India’s foreign policy: Lessons from 2020 and challenges/opportunities in 2021

Indias foreign policy Lessons from 2020 and challenges opportunities in 2021

Synopsis: A quick flashback of 2020 suggested that India faced seven tough realities last year and has to deal with many possible challenges and opportunities in 2021. 


Last year was quite difficult for India; it fought Covid-19 and Chinese hostility. Next year is going to be all about facing the challenge of firming ties and building new ones with the US, EU, Middle East countries, and its neighbours.  

What were the hard realities of 2020? 

  • China’s ambition to become the number one 
    • China’s which was consolidating its power since, 2013, saw an opportunity in pandemic and started flexing its muscles. 
    • Chinese naval forces hit a Vietnamese fishing boat, droned a Philippines naval vessel and agitated a Malaysian oil-drilling operation. It even put trade restrictions on Australia.
    • 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the border stand-off with China as they have changed the status quo along the border. 
  • Trump Administration
    • The Trump administration targeted China and the Communist Party of China for disturbing the global order and walked out of several multilateral bodies.
  • Approval for Taliban
    • India is planning to re-engage with the Taliban even though it is controlled by the Pakistan military because the US has made peace with them.  

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  • Middle East calculations
    • New Delhi has been nurturing ties with Israel as well as Saudi-UAE and the Iranians with clever diplomacy but India should be mindful as at home religious politics could hamper its gains. 
  • Russia-China closeness
    • The US’s anti-Chinese public speaking, the downfall of oil prices and Russia’s dependence on Chinese consumption is the reason of their bonding. 
    • Russia has a similar stance to china on the Quad and Indo-pacific and India has taken note of it even though India shares strong ties with Russia. 
  • Confident neighbours
    • Bangladesh stressed on CAA-NRC, and then Nepal claimed territory followed by issuing a new map. 
    • India seems to have accepted the participation of the US in Maldives and of Japan in Sri Lanka and Maldives.
  • Aspirational India
    • During the pandemic, India supplied medicines and protective kits to more than 150 countries still it didn’t manage to appear as the global leader the world needed; instead, it looked as an aspirational power because of lack of resources, a shrinking economy and its general politics. 

What are the challenges and opportunities in the upcoming year? 

  • Firstly, India has to counter China.
    • India will need persistent support from the US, Japan, Australia, in addition with the support of France, Germany and the UK because India requires external aid inadequate measure to counter China.
  • Secondly, India is set to enter the UN Security Council for the 8th
    • India will now have to take stands on several issues that it has avoided in the past such as the Iran-Saudi rivalry etc.  
  • Thirdly, friendship with the US.
    • India will try to deepen its strategic and defence ties with the US, and would want to resolve trade and visa issues.
  • Fourthly, India will try to win over Europe.
    • There is a chance of an India-EU summit in the upcoming year and a potential European strategy. France and Germany have come up with their Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • Fifthly, India should engage with its neighbours.
    • India could use vaccine diplomacy to its benefit by supplying vaccines at affordable costs to neighbours in 2021 as almost all south Asian countries have stable governments currently.
  • Lastly, India should appear Global not aspirational.
    • New Delhi will host the BRICS summit in 2021.
    • Begin preparations for the G-20 summit in 2023.
    • The India-Africa Forum summit, which could not be held in 2020, could be held in 2021 or later. 

India has opportunities to clear and be vocal on issues that matter to the world and be positive to promote its interests.

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