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Focus: GS-II International Relations


Self-reliance is the theme of India’s 74th Independence Day.

  • This concept is commonly associated with the economy and production of key goods and services within the country in light of the global ‘supply shock’ caused by the pandemic, but it also has a parallel dimension in the domain of foreign policy.
  • If the domestic goal is to reduce dependence on imports for critical commodities, the foreign policy corollary is to recalibrate the time-tested axiom of ‘strategic autonomy’.

Flexibility: Instances of foreign help

  • During the 1962 war with China Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had to appeal to the U.S. for emergency military aid to stave off the Chinese (despite the non-alignment movement).
  • In the build-up to the 1971 war with Pakistan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to enter a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union to ward off both China and the U.S.
  • In Kargil in 1999, India welcomed a direct intervention by the U.S. to force Pakistan to back down.
  • In these circumstances India secured its freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity by manoeuvering the great power equations and playing the realpolitik game.

It is important to note that – India is a sovereign country and Independent India has never been subordinated to a foreign hegemon. The treaties or agreements that India enters into does NOT make India any less autonomous.

The essence of self-reliance

In the threat environment marked by a pushy China, which the U.S. is now beginning to confront frontally, India should aim to stay as an independent power centre by means of intensified cooperation with middle powers in Asia and around the world.

Cannot go ‘All-in’ with the U.S.

For India, which values freedom, placing all its eggs in the U.S. basket to counterbalance China would be an error, as that can constrict India’s options in other theatres of national interest such as its ties with Iran and Russia and efforts to speed up indigenous defence modernisation.

Way Forward

  • Diversification is the essence of self-reliance.
  • A wide basket of strategic partners, including the U.S., with a sharper focus on constraining China, is a viable diplomatic way forward in the current emerging multipolar world order.
  • We are free and self-reliant not through isolation or alliance with one great power, but only in variable combinations with several like-minded partners.
  • It may be time to maximise its potential of ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy that India is familiar with.

In simple terms “multi-vector foreign policy” means the development of predictable and friendly relationships with all countries that play a significant role in global politics and represent practical interest for the country.

Example: Kazakhstan has a “multi-vector” foreign policy, i.e. a triangulation between the major powers of Russia, China and the US.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023