7 PM Editorial |Strategic Autonomy in Emerging Multipolar World|14th August 2020

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Strategic Autonomy in Emerging Multipolar World


India has adopted Self Reliance as an objective in the post covid world. While it is seen primarily in economic terms(reducing imports, shifting value chains), self reliance also means strategic autonomy in foregin policy.

Strategic autonomy is not isolation nor alliance:

Strategic autonomy is the ability of a state to pursue its own national interest and preferred foreign policy without being constrained by other states.

India has pursued the policy of strategic autonomy ever since independence during bipolar cold war(1947-1991), unipolar times(1991-2008) and multipolar times(2008-present). This strategic autonomy is not an isolation nor an alliance. It has to be recalibrated as per security environment to ensure India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is maintained.

Examples of India’s maneuvering in strategic autonomy are:

  • US military aid sought in India – China war of 1962
  • Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with Soviet Union in build up to 1971 war of Bangladesh liberation to counter China and USA
  • US intervention welcomed to stop Pakistan in 1999 Kargil war

These corporations were based on real politics and the existing environment at the time.

Strategic autonomy in current times:

China’s rise has led to the emergence of a multipolar world after 2008. India itself is one of the poles in such a multipolar world where there has to be multi alignment based on the issue concerned.

In case of security threat from China along LoC, India cannot remain non aligned as it directly threatens territorial sovereignty. Hence closer security and defense cooperation with the US is a step to secure our borders. However it does not mean loss of autonomy in decision making, rather it is securing core interests of security by diplomatic maneuvering. US and India face a common threat from China and hence cooperation.

In addition, Strategic autonomy dictates that India should not completely rely on USA to tackle the threat of Chinese expansionism. Diversification is the need for self reliance. Steps for this are:

  • Remaining an independent power centre as complete dependence on US will impact ties with Russia, Iran as well as defense indigenization.
  • Intensified cooperation with middle powers like UK, EU, Japan and ASEAN countries to accomplish collective goals
  • Strategic relationships with multilateral institutions and multiple partners including developing countries, least developed countries.

A multi vector foregin policy approach where good relations are maintained with all strategic actors of importance, is the need of the day for India. Its potential has to be maximized by multi alignment rather than isolation or alliance.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com

Mains question:
  1. What is strategic autonomy?  In the emerging multipolar world, how can India pursue strategic autonomy? [15 marks, 250 words]
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