By Pradeep S. Mehta and Purushendra Singh
Over the last 75 years, India has achieved a unique standing in the world, emerging as a global power not aligned to any block but maintaining her strategic autonomy zealously. In 75 years of her journey as a free nation, India has bagged a vast array of impressive achievements.
India’s foreign policy was ambiguous when the territory was ruled by the British for more than 200 years, and the 562 native states – which did not command their own state’s communication, international trade, or foreign relations – came together in 1947 to form one nation.
From Nehru to Modi, the Indian foreign policy has seen many shifts but the two principles of non-alignment and independence of foreign policy have remained at the core and have largely remained unchanged.
Preaching the ancient philosophy of “Vasudev Katumbakam,” and treating the world as one big family, India has charted its own path in the global arena and celebrating “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of its independence.
Lal Bahadur Shastri, India’s second Prime Minister once said, “India has been attacked and threatened but it has remained resilient to its founding principles of peaceful coexistence, non-alignment, non-aggression, and non-violence.”
Today, India also plays a major role in various world platforms such as QUAD – Quadrilateral grouping comprising the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India, I2U2 – a grouping of India, Israel, UAE, and the US, BRICS – a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, and even being part of Shanghai Cooperation Organization to name a few.
“With India making its own decisions regarding its national interests, its decisions are not circumscribed by whether interest falls into a political or non-political category,” said Dr. S. Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, while asserting India’s strategic autonomy.
Soft Power and Spiritual Leader
India has increased its military cooperation, humanitarian aid, participation in the U.N. peacekeeping forces, and treating the world with Ayurveda, yoga, and defense diplomacy which are essential components of foreign policy and national security. It aids in healthy living and promotes military cooperation among countries for better security.
Yoga has caught people’s imagination all across the world. The overwhelming number of yoga schools across America, Europe, and Asia attest to India’s rich cultural traditions. Yoga is being taught at certain educational institutes in parts of the world. International Yoga Day on June 21 introduced the world to a new approach to wellbeing. India has been a land of spirituality and meditation. She has curated the course of living a healthy and better lifestyle for the entire world.
India made the world look at Ayurveda with a new perspective, with natural healing methods which are helpful in treating the smallest illness, wellness, and general disorders. Ayurveda has become a household healthcare procedure. It is India’s gift of knowledge of life to the world.
Besides science, Bollywood, holding new world records in sports and colorful band galas as regal fashion attire, sweet delicacies, and festivals have all catered to the rising soft power of India. Yoga is the new age moral value of emerging India. Cleanliness is lagging but making up.
A Global Power
In 1971, the world saw the prowess of India’s military might. Her focus is on strengthening its border issues and strategic power, particularly in the Indian Ocean region.
Today’s international order is bogged down in strategic brinkmanship. The Pakistan-China nexus is already establishing itself in Afghanistan following the exit of the U.S. The rise of China as a rival to the U.S. on the world stage has boosted strategic competition in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), thereby heightening the region’s geostrategic significance. The South China Sea is another contentious area with bullying by China against other littoral nations like Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc.
India, once the largest importer of arms in the world, is now increasingly emphasizing indigenous defense manufacturing and enhancing her hard power capabilities in addition to conventional soft power. Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar have requested India’s aid for the maintenance, manufacture, and production of their defense equipment and platforms.
Stands by her principle of non-alignment and “aatmanirbharta” – self-reliance and by manufacturing its own weapons, aircraft, naval torpedoes, etc. India is claiming her rightful position as a strategic partner of other major economies.
In all, India is now much more confident about its place in a world order which is clearly visible in bilateral and multilateral relationships.
Road to India@100
“India is not a new nation and has been here for more than thousands of years and will stay for more than thousands of years. The road ahead to the next 25 years which would mark the century of Independent India is not going to be smooth but full of challenges and hurdles,” former PM Indira Gandhi said in one of her independence day speeches from the rampart of the red fort.
India aims to maintain its strategic autonomy and rise as a major power. As she moves towards “aatmanirbharta” and aims to become a manufacturing hub with global linkages, she has to deal with newer challenges such as competing with market forces, and remain technologically advanced as the future of world domination depends upon critical and emerging technologies.
In order to maintain the rule-based world order, India has to strengthen its hard power capabilities, high level of governance, liberalize policies in order to attract foreign investments, corporate tax cuts and requirement of land, labor, and trade reforms have to be underwritten in the next decade for rapid growth.
Boosting the Indo-Pacific strategy is crucial to control the growing Chinese influence in various areas of the world. Human Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) will be a crucial component of the security and growth of all in the regional philosophy which will strengthen Indian soft power in the IOR and its immediate surroundings. Dr. Jaishankar says that India’s next 25 years will be based on capability, capability, and capability.
How does India look at 75?
We would reiterate the phrase by Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian astronaut in space in 1984, “Sare Jahan Se Acha, Hindustan Hamara” – the best in the whole world.
(The authors work for CUTS International, a Jaipur-based global public policy research and advocacy group which includes an office in Washington DC.)
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times