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India and Non-Alignment Policy - A Rethink

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July 24, 2020

What is the issue?

  • In separate statements, Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar laid out India’s world view in the face of global challenges.
  • In this context, it is imperative to look into the remarks made on non-alignment policy.

What is the current global scenario?

  • There is a perceptible repositioning of the US; its influence and powers are not as they used to be.
  • This has allowed many other countries to play more autonomous roles.
  • It does not affect India as much because India was never part of an alliance system and it will never be.
  • But countries who depended more on the U.S. are finding themselves in a place to take a call on many issues.
  • However, the conditions are opening spaces for middle powers like India, Japan, the European Union and others.

What are the observations made on non-alignment?

  • Non-alignment was a term of a particular era and geopolitical landscape.
  • One aspect was independence, which remains a factor of continuity for India.
  • Otherwise, non-alignment is an old concept today.
  • Multipolarity in the world necessitates India to take a definite and proactive stand.
  • It might even have to take “risks” on issues such as connectivity, maritime security, terrorism and climate change.
  • However, certainly, India does not reject non-alignment in its entirety.
  • Non-alignment worked for India during the Cold War era between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
  • But the fact that India and China share a land boundary would always be a factor in a “new cold war” between the U.S. and China.
  • So, India would no longer remain disentangled from difficult decisions.
  • But it would not compromise on its independence either.
  • More importantly, India has “never been part of an alliance system, nor will it ever be”.

What about India-US ties?

  • Mr. Jaishankar said that even the U.S. must look beyond its present alliances and engage with more multilateral arrangements.
  • He spoke of Indo-U.S. cooperation in many fields, and the growing maritime collaboration in particular.
  • But he left unsaid the hard reality that military collaboration with US on land would prove problematic given India’s disputed boundary with China.
  • There were multiple references by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the India-China clashes at Galwan Valley.
  • There were calls from him for India and the U.S. to jointly “counter” China.
  • Despite this, India has rightly chosen not to raise its tensions with China in any forum other than bilateral talks with Beijing.
  • Equally significant is the government’s outreach to Russia.
  • This includes Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's visit and the participation of Mr. Jaishankar in the Russia-India-China trilateral recently.

What is the significance?

  • A time of crisis often clarifies priorities.
  • India faces a double crisis of battling the novel coronavirus pandemic and Chinese aggression at the border.
  • At this crucial point of time, the message from New Delhi is one of a carefully calibrated balance.
  • The statements are a clear-eyed assessment of India’s constraints and avenues for its potential growth.
  • This is a clear assertion of India’s strategic independence and resistance to joining any alliance.
  • It comes as a timely reminder amid speculation that tensions with China will push India into stronger ties with the US.

 

Source: The Hindu

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