Problem with India’s Multi-alignment Stand


    In Context

    • India’s strategic autonomy and policy of non-alignment have evolved into a multi-alignment approach. 

    About India’s multi-alignment stand

    • Origin of India’s non-alignment stand:
      • There has been a progressive evolution in Indian thinking on forming and joining regional economic and security groupings, since the days New Delhi declared itself as “Non-Aligned” in the 1950s. 
      • India, thereafter, remained a leading player in the “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM)
        • The 120 members of NAM professed that they would not get drawn into “Great Power” rivalries between the US and USSR.
    • India’s current multi-alignment stand:
      • With Russia:
        • The disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to new groupings and alliances. 
        • But we are now happily in a position where we are partners, in different ways, with all major global power centres. Economics and economic integration play a far more central role as bridges of cooperation today.
      • USA & QUAD:
        • India finds itself linked with the US and Japan far more closely than in the past, in a world order which is becoming more China-centric than in the past.
        • This has been the rationale of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD, comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US.
      • West Asia:
        • The most notable decision taken in recent days was after the first summit meeting of the recently established I2U2 grouping, comprising India, Israel, the US and the UAE.
          • This was the first time when India and the US partnered two West Asian countries to focus cooperation on use of water resources, food security, health, transportation and space. 
      • Southeast Asian Nations:
        • While India has an free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN, New Delhi has chosen, for understandable reasons, not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), containing 15 East Asian and Pacific nations, including ASEAN members, Australia, New Zealand and China. 
      • Eurasia:
        • India holds membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation of Eurasian Nations with a secretariat in Beijing.

    India’s Stand on Russia’s War with Ukraine

    • India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been distinctive among the major democracies and among U.S. strategic partners. 
    • Despite its discomfort with Moscow’s war, New Delhi has adopted studied public neutrality toward Russia
    • It has abstained from successive votes in the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council that condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine and thus far has refused to openly call out Russia as the instigator of the crisis. 
    • India has been under immense indirect pressure from Western nations that have openly condemned Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. 
    • India has been pressing for the resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.

    Problem with India’s multi-alignment stand

    • No condemnation for violations of international law:
      • India has refused to condemn violations of international law, as in the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or the February 2021 coup in Myanmar (New Delhi abstained from United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions). 
        • This may be understandable as India has often taken an evasive position on conflicts that involve its traditional allies
      • However, critics are not unreasonable in arguing that this ambiguity does not behove a nation aspiring to become a permanent member of the UNSC, which implies a commitment to speak as a global voice against territorial aggression and rights violations similar to what Russia has unleashed on Ukraine. 
    • Not in the position to play the role of a mediator:
      • A pursuit of ‘multi-alignment’ may have given New Delhi some diplomatic space in the ongoing war in Ukraine. However, it may not be sufficient for India to try to play the role of a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.
    • Lowest ranker:
      • The latest State of Southeast Asia Survey has shown that India ranks the second lowest (at only 1 percent) among ASEAN and nine middle powers in its leadership in maintaining a rules-based order and upholding international law.
    • Not party to newly formed mechanisms:
      • What often gets overlooked is how India has steered clear from US-led regional security mechanisms like AUKUS and 5-Eyes.

    Way ahead

    • Rising middle power:
      • Despite all the problems, the diplomatic success of India as a rising middle power has not gone unnoticed.
        • It would have been unthinkable barely a decade ago to envisage a situation where India receives UAE finances and Israeli technology, geared to US involvement, for stepping up agricultural production for its western neighbours.
    • Rise in trust levels:
      • Furthermore, India has enjoyed a significant increase in trust levels this year at 25.7 per cent compared to only 16.6 percent last year. 
        • Among those who trust India, there is a significant increase among those who felt that India’s military power is an asset for global peace and security.
    • Potential of balancing & assume a greater role:
      • As India’s influence increases, it can assume a greater role as a bridging power and play a moderating role in the Quad, G7, BRICS and the SCO.
        • Considering its presidency for the G20 and the SCO, 2023 will indeed be the year to see how India does its balancing act.


    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] India’s strategic autonomy and policy of non-alignment have evolved into a multi-alignment approach. Analyse. What are the challenges associated with India’s multi-alignment approach?