Strategic autonomy no longer serves India’s interests
In the post-pandemic world, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) – an informal strategic partnership between the United States, Japan, India and Australia – has become a decisive factor determining the future trajectory of the geopolitics. The Quad began as a multidimensional initiative exploring cooperation in strategic, economic, technological, climate change, sustainable development and other relevant areas. However, if the world is heading for the next cold war or the third world war, then Quad will be a rival bloc of China. Its real strength, potential and survival depend on the intragroup relationship dynamic between its member countries.
As one of the main pillars of the Quad, India is the only member to share a large and highly volatile land border with China. Therefore, the future of Quad mainly depends on the strategic culture, state of mind and behavior of India. The other three Quad members have been under the United States, already having a long history of working on the same wavelength in bilateral and multilateral agreements. However, India’s case is unique because until the disintegration of the Soviet Union, India, although officially a non-aligned nation, was de facto a Soviet partner. Even today, relations between India and the United States have many occasional friction resulting from a lack of understanding. However, by exploring India’s foreign policy behavior since 1947 and the underlying ideological, historical and psychological factors that underlie it, this gap can be bridged.
After its liberation from British rule in 1947, the essence of India’s foreign policy can be summed up by two doctrines, namely “strategic autonomy” and “strategic cover”. Indian diplomats and strategists try to project them as doctrines and theories of Indian foreign policy, underpinning Indian understanding of world politics. However, critical analysis suggests that these are rather behavioral traits emanating from a particular collective strategic psyche resulting from India’s unique historical experience. They do not constitute a long-term, goal-oriented foreign policy vision defining India’s grand strategy. They are not the result of hard-nosed national security calculations based on cost-benefit analysis and a futuristic approach. Over time, they have become static positions resulting from a highly bureaucratic approach and an aversion to change.
The idea of ”strategic autonomy”, which is a baggage of the Cold War, still haunts India’s strategic subconscious and is partly rooted in the idealistic and moralistic principles of India’s struggle for freedom. This struggle, which spanned 1,200 years of foreign rule, shaped the personality of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and anchored latent fears and insecurities of being overtaken and dominated by foreign powers at most. deep within the collective Indian psyche. As a result, the Nehruvian view despised the Cold War power blocs as an expression of immoral and materialistic expansionism and feared losing its political and economic autonomy by joining them.
However, India soon found itself faced with the futility of the doctrine of “strategic autonomy” in meeting its foreign and security policy challenges. India’s forward march as the leader of the non-aligned world, guided by the idea of ”strategic autonomy”, was shattered when the Maoist Red Army defeated Indian forces in the heights. of the Himalayas in 1962. Despite his discomfort and reluctance, Nehru approach the United States for armaments and called on Washington to use its diplomatic clout to defuse crises. Over time, non-alignment turned out to be an unworkable precept, continued only as a charade, and much to her dismay, India achieved the image of a de facto Soviet partner after signature Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation of 1971.
Likewise, fictitious idealism also manifested itself in India, officially not recognizing Israel, as it supported the Palestinian cause against the allegedly “racist” and “colonial” occupation of Israel, even though New Delhi secretly maintains ties to Israel since 1962. Despite a deep realization that the security interests of the two nations converge on many fronts, the sham continued for four decades until 1992, when India finally recognized Israel. A farmer from my village in Rajasthan once visited Delhi and asked, “India recognizes Pakistan which has occupied its territory, but does not recognize Israel which has occupied the territory of Palestine, about 5,000 miles from there. India; Why? ”Interestingly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Palestine have never supported India on the Kashmir issue.
After Soviet disintegration, India was friendless and vulnerable, facing violent separatist insurgencies in Punjab and Kashmir, threatening its territorial integrity. Additionally, in 1989, cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) massacred Indian peacekeepers, again due to India’s obsession with strategic autonomy, while New Delhi considered it prudent to send its forces to help the Sri Lankan army. crush his Tamil rebels, lest the island country accept aid from Pakistan or the West, thereby diminishing India’s status as a regional power and autonomy in South Asia. However, the future turned out very differently. India paid with the life of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Western powers never came, but India always lost its status as a regional power to China as Beijing extended its influence over Sri Lanka. India’s economy was messy with a serious balance of payments crisis.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had long since become obsolete, reduced to annual conferences of various dictatorships, nascent democracies and failed states ravaged by civil war. The end of the Cold War finally sealed his fate. New Delhi realized it was time to find new friends. In addition, the end of the Cold War and India’s four decades of successful management of a reasonably functioning democracy and independence made New Delhi feel secure and confident, i.e. relatively less fearful of engaging foreign powers and trading conglomerates. However, while confident, India remained hesitant to make clear choices and annoy its Cold War-era friends, and remained opposed to straying sharply from the past. As a result, the doctrine of “strategic cover” became the hallmark of India’s new diplomatic journey of exploring new friends.
