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India’s multi-alignment and strategic autonomy India vs disinformation 08 Feb 2023
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, while addressing the Keio University in Tokyo last week stated that China’s growing assertiveness and collaboration with Russia poses a threat not only to Asia but also to Europe. He therefore sought ‘closer cooperation and more friends for NATO in the Indo-pacific.’ Earlier speaking in Seoul, Jens Stoltenberg mentioned, ‘China poses a challenge to our values, to our interests and to our security, and as such has risen high on the NATO agenda.’ Both North Korea and China warned NATO against strengthening security and military ties with ‘Asia-Pacific’ nations.
Simultaneously, there was an announcement from New Delhi that India would host a strategic dialogue with NATO in March. The dialogue is expected to focus on regional security issues with global ramifications, implying emphasis on increasing Chinese assertiveness. It could result in closer India-NATO partnership aimed at countering China adding a new dimension to anti-China groupings in the region. All this despite NATO’s continued emphasis on Ukraine and India’s neutral approach to the conflict, an aspect which has been regularly criticized by European nations.
India’s increased interactions with the west are unlikely to impact Indo-Russian ties. India has already made it clear to Moscow that while it remains neutral in the conflict and desires peace, it will continue enhancing its equations with likeminded allies, especially where its own national interests are concerned. Indian ties with Russia remain steadfast with oil imports from them growing. India, apart from gaining financially in oil procurements, is also re-exporting the same to nations in Europe, which cannot procure on account of sanctions. India’s increased westwards alliances is because it has overcome its hesitation of antagonizing China. It is openly sending the message that China is a major regional and global threat and must be curbed.
The visit of India’s NSA, Ajit Doval, to the US last week signalled a major leap forward in Indo-US ties. This visit was a follow-up of Modi-Biden meeting of May last year. The US has overcome its doubts on Indo-Russia relations, its neutrality in the Russo-Ukraine conflict, increased imports from Russia as also of India’s participation with Russia and China in multiple forums including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Russia-India-China (RIC) and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). India and the US elevated their strategic partnership to the next level by launching the iCET (initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies).
This initiative will expand cooperation in artificial intelligence, military equipment and accelerate defence technology cooperation. The benefits would be immense. It would result in US support in establishing semi-conductor industries, cooperation in human spaceflight including training, higher education and telecom. This has irked China which has termed iCET as ‘same bed, different dreams.’ It fears that this could make India a supply chain alternative to it.
A new bilateral roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation for joint development and production of jet engines and munition-related technologies was also signed. The US government has already received a request from GE Engines to jointly produce jet engines to power Indian produced and operated fighter aircraft. Setting up of the plant in India will be a major technology boost. The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, mentioned, ‘The United States is expanding cooperation with India to address global challenges.’ PM Modi is also scheduled to visit the US this summer.
Britain’s trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, stated in the British Parliament that ‘clinching a high-quality Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India is amongst her top priorities for the year.’ There is a concern in British government circles that the release of the BBC documentary as also silence over pro-Khalistan activities may impact discussions on the FTA. This was strongly conveyed by the Indian NSA in his meeting with his British counterpart. Rishi Sunak, the British PM joining NSA level talks conveys that the UK considers its relations with India as special, Other nations, including the US and Russia, supported the Indian view on the BBC documentary, evidently aware that it was biased and ignored Indian judicial decisions. Rishi Sunak also disputed the views of the BBC documentary.
When India initially adopted a neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict, it faced global questioning. In every forum India was accused of funding the Russian campaign by procuring its oil. India’s neutral approach was misconstrued as backing Russia. Jaishankar patiently responded to questions on India’s increasing oil procurements and its neutral stance in his interactions with western media during his visits. India abstaining from resolutions against Russia was also questioned.
However, it was India which pushed through grain exports from Ukraine, despite a Russian blockade as also stopped Russia from shelling Ukraine’s nuclear plants. This was possible only because of its neutral stance. India was the only nation which enforced a ceasefire at the height of the conflict to enable withdrawal of its students safely from Ukraine.
Post almost a year, as the war rages with no end in sight and US led NATO countries pumping in arms and ammunition alongside funding employment of mercenaries, the Indian stance is not only globally acceptable but also being appreciated. Whenever peace is discussed, nations look towards India to lead talks.
This has been possible only because of India’s multi-alignment and strategic autonomy. India has refused to be cowed down and dragged into supporting one group versus the other. Apart from its own national interests it has looked at concerns of others. India was amongst the few nations which aided smaller and weaker nations during the peak of COVID 19.
India’s G 20 presidency displays its global perception in its theme, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or ‘One Earth – One Family – One Future.’ India is projecting concerns of the global south hoping to act as a bridge between them and developed nations. The recent virtual global south summit organized by Delhi had 125 participating nations.
Though India is classically not non-aligned, however it refuses to be a member of a single camp. Its growing economic and military might alongside its multi-alignment policy has been an advantage. Nations trust India and thus seek to partner it. It is no longer questioned for its choices and policies. Patience and sincerity have paid off and India is the destination for the future.
It also has its disadvantages. There are global bodies, which resenting India’s rise, project the current Delhi dispensation as ‘Hindu Nationalist government,’ work in unison to damage India’s internal social fabric and target its major private sector enterprises thereby hoping to impact its economy. These attempts will increase as India’s power rises unless Delhi adopts a strict policy and launches counterattacks.