14.02.2024 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Towards the release of India’s Foreign Policy Review 2023; the context of the upcoming elections

Towards the release of India's Foreign Policy Review 2023

On 5 February this year, India published an interesting document entitled “Foreign Policy Review 2023“, prepared by a group of specialists from one of the country’s leading “smart tanks”, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). Established in the early 90s of the last century mainly for the purpose of solving problems in the sphere of economy (essentially arising at that time due to the loss of the main external partner in the person of the USSR), ORF gradually expanded the range of scientific interests and nowadays is one of the main suppliers of foreign policy recommendations to the country’s leadership.

The non-governmental organisation describes itself in the following words: “ORF today plays a fundamental role in India in the process of building political consensus on the nature of engagement with the outside world.” This role is illustrated, in particular, by the appearance of the study mentioned at the beginning, prepared on the occasion of ORF’s 30th anniversary.

Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India, the Research Foundation was at the origin of the Raisina Dialogue in 2016, which annually discusses various issues related to the development of the situation mainly in the Indo-Pacific region, where the focus of the current stage of the “Great World Game” is shifting. The authority of the Raisina Dialogue in international expert circles is continuously growing, and today it is not inferior in this respect to the famous Shangri-La Dialogue, which has been functioning since the beginning of the noughties under the auspices of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, IISS.

The next “Raisina Dialogue”, one of the main participants of which are always ORF experts, is to be held on 21-23 February this year, and its most notable moments will undoubtedly serve as an occasion for a separate commentary. The agenda and the general tone of the forthcoming work of this platform will probably be substantially determined by the above fundamental (144-page) document.

Its authors draw conclusions on key aspects of India’s foreign policy in the past year, based on extensive factual material presented in graphs and charts. Four main aspects of the country’s positioning in the international arena have been the subject of the research: “Indian Foreign Policy and Multilateralism”, “India and Neighbours”, “India and the Global Order”, and “India and the World Economic Order”. The main outcomes are presented in the form of 15 conclusions, which it is not possible to reproduce here in full. Therefore, let us dwell only on the most noteworthy (in the author’s opinion) in this paper as a whole.

And the first thing that attracted attention is the mention in the Introduction of the 10-year period of the now ruling Bharatiya Janata Party with its unchanged leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in power. During this period, the country has made, without any exaggeration, a leap forward in all aspects of state functioning and is already a significant participant in global processes.

This reminder itself is undoubtedly due to the next general elections coming up in two-three months, during which the BJP led by N. Modi will try once again (for the third time in a row) to defeat the motley opposition. So far, all indications are that such a victory will be achieved. Moreover, no less convincing than in both previous cases and despite the unprecedented acuteness of the pre-election struggle with the still rather loose bloc of opposition forces.

That is, N. Modi himself and the leading functionaries of the BJP are by no means expecting victory, as they call it, “in passive mode”. The Prime Minister is actively travelling around the country, speaking at public events, demonstrating each time the successes achieved under his leadership. At the same time, variations of the word “youth”, which has been used for several years in various contexts and in relation to various aspects of the country’s development, are almost the key word in his speeches.

Although there is a direct semantic justification for the use of this term-meme. It is estimated that over a quarter of the current population of the country is under 14 years of age, and the generation over 65 years of age is less than 7 percent. Already a third world economy, India stands in stark and positive contrast to almost all its ‘developed’ neighbours in the ‘economic ranking’. With the possible exception of the PRC, but even that country is showing unfavourable trends in this regard.

And the first conclusion of the discussed ORF paper records the fact of support of the country’s foreign policy course by young people. However, “urban”, i.e. those with whom the Indian leadership associates other iconic words, such as “technological progress”, “the advent of India’s time in global politics”. As ORF surveys have shown, 35 per cent (‘urban’) of the youth rated the foreign policy of the N. Modi government ‘very favourably’ and 48 per cent simply ‘favourably’. Overall, the latter’s indicated foreign policy approval rating increased by 11 per cent compared to 2021.

As far as it can be understood, this positive assessment of the youth (but not only) of the foreign policy activities of the country’s leadership is essentially due to India’s chairmanship of the G20 last year. The government is credited with the very fact (which is outlined in the fifth conclusion of the paper under discussion) of holding the events planned within the framework of the G20. This was not easy to do in the context of a sharp aggravation of the international situation in general and between the main participants in this configuration in particular.

Again, it is not possible here to outline all the conclusions of this ORF paper, and we will briefly discuss those based on the research in the section “India and Neighbours”. This direction of India’s foreign policy continues to be the main one, primarily because New Delhi’s global, i.e. beyond regional, claims, though becoming more and more discernible, are still in the formative stages.

At the same time, the country’s main foreign policy problem is, as they call it, “right next door”. It is summarised in conclusion number eight as follows: “Respondents expressed satisfaction with the state of relations with all global powers except China”.

This result serves as an explanation for the particularly positive attitude of the “respondents” to the United States noted in the same conclusion. According to the level of sympathy, this country occupies the first place with an indicator of 81%. The next (ninth) conclusion notes that according to this indicator (77%), Russia and Australia share the second or third places. Japan closes the list of those “global powers” with a score of 76%.

Recall that with the exception of the Russian Federation, all three countries mentioned here, along with India, are part of the regional QUAD configuration, which, however, still does not have any specific design. But it is quite definitely possible to state the preservation of India’s traditionally neutral positioning in the international arena. With all the above trends and “sympathies” in the mood of the Indian public, as well as in the real events of the government of the country.

In connection with all the above, we once again draw attention to the potentially fundamental nature of the influence of Sino-Indian relations on the further development of the situation in the IT industry. Their importance in this regard will only increase as, in the author’s opinion, the inevitable reduction in the scale of the US presence here. It is extremely necessary, first of all, for the current world hegemon himself.

Which should be an important element in Washington’s overall process of moving away from the globalist mirages of the neocons with their “values below the belt”. This is without any exaggeration, the curse of the USA of the last few decades, which has given rise to the current growing domestic problems.

This trend in the policy of the leader of the (already today semi-mythical) “West” should complete the process of complete redrawing of the latter as a whole. In particular, we may well expect the disappearance from the political field of Europe of the current agents of the same neocons, entrenched both in Brussels and in the capitals of the leading countries of the continent. All this (in fact, total anti-European) political rubbish, which has brought the continent to the brink of economic (and possibly armed) collapse, is quite reasonably afraid of the upcoming electoral cycle. As a result of which, he may be expelled from the political space of Europe.

Finally, let us once again point out the groundlessness of expectations of the emergence of a “fairer and safer” world order, which replaces its (short-term) “unipolar” configuration. Contrary to recent fantasies, the historical process does not want to “come to an end” and today new contradictions of both regional and global scale are already emerging. Which are also its driving force. Some of these problems have already been identified in connection with the emergence of new “centres of power” in the Indo-Pacific region.

One of them is modern India, whose foreign policy has been the subject of research by the Observer Research Foundation, a leading expert organisation in this field.


Vladimir TEREKHOV, an expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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