Indian Foreign Policy, Security and Economic Issues
Amb. Lalit Mansingh, Former Foreign Secretary and Indian Ambassador to United States
Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee, Director, IPCS
Mr. Mohan Guruswamy, Chairman, Centre for Policy Alternatives
Amb. Lalit Mansingh
India's foreign policy has gone through three important phases. In the first phase between 1947 and 1967, India established itself as a non-aligned state. Though being criticized for this step by the United States and the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted India to act as a neutral mediator on global issues and a leading proponent of decolonization which gained him exceptional respect from African and Asian countries. Yet the first era of Indian foreign policy was also marked by a defeat against China in 1962 and consequently its first setback.
The second period from 1967 to 1997 was dominated by Indira Gandhi whose idea to bring India back to international relevance included a shift from a global to a regional role, economic development and most importantly the demand for technological innovation. In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear tests, catapulting itself back to top of the international agenda. With the successful intervention in the Bangladesh Independence War in 1971, India became the dominant power in South Asia. Indira Gandhi's successors, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao, continued to develop India's image in the world by improving relations with China and introducing economic reforms in 1991.
The most recent period from 1997 to 2007 is said to be the most significant as well as the worst episode of Indian foreign policy. In 1998, India once again conducted nuclear tests and was harshly criticized by the international community. The US demanded severe measures which included isolation and sanctions. However, by the beginning of the new century India's image has changed positively due to the access to its markets for foreign investment and the high reputation of Indian communities abroad.
Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee
India's defence and security policy is an integral part of its foreign policy given the unsettled neighbourhood in its periphery. India has been a global power in history along with China and the centre from where British power emanated into the rest of the region. Hence, from a historical context and in its cultural linkages, India should be seen as a leading power in Southeast Asia. However, external security concerns are linked with a domestic security base, requiring the strengthening of resources within, particularly energy resources essential for national growth and an assured deterrent capability against foreign threats. India's defence strategy took a serious turn with the setback suffered in the Chinese aggression of 1962. Presently, India's defence policy is based on the twin pillars of deterrence and dissuasion. This is to achieve a secure border as well as prevent external aggression. Another pillar of Indian defence policy is its international dimension. This responsibility is enshrined in the Indian Constitution and calls upon the nation to remain actively involved in maintaining international peace. India believes in fulfilling this responsibility entirely through the United Nations and therefore, has over the years played a leading role in its peacekeeping endeavours. A final pillar of its defence policy in the last decade and more is a strong partnership with the United States against terrorism and strengthening international security. While not quite an alliance, this strategic partnership is both substantive and meaningful.
Concerning the economic aspects in the present century the trend shows US, China and India emerging as economic giants and indicates economic weight shifting towards Asia. In terms of GDP, China and India trail the US but the balance of trade shows a tilt towards China. On the other side, India faces a low Human Development Index and a high poverty level. The Indian economic scenario changed after the 1991 economic reforms and there has been an increase in the growth rate to six per cent, making it the ninth largest economy in the world, and the 159th ranked country in terms of per capita income. Despite this it still remains behind China, which is a highly industrialized country. The FDI inflow is more in China than in India. The growing middle class population will however, provide a strong labour force in India unlike in China which will face the problem of shortage of working-age population due to its aging demography.
The US and India's Nuclear Tests
India was the first country to propose a complete ban on nuclear armament, but its persuasive power failed completely. It wanted to secure a nuclear umbrella like the US provided to Japan, but in vain. This made it imperative for India to conduct nuclear tests for its external security threats, having China and Pakistan in its neighborhood. Moreover, the CTBT pressure was mounting on India and so it was best for India not to inform the US about the nuclear tests.
Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal
The deal is a symbol of strategic partnership between India and the US. It points towards greater energy cooperation between the two countries at a time when the world is running out fossil fuel. It will enable India to achieve a growth rate between 9-10 per cent and overcome the restraints of the technology control regimes. Owing to the upcoming US elections it is important that this deal comes into operation by the end of this year.
India's Role in West Asia
India has historically maintained good relations with the countries of West Asia with the exception of Israel. However, India has never been given an important role in this region. India has a strategic interest, particularly due to the large number of Indians present in the region.