In this context, New Delhi has been almost everywhere. India began exploring ties with the United States in the 1990s, which only gained momentum in the 2000s with the signing of a civilian nuclear deal. During the Narendra Modi-Donald Trump era, Indo-American relations reached unexpected heights, though deep-seated frictions continued to haunt them; however, India was trying to keep Moscow in good books. New Delhi and Moscow have a long history of strong friendship rooted in common values and interests. Russia continues to be India’s main defense provider. More recently, India bought the $ 5.1 billion S-400 missile defense system despite the threat of US sanctions and now sees the light Russian Sprut tanks. The tight balance between the two countries has not been a pleasant experience for New Delhi, leaving it in a strategic dilemma. Until recently, that is, before the Chinese aggression in Ladakh, India’s inclination towards Washington was almost complete, and many Indian analysts had canceled the Indo-Russian friendship. However, after the Chinese aggression, India seems to have tried to please its old friend, for a multitude of reasons, ranging from reliance on defense supplies to issues of trust with the Biden administration and the chances of aligning Russia with an adversary from the neighborhood, given its proximity to China. However, some things have become irreversible as Russia has moved markedly towards the Chinese camp and moves closer and closer to Pakistan. In a recent statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that India alone when it comes to China. Given the mounting tensions between the United States and Russia, Moscow also doesn’t have many options other than getting closer to China, albeit with great reluctance. Nonetheless, for New Delhi it will be a difficult challenge to continue this tightrope walk, as China’s belligerence and aggression can only be contained by the Quad.
In other cases, India has maintained ties with Iran, much to the chagrin of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, citing historical and cultural ties in addition to good crude oil supplies. market. However, with its “strategic cover” doctrine, India has not only failed to salvage its ties with Iran, but also left a bad taste in Washington, DC and Tel Aviv. With India’s strengthening ties with Israel and the United States, Iran had a choice to make. Tehran has become the fierce opponent and criticism after the repeal of section 370 and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act. On closer inspection, it appears that Iranian motives have always been rooted in religious factors and that Tehran harbored hidden sympathies for the Kashmiri jihadist movement and radicalized traditionally loyal Shiites, feeding their anti-Indian sentiment in recent years. It was India that lived in the utopia of “cultural and historical ties” and feared annoying Iran with its warming ties with the United States and Israel. More recently, Iran has kissed China, India’s most powerful adversary, as a strategic partner. Again, in the future, it will be difficult to maintain this balance as Iranian hostility against Israel has reached the Indian mainland, and Iran and its Shia proxies in India are likely to auction off China, which whether in Kashmir or other parts of India.
Likewise, India has also strived to excel in the balance between the United States and China. Since 1988, India’s strategic establishment, dominated mainly by career diplomats and police officers inducted into the intelligence services, have believed that a good economy can help improve ties and compensate for the “bad” border and equation. diplomatic. Thus, from 1990, the series of delimitation protocols and confidence-building measures started with the false belief that, gradually, border issues will become redundant. Furthermore, India believed that such an arrangement would allow it to focus on Pakistan and avoid a potential war on two fronts. The rapid increase in bilateral trade after 2000 further reinforced this conviction. However, Beijing observed the border protocols no longer in violation. Even the massive construction of Chinese infrastructure in border areas—Depsang’s Incursion (2013) and Doklam face to face (2017) – failed to shake India out of its slumber and pretend peace. Prime Minister Modi had made eighteen official visits to China; Doklam was dismissed as an aberration. Before the Galwan clash, India lived in the utopia of “Wuhan Spirit“and”Chennai Connection. ”