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Source– The post is based on the article “The New Look In New Delhi” published in “The Times of India” on 9th September 2023.
Syllabus: GS2- International relations
Relevance- Multilateralism in Indian foreign policy
News– The article explains the different phases of multilateralism in Indian foreign policy and key elements of multilateralism in the present context.
What are different phases of multilateralism for India?
First phase– India’s history of multilateral engagement can be divided into four distinct periods. The first phase saw India’s unwavering commitment to the United Nations. However, this approach came into conflict with the realities of the Cold War.
Second phase- It involved India’s participation in the Afro-Asian conference in Bandung and the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
NAM served as both a diplomatic shield and an ideological framework. It helped India to position itself between the competing influences of Moscow and Washington.
However, NAM proved ineffective when put to the test. During the 1962 conflict with China, many African and West Asian nations aligned themselves with Beijing.
Third phase- The post-Cold War era, marked by India’s economic liberalization in 1991, ushered in a third phase of multilateralism. India was a participant in the creation of the BRIC group.
The Quad originated during the tenure of U.S. President George W. Bush. It was inspired by the impressive joint response of the four Quad nations’ navies to the Asian tsunami disaster. President Bush decided to formalize this cooperation. It gave birth to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, later known as the Quad.
However, during its initial phase, the Quad faced geopolitical challenges. China strongly opposed it. Australia withdrew from the group, and India found itself standing alone as the main proponent of the initiative.
Fourth phase- The Modi government represents the latest phase of India’s approach to multilateralism. It involves several key elements.
What are key aspects of the new phase of multilateralism by India?
There is a deliberate shift away from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Prime Minister Modi has not physically attended a single NAM summit.
There is an effort to reshape post-Cold War groupings to counter China’s expanding influence. In the most recent BRICS summit, India attempted to resist Beijing’s plans to transform BRICS into an alternative to the Group of Seven (G7).
The Quad has taken the forward-looking turn. Its primary focus is on ensuring that China does not dominate in strategic technology.
Another aspect of India’s approach involves the establishment of a series of small, specialized minilateral groups, each addressing a single issue.
These minilaterals aim to address gaps in the existing international order, which has been marked by a loss of legitimacy in the West due to internal crises.
Additionally, these efforts respond to the incapacity of current international organizations to address urgent global crises, especially in the context of climate change.
The International Solar Alliance garnered substantial interest from developing nations. It has prompted India to transform it into a permanent entity.
The Climate Disaster Resilience Initiative emerged from India’s genuine concerns that the West was neglecting climate adaptation efforts.
At the recent G20 summit, India is actively working on restructuring the entire multilateral development bank system to redirect its focus toward green finance for the Global South.
India is also planning the establishment of a new multilateral body, capitalizing on its digital successes. It is known as the One Future Alliance.
India is collaborating with Western countries on many of these initiatives. Much of this new multilateralism will ultimately be financed by Western development agencies.
This could be the most critical geopolitical aspect of India’s current phase of multilateralism.
What are the challenges for the new phase of multilateralism by India?
India still has a long way to go before it can assert itself as a rule-maker on the global stage.
The International Solar Alliance has encountered challenges in maintaining its vision. It is shifting its focus more toward aid projects than setting global standards.
The Climate Disaster Resilience Initiative is still in its early stages. The success of the One Future Alliance may be challenging to achieve, as governments tend to be cautious when presented with digital initiatives.