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India: Striving for A Greater Role in A Growing Multipolar System
 Source:Centre for Strategic Thinking  Views:182 Updated:2023-08-10

Since the beginning of 2023, it appears that India has generally started to advance the country’s strategic agenda from a broader spectrum, especially over the past 2-3 months, the Indian officials have been very active in seeking high-level engagements with a variety of partners across the globe.

The following is a brief list of crucial diplomatic events conducted by Indian officials since early 2023:

The opening session of Voice of Global South Summit 2023 hosted by India in January 2023 (Source: PMINDIA)

 QUAD leaders: Australian PM Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden,

 Indian PM Narendra Modi, and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida (Source:The Economic Times)

In January, India hosted the Voice of Global South Summit, which was assumed to be conducive to India’s efforts in raising the country’s status in the Global South.

In early May, India’s chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar, upon his visit to Singapore, with the partners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) jointly launched the ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise, which made India the fourth Dialogue Partners of ASEAN, besides China, Russia, and the United States, having conduced an ASEAN+1 maritime exercise.

On 19-21 May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as a guest, traveled to Japan’s Hiroshima for the G7 Summit.

On 22 May, Mr. Modi participated in the India-Pacific Islands Cooperation Summit in Papua new Guinea. 14 Pacific Islands countries together with India held the forum, which was anticipated to help set a good momentum for the implementation of India’s Indo-Pacific agenda.

On 24 May, the Indian leadership paid an official visit to Australia, which was the first trip of Mr. Modi to this country since 2014, and also joined the QUAD Leaders’ Summit together with the heads of Australia, Japan, and the United States in Sydney.

On 20-23 June, Indian Prime Minister conducted a state visit to the United States. Mr. Modi’s trip to the U.S. had drawn a lot of attention from both the media and the scholarly field, against the big context that major regional and global players including the U.S., China, Russia, and India etc. have been seeking to re-frame their strategies and policies. According to the media reports, Mr. Modi sought to deepen cooperation with the U.S. on a range of issues primarily covering defence, trade, technology, space etc. Apart from engaging with the U.S. government officials, during his visit, Indian Prime Minister had also met with a number of business leaders working in the technology sector.

On 24-25 June, the Indian leadership paid a visit to Egypt, which was the first by an Indian Prime Minister since 1997. From the media coverage, India would be supportive of Egypt’s entry into the BRICS bloc in the future. Some observers pointed that, given the geo-strategic location of Egypt, it could help facilitate India’s greater access to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Currently, around 12 % of global trade runs through the Suez Canal of Egypt.

On 4 July, India hosted the 23rd Leaders’ Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In the Declaration of the SCO Leaders’ Summit, member states called for “an increase of the effectiveness of global institutions” in facing today’s challenges and rapid transformations.

On 13-14 July, Indian Prime Minister made a visit to France. For this trip, Mr. Modi sought to further deepen cooperation with the French side in various areas including defence, trade and so on.

On 15 July, Mr. Modi paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is currently India’s 3rd largest trading partner, as well as India’s 2nd largest exporting market.

After all, regarding the above list of official events, how to understand the tight schedule of Indian officials in seeking diplomatic engagements with a wide variety of partners in the past months of 2023, as well as the implications of them from a broad strategic perspective?

Re-framing India’s Foreign Policy Agenda

Since the beginning of 2023, India has started to re-frame the countrys foreign policy agenda, with the purpose of making India a much more crucial player on the global stage. To achieve this general goal, India has sought to interact more closely with a wider range of partners, big or small, in accordance with India’s needs. It has made a series of attempts to broaden India’s strategy beyond the country’s neighbourhood, and to strive to cultivate and consolidate India’s status in a growing multipolar system.

For a long period before 2023, India had prioritized the formulation and implementation of its “Act East” foreign policy, in line with which, India’s connectivity with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, especially, Southeast Asia had been emphasised in helping meet India’s objectives from various dimensions.

Currently, under a new regional and global context, given the size of Indias population, and the great potential in furthering its economic, technological, and military power, as well as, more crucially, the fact that India is one of the limited number of countries in the world having manged to assume a full strategic sovereignty, there is every reason for India to widen the influence of the country’s policy beyond India’s neighbourhood.

Therefore, in the years ahead, while still recognizing the strategic significance in implementing India’s “Act East” policy in various terms, to better serve India’s interest, it would be ready to deepen collaboration with various partners in the countrys neighbourhood on the one hand, and in the meantime to seek to expand the scope of the country’s cooperation partners from across the globe on the other hand.

From the list of high-level diplomatic events conducted by India since 2023, it appears that the Indian government has intended to set two broad priorities in relation to advancing the country’s strategy. One is much related to strengthening India’s status in and partnership with the Global South; and the other is about seeking more opportunities in the Global North.

Raising India’s Status in the Global South

With regard to India’s relations with countries in the Global South, in line with India’s policy agenda, it has built close connectivity with a vast number of developing countries over the past years. For instance, It has joined a series of key mechanisms led by ASEAN. In addition, in recent decades, India has with other important partners and emerging economies in the Global South jointly developed a range of significant mechanisms like the BRICS and the SCO, both of which would be expected to assume a growing role in the years head.

Over the past decades, India has realized the significance of the BRICS and the SCO as well as other forums in helping augment India’s status at both regional and global levels; and it would anticipate to continue assuming a crucial role under the BRICS, the SCO, and other series of bilateral and multilateral arrangements together with its partners from the Global South in the coming years.

In parallel, India has made efforts in enhancing the voices of the Global South in international institutions and multilateral arrangements such as the G20. Upon the Indian leadership’s visit to Egypt and the UAE in June and July respectively, leaders of the three countries once again expressed their interests in deepening cooperation for consolidating the voices of the Global South in international affairs.

Improving India’s Connectivity with the Global North

With regard to India’s intention in seeking more opportunities in the Global North, in recent years, there has been a sign to see India’s improved engagements with its developed counterparts. On issues related to security and defence, apart from the country’s continuing close cooperation with its traditional partners such as Russia, with countries in the developed world, India together with Australia, Japan, and the United State had upgraded the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) meeting to a leader’s level. Indian Prime Minister’s recent visit to the U.S. and France had also demonstrated India’s intention to deepen collaboration with the two developed countries in defence.

In the economic and trade area, India so far has selectively participated in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Partnership for Prosperity (IPEF). Besides that, Mr. Modi, through his latest trip to France and the U.S., had sought to expand collaboration with the two countries in trade. In the coming years, There will be a likelihood for India to selectively improve the country’s connectivity with other developed countries as well on trade and economic issues.

Overall, all the above efforts made by India in the past months of 2023 have reflected the country’s intention to frame and implement a new strategy; and by doing so, it anticipates to assume a more crucial role in the global system. Therefore, in the coming years, we will likely see India to carry out the approach it is currently pursuing.

It is assumed that, as far as India manages to balance properly of its relations with other major players including handling the possible disputes and competition under certain circumstances, India’s endeavour in seeking to raise the countrys profile on the global stage could contribute to the forging and maintenance of an increasingly more balanced and inclusive multipolar system.

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