An alphabet soup New Delhi need to sift through

Synopsis: India needs to reconsider the plethora of alliances it is in and rationalize them after a reality check.


There are a lot of international, bilateral, multilateral groupings which either became dormant or lose their relevance in today’s scenario.

Why these multiple organizations are a cause of concern?

At present, there are more than 100 groupings from the EU to ASEAN.

There is a lack of ideological homogeneity and questionable outcomes with many of these organizations.

Further, the amount of expenditure and energy spent on bureaucracy and organizing these functions is also high.

Another important difficulty is to find the agenda for these organizations. Even they were found, their rationale is unclear.

Few organizations and their associated challenges

BRICS: During its formation, it was feared that it was an anti-America group. China quickly assumed the leadership of BRICS. It tried to seek changes in the international economic system by establishing a bank, with the possibility of credit for its members.

The result of this development was undermining the relevance of another, less ambitious, group of India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA), which had several common interests.

In the recent summit also, countries, although able to reach conclusion on the issue of Afghanistan, but with different conditions. Russia and China were more sympathetic towards Afghanistan than the other BRICS nations.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): It started as a friendly group of China, but with the inclusion of India, Pakistan, and Iran it becomes the diverse one and struggled to reach a consensus. Even, with the meetings between India and China, it failed to reach any solution to the Ladakh standoff.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):  India joined SAARC with various conditions like the exclusion of bilateral issues, decision-making by voting, and holding of meetings without all members being present etc.

Despite the imperative for cooperation in vital fields, SAARC became an arena for India – Pakistan dispute. Today, SAARC became a liability as it was clear that the region was not mature enough to have a regional instrumentality.

Also read: Importance of Reviving SAARC

 Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC): This group also remained dormant for many years till it was revived a few years ago as an alternative to SAARC. Though it has an ambitious agenda for sectoral cooperation, it has not gained much momentum.

Indian Ocean Rim Association(IORA): The organization was first established as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius in March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 (then known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation). It also drags on without any significant progress.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and AUKUS: India’s reluctance to strengthen QUAD has led to the USA joining hands with Australia and creating an AUKUS alliance.

Even though India was not interested in Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group, it received membership in them. On the other hand, the other active groups like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) did not admit India as a member, despite its various efforts.

Source: This post is based on the article “An alphabet soup New Delhi need to sift through” published in The Hindu on 5th October 2021.

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