India is not a great power, but it is making its way in the world
Countries like the United States and China have the power to shape world events. For example, the US-led global war on terror has shaped the discourse on international security, and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is also shaping events in the developed and developing world.
In the case of India, while it would never be confused with an economic or military superpower, it has always preserved its interests.
India’s power of resistance
India since its independence and throughout the Cold War period had to face a variety of issues which were problematic for its national interests, including hostile neighbors, border conflicts and the need to strengthen its military and economic power.
Indian foreign policy through the ages has staggered from non-alignment to strategic autonomy and multi-alignment as it is today. Edited by Jawaharlal Nehru, India maintained a policy of non-alignment advocate for decolonization, non-interference in the sovereign affairs of other states, support for national liberation movements and opposition to apartheid or racial segregation.
During the Cold War period, India was keen not to join Russia or the United States. Domestic insecurities such as the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan and the Sino-Indian border conflict have led India to turn to Russia for a steady supply of arms.
India realized that its own strategic vulnerabilities were bordered by hostile neighbors. India was one of the first countries to even recognize Communist China despite criticism from the United States. Unfortunately, when China claimed sovereignty over Tibet, India was warned to keep the Himalayan buffer states of Nepal, Bhutan and the Sikkim region under its influence. Much to China’s dismay, the Dalai Lama flees to India in 1959 as a political refugee and has remained there ever since.
Nuclear developments in the 1960s led India to rethink its foreign policy motivated by the national interest to safeguard its military power over that of China. China carried out its first nuclear tests in 1964 after the Sino-Indian war of 1962, and India also began acquiring nuclear power, carrying out its first test in 1974. Ultimately, India did not. has never signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In addition, Indira Gandhi maintained a strategic relationship with Russia regardless of her private criticism of Russian intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 because the event prompted the United States to support Pakistan. During his tenure, India had a real fear that its immediate neighbors would fall under the influence of the United States and this insecurity continued until the post of Prime Minister of Rajiv Gandhi in which he decided to intervene in Sri Lanka’s conflict with Tamil militants. In 1987, India occupied Sri Lanka for a brief period motivated by geopolitical interests and suspicion about Sri Lanka’s relations with the United States
India’s decision to finally drop deep-seated suspicions of the United States was due to a national economic downturn in the 1990s. India had to borrow from the International Monetary Fund which imposed conditions to liberalize sectors of the economy. India may not have ceded to foreign powers until 1991, but had to initiate domestic economic reforms due to pressure from the IMF. Moreover, under Narasimha Rao, India has also moved closer to the United States to attract much needed foreign direct investment. Once again, India has secured its national economic interests.
Although the American-Indian relationship deteriorated rapidly due to economic sanctions imposed by the Clinton administration in retaliation for nuclear testing, India could not be persuaded to sign the NPT, and the Bush administration eventually lifted the sanctions. This is mainly because the Bush administration realized what a trump card India could be as a strategic partner in its global war on terrorism.
What is India’s power status today?
In the 21st century, after officially recognizing India as a nuclear power, the United States and India entered a new era of foreign policy by signing the new framework for defense relations between the United States and the United States. India and cordial relations have been maintained.
While border disputes with Pakistan and China have always plagued India, India’s main security threat today is China. China’s rapid rise both economically and militarily means that India and the United States have a mutual adversary. With the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India has had to redefine its relations with its neighborhood and the rest of the world, especially in areas where China has expanded its presence.