Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and or affecting India’s interests
India’s relations with the world have evolved since the British Raj (1857–1947), when the British Empire monopolised external and defence relations. When India gained independence in 1947, few Indians had experience in making or conducting foreign policy. However, the country’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, had established a small foreign department in 1925 to make overseas contacts and to publicise its independence struggle. India’s international influence varied over the years after independence. Indian prestige and moral authority were high in the 1950s and facilitated the acquisition of developmental assistance from both East and West. Although the prestige stemmed from India’s nonaligned stance, the nation was unable to prevent Cold War politics from becoming intertwined with interstate relations in South Asia.
In the 1960s and 1970s India’s international position among developed and developing countries faded in the course of wars with China and Pakistan, disputes with other countries in South Asia, and India’s attempt to balance Pakistan’s support from the United States and China by signing the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971. Although India obtained substantial Soviet military and economic aid, which helped to strengthen the nation, India’s influence was undercut regionally and internationally by the perception that its friendship with the Soviet Union prevented a more forthright condemnation of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. In the late 1980s, India improved relations with the United States, other developed countries, and China while continuing close ties with the Soviet Union. Relations with its South Asian neighbours, especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, occupied much of the energies of the Ministry of External Affairs.
After September 11 attacks in 2001, Indian intelligence agencies provided the US with significant information on Al-Qaeda and related groups’ activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India’s extensive contribution to the War on Terror, coupled with a surge in its economy, has helped India’s diplomatic relations with several countries. Over the past three years, India has held numerous joint military exercises with US and European nations that have resulted in a strengthened US-India and EU-India bilateral relationship. India’s bilateral trade with Europe and United States has more than doubled in the last five years.
India and the UN
- India was one of the founding members of the UN
- India has contributed soldiers to peacekeeping missions in Korea, Egypt, Congo, Somalia, Lebanon, Rwanda, and South Sudan
- Part of G4 (Brazil, India, Japan, Germany- primary motive is to gain a UNCS permanent seat), G77 (loose coalition of developing countries for better bargaining; now has 134 members, not 77)
- India was amongst the most outspoken critics of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa, being the first country to have raised the issue in the UN (in 1946)
- In 1953, Vijaylakshmi Pandit was elected the first woman President of the GA
- Kashmir issue: In 1948, the United Kingdom, which was hoping to avoid being seen as unfriendly to a Muslim state after the creation of Israel, used pressure tactics on its allies France, Canada and the US to support the Pakistani viewpoint that Kashmir’s accession to India was disputable and had to be put to the test of a plebiscite. To this day, Indian strategic commentators and critics of Nehru bemoan his cardinal mistake of taking the Kashmir dispute to a UN that was packed with pro-Pakistani partisan powers. Nehru did not appreciate that the UN was an institution of power politics, not an impartial police force
- Security Council members the US, United Kingdom and France tried to prevent India from forcibly absorbing the Portuguese colony of Goa in 1961. But for the Soviet Union veto in favour of India, Goa would’ve become a disputed territory like Kashmir
- Following the 1962 conflict with China, India became involved in two wars with Pakistan and entered a period of political instability, economic stagnation, food shortages and near-famine conditions. India’s role diminished in the UN which came both as a result of its image and a deliberate decision by the post-Nehru political leadership to adopt a low profile at the UN and speak only on vital Indian interests
- Demand for a permanent seat on the SC (described in SC section above)
India and the IMF
- India hasn’t taken any funding from the IMF since1993, and all repayments for past loans were completed in the year 2000
- India has about 2.75% shareholdings, and ranks 17th in voting rights amongst 24 voting constituencies (India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka form a single constituency)
India and the World Bank
- India is member of IBRD, IDA, IFC, and MIGA, but not of ICSID.
- Main assistance by IBRD has been provided for roads and highways, energy, urban infrastructure (including WATSAN), rural credit, disaster management, and financial services.
- The major sectors of IDA assistance is provided are health, education, agriculture and poverty reduction sectors.
- A key feature of the current strategy of the World Bank in India is its focus on supporting low-income and special category states, where many of India’s poor and disadvantaged live.
- The new strategy proposes a lending program of $3 billion to $5 billion each year over 2013-17. 60% of the financing will go to state government-backed projects. Half of this, or 30% of total lending, will go to low-income or special category states.
- India represents IFC’s single-largest country exposure, and has a portfolio of about $3.6 billion in India.
The idea of co-operation in South Asia was discussed in at least three conferences: the Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi on April 1947, the Baguio Conference in the Philippines on May 1950 and the Colombo Powers Conference held in Sri Lanka in April 1954.
Then in 1983, the international conference held by Indian Minister of External Affairs P.V. Narasimha Rao in New Delhi, the foreign ministers of the inner seven countries adopted the Declaration on South Asian Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and formally launched the Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) initially in five agreed areas of cooperation namely-
- Rural Development,
- Health and Population Activities.
Officially, the union was established in Dhaka with Kathmandu being union’s secretariat-general. The first SAARC summit was held in Dhaka on 7–8 December 1985 and hosted by the President of Bangladesh Hussain Ershad. The declaration signed by King of Bhutan Jigme Singye, President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq, Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, King of Nepal Birendra Shah, President of Sri Lanka JR Jayewardene, and President of Maldives Maumoon Gayoom.
- The objectives of the association as defined in the SAARC Charter are:
- To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia,
- To contribute to develop mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problem,
- To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and∙ scientific fields,
- To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries,
- To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest,
- To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
India being the world’s 3rd & 7th largest Economy of world in GPP(PPP) & GDP(Nominal) terms respectively as well as world’s fastest growing major Economy, plays an important role in functioning of SAARC. India makes up over 70% of the area and population among these eight nations.
India is prepared for an intensive economic engagement with China at the bilateral level but is not ready or willing to open its strategic space in the region for Chinese presence and influence.
It is not too happy to admit China as a SAARC member or even elevate its observer status in the regional organisation. India is resisting pressure from its SAARC neighbours on China under the argument that SAARC has still to achieve internal cohesion and consolidation.
India’s unexpressed fears are on two counts. As a full member, China will get a veto in SAARC affairs as SAARC decisions are taken unanimously. China may therefore block projects that may offer strategic and economic advantage to India. After all, China did restrain both the Asian Development Bank and lately even Japan, from supporting projects in India’s north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. China is also opposing Indian oil exploration projects in what it considers disputed waters off Vietnam in the South China Sea.
India is also concerned that even as a dialogue partner, China could breach SAARC solidarity if it conflicts with its perceived economic and strategic interests, as it did with ASEAN in 2012. India seems to be gearing to integrate its neighbours even in the face of the Chinese challenge and the Pakistani resistance.