Evolving Strategic Autonomy

Context:  The engagement of India and China in the West Asia region is a good example of their evolving strategic autonomy.

What is strategic autonomy and How the concept is evolving?

  • Strategic autonomy is the ability of a state to pursue its national interests and adopt its preferred foreign policy without being constrained in any manner by other states.
  • The concept of ‘strategic autonomy’ is much different from the Nehruvian era thinking of ‘non-alignment’.
  • Now The alignment is issue based, and not ideological. For example, India’s equitable engagement with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel, without entering into the region’s multi-layered conflicts and political fissures.

How China’s relation with West Asia is evolving?

  • With the West Asian countries started thinking over the need to invest more in others countries as the American security safety net is not absolute, China is trying to capitalise this.
  • China is now ready to offer an alternative model for “investment and influence” and wants to play much active role in West Asia through concepts such as “negative peace” and “peace through development.
  • The fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) obtained Chinese Wing Loong drones in 2016 a copy of U.S.’s infamous armed MQ-9 ‘Reaper’ drone that U.S refused to sell is a good example of the Gulf’s resolve of attaining military capabilities from wherever possible.
  • Also, the Gulf economies such as Saudi Arabia need growing markets of China and India to sell oil in the coming decade.
  • According to a report, the China is also taking advantage of U.S. abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal by signing $400 billion, 25-year understanding agreement between Iran and China.
  • To address the region’s tensions, China is pursuing to establish an alternative forum to the West-led ecosystems.

How India’s relation with West Asia is evolving?

  • India’s outreach to West Asia has increased since 2014.
  • India, by giving open economic and political preference to the larger Gulf region it increased its cooperation with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
  • India has realised the economic realities of this region with, Saudi Arabia and the UAE announcing multi-billion-dollar investments on Indian shores.
  • Even, there has been a steady development with Israel but the relation with Iran has lagged behind due to U.S sanctions.
  • The Israel’s recent peace accords with the UAE and Bahrain signifies a more stable gulf region which opens up tremendous opportunities for India’s engagement with West Asia.

From the perspectives of both the India and China, the theory of interests superseding ideology in foreign policy is fast disappearing, It signifies the departure from ideological based cooperation to issue based alignment

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