Stronger China And India’s Foreign Policy Priorities

Many things that started in 2020 could gain strength in 2021. This includes ouster of Trump in America. Trump’s ouster is likely to bring similar regie change in other countries as well.

  • Despite the promise of a Biden presidency to redefine U.S.-Europe relations, Europe has not only turned its back on the U.S., it is also warming up to China.
  • EU and China have already concluded in principle the negotiations for an EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment’.
  • This agreement has in all probability negated the hope of oustracising China in 2021.
  • Many countries now are eager to have similar kind of agreement with China.
  • India which has greatly curtailed its relations with China since April 2020, (in the wake of Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh) may find itself isolated in its policy of containing China’s global influence.

A Stronger China

  • China is about the only major country which had a positive rate of growth at the end of 2020.,
  • In 2021, China’s economy is poised to grow better than many countries including India.
  • On the military front, China has further strengthened itself.
  • China has announced the launch of its third aircraft carrier in 2021, which will further strengthen its dominance in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
  • China-Russia military coordination is getter with each passing year.
  • China’s position across Asia is at all-time high.
  • Most countries will find it difficult to counter China’s military and economic power.

Economy first for Europe

  • When it comes strong authoritarian, the world is not going to see the fall and decline of eaders like Xi Jinping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey.
  • Hope that democracy will emerge stronger in 2021 seems far-fetched.
  • Europe, minus Britain following Brexit, and the retirement of Germany’s Angela Merkel, could become even less relevant in world affairs.
  • The China-EU Investment Treaty has confirmed the fear that Europe values its economy more than its politics.
  • Russia is beginning to display greater interest in the affairs of countries on its periphery.
  • It is also strengthening ties with China and reaching an entente with Turkey.
  • Russia’s interest in India is at all time low.
  • 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.
  • The Abraham Accords has not reduced the risk of a confrontation between Iran and Israel. This does pose problems for India, since both have relations with it.
  • China is playing a much larger role in West Asia.
  • It is likely to sign a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement with Iran.

India Isolated

  • No breakthrough in Sino-Indian relations has, or is likely to occur.
  • Confrontation between Indian and Chinese armed forces is expected to continue.
  • India currently plays no significant role in West Asia.
  • India-Iran relations also lack warmth.
  • India has been marginalised in Afghanistan.
  • India’s relations with Pakistan have not improved. Meanwhile, Pakistan has cemented its relations with China.
  • Relations continue to be strained with Nepal. 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.
  • India’s neighbours are tilting towards China, increasing India’s isolation.

Diplomacy and perceptions

  • India’s foreign policy suffers from an ideational vacuum.
  • India’s inability or failure in the ideational realm lies at the root of our foreign policy inadequacies.

International Bodies

  • Currently, India remains isolated from two important supranational bodies of which it used to be a founding member, viz., the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • India is more interested in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
  • India’s BIMSTEC strategy has been successful to a great extent.
  • India has opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
  • Interestingly, the majority of Asian countries are members of this organization.

Way Forward

  • Instead of over confidence and hubris, India should adopt prudent foreign policies.
  • India should pursue realistically achievable objectives.
  • There should be a demonstration of continuity of policy, irrespective of changes in the nature of the Administration.