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  • 2012: The Changing Geopolitical Environment and Tasks before Indian foreign policy

    While India’s ability to handle the challenges may be constrained by a slowing economy, it would need to manage them through requisite diplomatic skill and finesse.

    January 03, 2012

    Harsha AH asked: Is the Concept of Balance of Power still relevant in contemporary international politics?

    Anit Mukherjee replies: One helpful manner of thinking of international politics is to relate it with human nature. In other words states behave similar to people and both are driven by the same passions. For Thucydides, the ancient Greek historian, state behavior was driven by "fear, honour and interest." One could argue that the same passions drive us. If this is true then in an anarchic state, where international politics is conducted, it is unlikely that concepts like "balance of power" will ever be irrelevant.

    So, yes, the concept of balance of power is still relevant in contemporary international politics. One can only imagine this no longer being so in case of a world, federal government which, at this moment or for the foreseeable future, appears highly unlikely. The concept of balance of power stems from the fear among smaller powers of the rise of a larger rival power. In this fear is the key, for if the two powers enjoy friendly relations then there would be no need to "balance" the larger power. Moreover balance of power consists of external and internal balancing. In the former, the state looks for external alliances as deterrence and in the latter it builds up its own strength again for deterrence. In sum this concept, like most other concepts that drive international politics, is not going away anytime soon.

    Priya Suresh asked: China's foreign policy is becoming more assertive. Is this assertiveness of China seen as a threat by ASEAN countries?

    Rahul Mishra replies: China’s foreign policy has traditionally been considered hawkish, which is evident from China’s long-standing territorial disputes with its neighbours, and the wars it fought in the past. It was only after the end of the Cold War that China started projecting its benign image. The recent Chinese moves on the Spratly and Paracel islands disputes have however tarnished this image.

    Within the ASEAN member countries, there are varying perceptions and responses to China’s assertive behaviour.

    For instance, while countries like Indonesia and Singapore tread a cautious approach in dealing with China by keeping the US on their side. Malaysia, Laos and Myanmar are to a great extent positive about China and its rise. This goes in contrast to the Philippines and Vietnam, which have no intention to strike a compromise deal with China on the South China issue.

    As an institution, ASEAN considers engaging China through multilateral forums as its best strategy. China is also considered a partner country, which has helped ASEAN come out of a number of crises in the past. However, one cannot deny the fact that it was the Southeast Asian threat perception of China, which led to formation of ASEAN in 1967. The same persists even today, though manifestations are different.

    Therefore, what is apparent at the national level, gets transformed when the constituent countries of ASEAN come together as a unit on a matter of concern; thus resulting in ASEAN’s balanced approach towards China.

    The Domestic Determinants of Iranian Foreign Policy: Challenges to Consensus

    The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is widely misunderstood. On the one hand many experts regard the Iranian foreign policy as being essentially ideology driven while on the other hand a significant body of opinion believes that ideology is a convenient smokescreen for Iran's pursuit of its national interests. This paper examines the role of ideological, political and institutional actors in the context of the Islamic Republic's quest for consensus and cohesion.

    July 2011

    Sree Kumaran asked: Why should foreign officials of donor agencies allowed to freely mix up with private sector when this is not allowed in other countries?

    Namrata Goswami replies: India is a democracy encouraging free movement of people, ideas, thought and exchanges. Hence, when there are foreign donors collaborating with the Indian private sector on particular developmental projects, there is no curtailment in their ability to interact and share ideas and review the progress of particular projects. There are clear advantages to this kind of approach.

    First, it enables better management of projects based on a symbiotic understanding between donor expectations and the private sectors' capabilities and motivations.

    Second, it enables frank and fruitful interaction with regard to limitations.

    Third, it showcases the freedom and openness of Indian democracy.

    Fourth, it ensures that goals are met within the specific time period.

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape

    The study analyses the nature of Southeast Asia-India defence relations, the reasons for the growth in ties and more important, the consequences of the defence relations.


    Pakistan's Strategic Thinking

    The strategic outlook of the political, bureaucratic and military elites in Pakistan was shaped by historical exigencies, geopolitical location, Pakistan's self-perception, and its Islamic credentials. Pakistan's military-dominated leadership formulated strategies towards regional and extra-regional powers based on its threat perceptions. The strategies adopted have not necessarily resulted in fully achieving the objectives for which they were formulated.

    May 2011

    Ravi Ranjan asked: What is meant by Geopolitics of a region?

    Anit Mukherjee replies: Geopolitics, as defined by Robert Blackwill, is understood to mean “the art and practice of the application of power by nations in the international domain.”1 This word is believed to have originated from Rudolf Kjellén, a Swedish political scientist at the beginning of the 20th century.2 In simple words, however, geopolitics would include how nations behave with each other in their quest to protect their national interests and to expand their influence/power. Geopolitics of a region would thus mean how the states within the region interact with each other through different instruments of the state including politics, diplomacy, military power, economic relations, etc. For instance, the geopolitics of East Asia would include understanding how the ASEAN countries engage with each other- building alliances and friendships among themselves and with other powers in the region including China , India , US, Australia , etc.

    Dinesh asked: Given the present situation what should be India's foreign policy towards Iraq?

    Sonia Roy replies: India and Iraq have always emphasised on their traditionally close political ties, especially since the 1970s. India and Iraq never had any hostility towards each other. The US-led invasion in 2003 and subsequent violence forced India to recall its ambassador in 2004. In March 2011, with improving internal situation following the 2010 elections, India has decided to resend its envoy to Baghdad. But at the same time, India opposed the US-led invasion.

    Since 2003, India has contributed US$10 million towards the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI), apart from providing training to Iraqi officials under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. In addition it has committed US$20 million under the United Nations framework for assistance to the Iraqi people. The goodwill aid to Iraqi reconstruction, while refraining from interfering in its internal affairs, would be a good gesture of India’s friendly approach towards Iraq.

    Since 2003, bilateral visits between the two countries have been rather limited. Iraqi Minister of Oil, Hussein Al Sharistani visited India in 2007 while the Iraqi Minister of Industry and Minerals Fauzi Franso Hariri came in 2010. There have been no reciprocal political visits to Iraq. India should look into improving political relations with Iraq and resume bilateral visits towards this end. Iraq is the third largest supplier of crude to India after Saudi Arabia and Iran and is slated to be world's biggest oil supplier by 2015. The re-construction opportunities are immensely beneficial for Indian companies. Also, the Indian government should tune its foreign policy, with emphasis on its historical ties to counter balance, or at least make a dent in China’s fast growing economic relations and the resultant influence in Iraq. With the stagnation of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, it is in India’s interest to ensure unhindered energy supply from Iraq, and making it a strategic friend in the region.

    Sonia Roy is pursuing research at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

    Raviteja asked: After collapse of USSR in general and after 2000 in particular India moved towards US. Is India moved away from its NAM ideology?

    Smita Purushottam replies: Once the old ideological divisions had evaporated after the collapse of the Soviet Union, non-alignment itself lost its earlier meaning. Since non-alignment meant that India refused to participate in the ideologically driven global contest for power blocks and influence between the Soviet and Western blocks, India did not have much of a choice once the contest ended!