India’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2021 | UPSC

IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 12th Jan

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas A. Edison

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #311 :“India’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2021 | UPSC

India’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2021 | UPSC

M.K. Narayanan
India’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2021 | UPSC

M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Adviser and a former Governor of West Bengal

      HEADLINES:

Reframing India’s foreign policy priorities

      CENTRAL THEME:

Apart from an ideational restructuring, prudent plans, achievable objectives and a line of continuity are a must

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : IR

      MAINS QUESTION:

How will reframing India’s foreign policy priorities open the doors for new bilateral relations and trade policies ? Discuss -(GS 2)

      LEARNING: 

  • Cementing Relations
  • A stronger China
  • Economy first for EU
  • India isolated
  • Diplomacy and Perceptions
  • More misses than hits

      INTRODUCTION: 

The year 2021 should see a cementing of the many trends that had their genesis in 2020.

  • POWER DYNAMICS : Leadership change in the United States is perhaps the most awaited change, but is unlikely to bring about a major power shift in the international arena.
  • BOOSTING SILK ROUTE : Europe has turned its back on the U.S. and revived its China links, by ‘concluding in principle the negotiations for an EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment’.

In one swift move, Europe has thus shattered all hope that China would remain ostracised in 2021
 

  • CHINESE AGGRESSION : India which has greatly curtailed its relations with China since April 2020, with many countries likely to seek closer economic relations with China now.

      BODY: 

A STRONGER CHINA

  • TRIUMPHAL NOTE FOR CHINA : In the year 2021, China is about the only major country which had a positive rate of growth at the end of 2020, and its economy is poised to grow even faster in 2021.
  • DOMINATION IN INDIAN OCEAN REGION : Militarily, China has further strengthened itself, and now seeks to dominate the Indo-Pacific Ocean with its announcement of the launch of its third aircraft carrier in 2021.

Simultaneously, it is seeking to strengthen its military coordination with Russia 
 

  • STRATEGIC POSITION : Not withstanding Chinese intransigence(refusal to change one’s views or to agree about something) in several matters; Hong Kong and Uighur, China’s position across Asia is, if anything, stronger than in 2020.
  • PARTY POLITICS INSIDE CHINA : News emanating from China is that President Xi will further cement his position, both as Party leader and as President during 2021, despite internecine tensions within the Communist Party of China.

ECONOMY FIRST FOR EUROPE

  • AUTHORITARIANISM : The new year will be dominated by strong authoritarian leaders like Xi Jinping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey.
  • EVOLVING DEMOCRACY : International politics may not be very different from that in 2020, but any hope that the Compact of Democracy would emerge stronger will need to be eschewed(deliberately avoid using).
  • MAJOR EVENTS : Europe, minus Britain following Brexit, and the retirement of Germany’s Angela Merkel, could become even less relevant in world affairs.
  • CHINESE BRAND ESTABLISHMENTS : The China-EU Investment Treaty which saw Europe capitulating to China’s brandishments is an indication that Europe values its economy more than its politics.

Major changes are afoot in Eurasia and West Asia which could lead to significant shifts 

  • RUSSIAN FRIENDSHIP : Russia is beginning to display greater interest in the affairs of countries on its periphery and, together with strengthening ties with China and Turkey, this seems to signal reduced interest in countries such as India.
  • INTEGRATION IN WEST ASIA : In West Asia, the Abraham Accords, leading to a realignment of forces in the Arab world, have sharpened the division between the Saudi Bloc and Iran-Turkey.
  • IRANS NUCLEAR POWER : Iran could well be tempted to use its nuclear capability to enhance its position, confident that the West may be unwilling to challenge it at this juncture.

INDIA ISOLATED

  • MISSING DEVELOPMENTS : At the start of 2021, India seems the odd man missing as far as these developments are concerned.
  • SINO-INDIAN RELATIONS : No breakthrough in Sino-Indian relations has, or is likely to occur, and the confrontation between Indian and Chinese armed forces is expected to continue.
  • WEST ASIA AND INDIA : India currently plays no significant role in West Asia.India-Iran relations today lack warmth.
  • INDIA AFGHANISTAN RELATIONS : In Afghanistan, India has been marginalised as far as the peace process is concerned.
  • INDIA PAKISTAN RELATIONS : While India’s charges against Pakistan of sponsoring terror have had some impact globally, it has further aggravated tensions between the two neighbours.
  • INDIA NEPAL RELATIONS : While hostility between India and Nepal appears to have reduced lately, relations continue to be strained.
  • SOUTH ASIAN EFFORTS : India has made valiant efforts to improve relations with some of its neighbours such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but as of now worthwhile results are not evident.

One key takeaway is that as India-China relations deteriorate, India’s neighbours are not averse to taking sides, increasing India’s isolation

  • FOREIGN POLICY CAPABILITIES : Whether India’s perceived marginalisation from global mainstream events as we enter 2021 signifies a sharp drop-off in its foreign policy capabilities is, no doubt, debatable.
  • LION POLICY MAKING : India’s foreign policy objectives are to widen its sphere of influence, enhance its role across nations, and make its presence felt as an emerging power in an increasingly disruptive global system.
  • AT SECURITY COUNCIL : India will serve as the president of the powerful UN Security Council for the month of August, 2021, but if it is to make a real impact, it must be seen to possess substantial weight to shape policies.

DIPLOMACY AND PERCEPTIONS

  • DIPLOMATIC MATURITY : Admittedly, our diplomats conduct their activities with a high degree of competence, but they are possibly hampered by other factors.

There is again a perception that India’s closeness to the U.S. has resulted in the weakening of its links with traditional friends such as Russia and Iran, impacting the country’s image

  • RISE OF CHINA : Perhaps the most relevant explanation could be the shifting balance of power in the region in which India is situated, notably the rise of China, compelling many nations to pick sides in the conflict.
  • GAPS IN THE APPROACH : A less obvious, but perhaps more relevant aspect, could also be that India’s foreign policy suffers from an ideational vacuum.
  • FOREIGN POLICY INADEQUACIES : Sharp decline in the economy, problems caused on account of the pandemic, or the growing polarisation in societies are the root of our foreign policy inadequacies.

      IASbhai Windup: 

MORE MISSES THAN HITS

  • ISOLATED GROUPS : India remains isolated from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) ; though India is a founding member.
  • LAGGING EFFORTS : Efforts to whip up enthusiasm for newer institutions such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), have hardly been successful.
  • RCEP : India has opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (a majority of Asian countries are members), and failed to take advantage of the RIC, or the Russia, India and China grouping.
  • MISPLACED CONFIDENCE : On the other hand, India’s foreign policy imperatives, across Asia and South Asia in particular, today seem to be a mixture of misplaced confidence, sometimes verging on hubris (as in the case of Nepal).
  • SENSITIVE NEIGHBOURS : Lack of understanding of the sensitivities of neighbours such as Bangladesh and long-time friends (such as Vietnam and Iran) impacts the trade atmosphere in south asian region.
  • MUST NEEDED STATECRAFT : As part of the ideational restructuring of India’s foreign policy, what is urgently required, apart from competent statecraft, is the adoption of prudent policies.

Today the need is a pursuit of realistically achievable objectives, and, above all, a demonstration of continuity of policy, irrespective of changes in the nature of the Administration.

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | India’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2021 | UPSC

TRENDING NOW : Important The Hindu Editorials 

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