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India's Foreign Policy in The Year 2020 (28th December 2020 India's World)

India's Foreign Policy in The Year 2020

Guests Panel:

1. Prof C Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore :
2. Prabhu Dayal, Former Ambassador 
3. Prof. Swaran Singh, School Of International Studies, JNU



Breaking point with china: India have reached a breaking point with china because we had a series of crisis in

  • 2013- (Daulat Beg Oldi Sector (DBO) incident)
  • 2014- (Standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh during Xi Jinping’s Visit to Ahmedabad)
  • 2017- (Doklam Crisis)
  • 2019- (Galwan Valley Incident)

Peace and tranquillity v confrontation: Confrontation of eighth month with no sign of its resolution.

Expanding economic engagement to economic decoupling: India china relationship which enjoyed three decades of

  • Relative stability and
  • Expanding economic engagement

is going to now move into a situation where economic decoupling taking place.

India is the largest country

  1. in terms of size of the territory,
  2. in terms of population,
  3. in terms of economic power
  4. it's the largest neighbor of china

Hence Not only India stood up to china challenge but that was also being seen clearly by the rest of china's periphery.

Position of India vis a vis China on Global Politics:

  • India at UNSC: Look how 184 countries in a secret ballot supported India's case for eighth time to be sitting as non-permanent member on the security council.
  • China at UNHRC: By contrast in human rights council china after 2016 joined again this year but of the five members who were elected china received the least number of votes.

Dealing China on Regional, Global level: India dealing with china not just on the border but at the regional and global level.  


2020 as inflection Point for Quad:

  • Australia joining the Malabar Exercise,
  • Upgradation of Quad to Ministerial level
  • India
    • Gave away long-term reluctance
    • Engaging openly and decisively with the QUAD/USA to contain China.  

Upgradation to ministerial level: Guided by china due to its emergence as a major challenge in Indian ocean.

Direct impact on India: In the Quad, India is the only country that has a direct impact of what happens in Indian ocean.

Australia and japan are much more focused on the pacific and also are in alliance relationship with the USA.

China-India-USA: China has emerged as a challenge in Indian ocean and with border clash.

  • India increasingly harmonizing with the American interests in how to manage the security architecture of the Indo-pacific region.

Quad- Central axis of the new security architecture in Indo Pacific.

Quad on Driver seat than ASEAN: Quad could replace ASEAN as being on the driving seat in regional security architecture or larger Indo-pacific region.

USA a Package Deal: When you sort of come closer to United States, it's a package deal.

  • You come closer to about two dozen friends,
  • Adds stature and visibility at the global scale.

CHINA-ASEAN-USA: ASEAN has been engaged and cultivated by Chinese now. After ASEAN financial crisis onwards, the U-turn took place.  

  • ASEAN created to contain china at one stage in 1960s in 1990s it was engaging china as a friend.
  • Fundamental principle of ASEAN being on the driving seat was that it will never hurt the core interest of major powers.
  • Now China has emerged as a major power and also emerged as a friend of ASEAN.
  • SCS Dispute: ASEAN members despite having serious disputes in south china sea, we don't see normally ASEAN standing up to china.

New Elements in IFP in 2020: India's hydroxychloroquine or paracetamol were going to 150 countries now and of course India’s entire medical health services workforce and production capacity, producing vaccine were the new kind of elements of indian foreign policy that brought india a certain

  • Influence,
  • Access and at least
  • Visibility for sure

Giving those genetic drugs

  • To USA,
  • To World,
  • To the immediate Neighbourhood

can convert this goodwill to gains in the future in IFP.

Pharmaceutical sector: India's used its existing capabilities in the pharmaceutical sector for example on the production of hydroxychloroquine to respond to the demands of the other Countries (USA, Britain etc.)

Self-reliance in Medical Sector: From a shortage of the production of PPE and other equipment to an exporter.

Largest Vaccine Production: India is the World’s largest producer of vaccines.

Chair of world health assembly: India has taken the chair of the world health assembly. India sits on top of the board that runs the world health organization.

  • Shape the post pandemic future
  • Hold China accountable: Some accountability, some responsibility for Corona Spread
  • Rules for Future Pandemic Management: This is not going to be the last pandemic so what are the kind of rules that we can devise for future management of pandemic.
  • Supply chains: To build sustainable resilient trustworthy supply chains in the pharmaceutical sector for the global pharmaceutical industry.

Shortcomings:  With our pharmaceutical sector is, our dependence on china for APIs.



Self-reliance or Aatma-Nirbhara Bharat (ANB): Longer-term consequences are going to come from india's decision or to formalize a strategy which is focused on self-reliance or Aatma-Nirbharata.

  • Government has clarified that ANB does not mean isolation.

RCEP: India walked out of the RCEP which is the nationwide agreement in 2019 and in 2020.

But strengthening india's domestic capabilities is a big priority and that its international economic engagement.

2020 as successful year for Indian foreign policy: Very clear message to china that we will not be cowed down by it or by anyone else.

Foreign Policy Change due to Experienced foreign minister: Jaishankar repeatedly underlined how India is drifting gradually from

  1. Dogmatic ideological to pragmatic to relatively sort of hedging
  2. Passivist to more realistic
  3. Will Power

India woke up to realism on China: Earlier there was an ambivalence hesitation to confront the problem (growing power imbalance, Chinese expansionism).

Indo-USA Hesitation disappeared: Of course, it will be an independent partnership.

  • A half step forward two steps back kind of an approach ended now.
  • Robust engagement with the USA on our own terms and for mutual benefit  

New interest in Europe: Europe is going to be a major partner. France has emerged as a very reliable and strategic partner which blocked many Chinese-Pakistan initiatives in the security council to take Kashmir question.

Major summits in 2020:

United Nations: India brought up several issues for eg. Terrorism and how terrorism is a menace for the entire world and also UN reforms.

UNSC Non-Permanent member: There is a significant international opinion that India should find a place as a permanent member.

International summits: In November month alone in 2020 India attended five major summits   

  1. SCO Heads of State summit,
  2. ASEAN summit
  3. BRICS summit
  4. G20 summit and
  5. SCO Heads of the Government summit

Loss/Challenge for India’s diplomacy:

Foreign policy and National Interest: FP is shaped by national interests and national interests are very closely bound with national security.

China and Pakistan as common threat to our national security. China tried to extend the LAC westwards and to be alongside the 1959 claim line.

Ganging together in a very deliberate manner by china and Pakistan. Combating the twin menace from China and Pakistan will continue to be a forefront challenge in the coming year.

Trade: Problems regarding trade are not likely to ease because other countries have been adversely affected.

Terrorism a cornerstone of its foreign policy of Pakistan, to wage a proxy war against India by using non-state terrorist actors.

Way Forward:

On the Trade/Eco Reforms: ANB is not a setback. It is a signaling a different strategy.

  • In 1991 we undertook reforms without doing enough to strengthen domestic manufacturing capabilities. Now India is not going to abandon 1991, but to strengthen our capabilities

No change in fundamentals of IFP: 2020 saw some decisive changes in India’s diplomatic tactics but not in strategy, so fundamentals of foreign policy have not changed.

Health diplomacy has emerged as one of the major elements of IFP.

India was inching closer to USA very clearly but also India today is holding Presidency of SCO, BRICS nations which also means the trilateral of Russia-India-China strategic triangle.

India’s engagement with Russia and China: remains equally important for

  • Being a stabilizing power   
  • Supporter of multilateralism in Asia or
  • Net security provider in IOR.


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