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The plan of Modi is to make India the leading force on the international arena

On the principles of India's foreign policy at the present stage, one of the famous Indian experts Raj Mohan argues.

Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on a visit to the United States. In terms of its activities was not only the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, but, for example, meetings with entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley. This trip of the prime minister coincided with the period when Indian diplomacy is increasingly talking about the need for more active participation of the country in solving global problems. Therefore, now the main task for the Government of India is not only to achieve the reform of the United Nations and a permanent seat on the Security Council. In itself, a place at this honorary table will not give much to India if it does not modernize the principles on which it builds its foreign policy.

The plan of Modi is to make India the leading force on the international arena
Modi has already achieved a revision of many of the key bilateral relations for India, and today he has a chance to put an end to the defensive attitude that has dominated India’s foreign policy in recent decades. Under Jawaharlal, Nehru of India managed much more actively than his formal weight in the United Nations allowed him to participate in solving a wide range of issues, from human rights to nuclear arms control. Without having a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, India nevertheless offered drafts for solving global problems. But to 1960-m Over the years, India’s actions in this area have become, as diplomat Shashi Tarur put it, a “moral commentary” on current international issues.
В 1970-x India's attempts to play the role of defender of the interests of the whole "third world" reached a peak, however, its participation in international issues became less constructive. Delhi has put ever more ambitious global goals - such as creating a "new international economic order" - but to the voice of India they listened less and less. Some Indian initiatives - especially the establishment of the "new international information order" - directly contradicted the basic political values ​​of India, including its democratic structure. It is not surprising that Delhi's speeches on this subject forty years ago coincided chronologically with the introduction of the state of emergency in the country.

Worse, India’s actions on the world stage often damaged its own interests. AT 1970-x и 1980-x Delhi, under the pretext of protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, opposed the proliferation of technologies that could strengthen the international influence of India - in particular, direct broadcast satellites and cross-border transmission of information.

This ineffective position of Delhi in international relations was aggravated by the weakening of India's economic influence. The situation changed only in 1990-e, when India achieved higher economic growth. But the era of reform coincided with the end of the Cold War, and this led to political complications for India. The rise of Western arrogance, based on the theses of the end of history, gave rise to the idea that supranational institutions can replace sovereign states and that all problems in the world can be solved by effective international intervention.

The new rhetoric of the West, which threatened to bring the Kashmir issue to the international level, made India nervous. At the same time, although in Delhi they understood the need for economic reforms in the era of globalization, support for structural changes in the country was limited. Therefore, adaptation to the new order was reluctant and slow.

The new realism that triumphed in Indian diplomacy after the Cold War recognized that one of the most effective ways to strengthen its position in the world is to improve relations with the United States. It was clear that Delhi would not be able to overcome the policy of "nuclear apartheid" aimed at India, by mere declarations of nuclear disarmament and its "impeccable behavior" in the issues of non-proliferation. To change its role in the global nuclear order, India could only thanks to a political deal with a power dominating the international system. This was the meaning of the historic agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, signed in 2005 by the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush.

But a steady resistance to reforms, poorly concealed xenophobia on both the right and left political flanks, and a deep-rooted suspicion of the West meant that it would be very difficult to overcome India's defensive attitude toward globalization. Nevertheless, Modi's actions indicate some curious changes in India's approach to multilateral international issues, as well as in other aspects of its foreign policy.

After India initially rejected the agreements on food security reached in Bali in 2013, Modi along with Obama worked out mutually acceptable terms of compromise. Modi also hinted at the possibility of greater flexibility on climate issues - he stressed the need to combat climate change and India's commitment to constructive arrangements for negotiations in Paris this year. And regarding the regulation of the Internet, India under Modi began to recognize the role of the private sector and civil society, whereas before it made the main bet on state intervention.

These changes fit into the plan of Modi - to make India a leading force in the international arena. However, any significant restructuring of India's approaches to participation in solving global problems must be based on three general principles.

First - to recognize that the country's participation in solving global problems is really important for the future growth and national security of India. The economic interdependence of India and other countries is growing: today, the volume of foreign trade has almost reached 50% of Indian GDP. This means that Delhi must actively influence the international environment, participate in the creation of new rules. Maybe once it was politically attractive to take responsibility off itself, but this can be costly in the current situation.

Secondly, India should not treat multilateral diplomacy as a modest corner of foreign policy, necessary only to utter moralistic banalities. It should become an instrument for realizing the national interests of India and expressing its ideals. Multilateral diplomacy can be successful only if Delhi finds a balance between these two imperatives.

Thirdly, India cannot be forgotten that multilateral negotiations largely depend on the nature of the international political hierarchy. Although it is important for Delhi to firmly pursue its own, one must also demonstrate due flexibility and strive for a reasonable compromise. Today, unlike in previous years, India has a sufficient economic weight and a large market that allow us to effectively negotiate and achieve reasonable results, not only meeting its national interests, but also oriented towards the common good for the whole world.

Probably, the world community will be ready to take into account India's special wishes on such issues as climate change and Internet regulation, if Modi can take the path of pragmatic multilateral diplomacy. But the main challenge for the Indian prime minister is at home: to carry out reforms there and to eradicate the former defensive attitude has so far been very difficult.

The original was published in English at The Indian Express 21 September.

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