority will remain the same in this world order or chaos. America will emerge decimated, and West European countries will not benefit from this conflict. A crisis in the Indo-Pacific might lead to bigger problems.
By all accounts, India is on the global horizon, and our leaders make decisions based on national interests or the intricacies of the international sphere. If any international event takes place tomorrow, India, along with its numerous friends, will be the third pole. India will be a benign force for the greater benefit of the planet.
Read more session reports from Day 1 India’s G20 Presidency and Contours of Indian Foreign Policy
Narayani is a research intern at IMPRI.