Have there been changes in India’s foreign policy?

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    In News

    • Recently, India celebrated 75 years of autonomous foreign policy and its role in global architecture.

    Background

    • Important Treaties: 
      • The Panchsheel Agreement of 1954, the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 1971, the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, and India’s nuclear tests in 1998 all influenced India’s foreign policy. 
    • Heroic roles:
      • The world praised India’s moment during the economic liberalisation under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (1991-96).
      • The bolder foreign policy of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998-2004).
      • The country’s near double-digit growth during the early years of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2004-14).
    • Drawbacks of previous policies:
      • Weak economic reforms: 
        • It has been the weakest link of India’s external engagement.
        • While India escaped the shackles of the “Hindu rate of growth” in the post-Cold War period, it continued to face an equally cumbersome “Indian rate of policymaking” rooted in problems of bureaucratic inertia and poor inter-ministerial coordination.
      • Nehruvian age:
        • The Nehruvian age was occupied with idealistic ideals and was unconcerned with the development of military forces capable of dealing with problematic neighbours like Pakistan and China.
    • Current scenario:
      • In 2022, India became the fifth largest economy in the world by overtaking the United Kingdom according to the International Monetary Fund.

    Highlights in foreign policy this year along with its challenges 

    • Russia-Ukraine war
      • It was a difficult year on the geopolitical and diplomatic stage for India as the choices grew more difficult given its strategic ties with the U.S. and Europe and traditional ties with Russia.
        • Oil: India also lashed out on western powers for their “hypocrisy” on Russian oil flows to India.
        • Food and fuel shortages: a slew of sanctions by the West meant to target the Russian economy led to food and fuel shortages and price increases, which worried India. 
        • India was against the war: But India chose to abstain in more than a dozen resolutions at the UNSC, UNGA, IAEA, Human Rights Commission, and other multilateral platforms seeking to censure Russia for the invasion and humanitarian crisis.
    • India-EU
      • The recent establishment of the EU-India Trade and Technology Council which is the second country after the United States with which the EU has established such a forum.
      • India’s participation in the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative that seeks to diversify supply chains away from China is of great significance here. 
    • India-China
      • The Indian government continues to take criticism over its China policy and the stand-off at the Line of Actual Control.
      • Despite a visit to India by China’s Foreign Minister and disengagement at some stand-off points, India-China tensions at the Line of Actual Control remained high, and the year ended with an unsuccessful Chinese PLA attempt to take Indian posts at Yangtse in Arunachal Pradesh. 
      • India also maintains a demographic dividend with a population that will overtake China as the world’s most populous country in 2023, according to the United Nations. 
    • G20
      • India is in the global limelight as it takes on the presidency of the G-20.
      • The G-20 presidency helped advance India’s multipolar worldview and create a credible partnership between nations that above all furthers the Indo-Pacific’s peace and prosperity.
      • India is expected to highlight climate change transitions, “women-led” development and multilateral reform, among other key issues.
    • United Nations Security Council
      • India completed a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council.
    • SCO
      • India also took over the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization recently. 
      • The Shanghai Five comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan evolved into the SCO. 
      • With the addition of India and Pakistan in 2017, the SCO grew to become one of the biggest international organisations, representing almost 30 percent of the global GDP and 40 percent of the world’s population.
    • Act East Policy
      • The policy was launched in the early 1990s as part of an effort to elevate the importance of Southeast Asia (and later East Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region) in India’s foreign policy priorities. 
      • India’s regional integration has always been contingent on the pace of the country’s domestic reform agenda. 
    • Revival of FTA’s
      • In recent times, the Indian government has been actively pursuing free trade agreements (FTAs) with a wide range of countries.
      • India signed trade agreements with the UAE and Australia, and hopes to progress on talks with the EU, Gulf Cooperation Council and Canada for others
    • Ties with neighbours: 
      • India’s foreign policy was marked by economic assistance to Sri Lanka during its collapse.
      • Regional trade and energy agreements with Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal could see an emergence of the South Asian energy grid
      • India has also strengthened ties with Central Asian countries on connectivity. 
      • The government kept channels open with repressive regimes like Afghanistan’s Taliban and the Myanmar Junta.
      • In Iran where protests against the killing of activist Mahsa Amini have brought thousands onto the streets, India has steered clear of any criticism. 
      • With Pakistan ties remain flat-lined with a big showdown at the UN recently between India’s Foreign Minister and Pakistan Foreign Minister. 

    Way forward

    • Leading Global South:
      • India is very ambitious to lead the ‘Global South’ that comprises the developing world in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
    • Evaluation:
      • Recently in his book, India’s foreign minister believes that his nation is increasingly being compared to Krishna because it evaluates all choices before settling on the best one.
    • Soft power diplomacy:
      • The foreign policies of India have always been based on the objectives of dialogue, peace, and building national and global agreement.
      • It opts to predict better synergies with nations that have mutual goals such as safeguarding civil treaties, regulations, promoting global peace, combating terrorism and political violence, and developing the fundamental foundations of a peaceful and prosperous world. 
    • Government Initiatives:
      • Government campaigns: These developments have been supported by Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat campaigns which aim to strengthen the resilience and competitiveness of Indian industries.
      • Infrastructure push: This has been facilitated by government support schemes, such as production-linked incentives which support the development of national champions in strategically important sectors and the Gati Shakti National Masterplan for multi-modal connectivity which aims to improve last-mile infrastructure connectivity.

    Source: TH