India is standing at a critical point in time with regard to its global and regional policy choices. Its relationship with Pakistan – despite improvements in the area of commerce – remains deeply troubled by long-term, virtually intractable issues, and is ridden by distrust. The withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan may lead to even greater insecurity, again with possible consequences for the Indo-Pakistani peace process, as Pakistan fears strategic competition in Afghanistan. If regionalism is to be espoused by South Asian countries, better relations between India and Pakistan are a necessity. However, many in India perceive the cooperation between Pakistan and China, and China’s advance in general – globally, and especially with the ‘string of pearls’ scenario – as a threat to this country.
Besides troubled regional politics, non-traditional security threats become increasingly relevant for India – for example those resulting from water scarcity and climate change, and especially in the field of energy, where India continues to be highly dependent on imports. The country emphasizes the need to develop access to resources worldwide. India directs its interests towards Central Asia as well as with a “Look East Policy”, towards South East Asia and especially Myanmar, where a democratic window of opportunity has opened.
Demonstrating ‘strategic autonomy’ in matters of geo-politics, India has consistently been against the use of military intervention, be it in Iran or North Korea, or in Libya or Syria. However, India’s foreign policy debate has moved away from the insular mood of the 1950s-60s and gradually opened up to global challenges and opportunities. Today, India is forging partnerships with multiple countries.
As a rising power, India is seeking a larger role for itself on the world stage, a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, and recognition as a nuclear power. It has undisputed importance in global and regional governance forums like the G-20, BRICS, IBSA, and is a weighty player in multi-lateral negotiations of trade and climate talks. India’s new status as a donor of development aid is giving it strategic and political mileage. Concomitant is the rise of Indian business making investments and acquisitions abroad.
There has been little systematic response, research and domestic debate within the Indian civil society groups on the underlying policy premises of Global (and Regional) India. Civil society activists have to confront the new context of international relations and co-operation, wherein questions of foreign, security and developmental policy are becoming increasingly intertwined. Given this background, with this objective of raising interest and consciousness of these linkages, HBS India facilitates monitoring, analyses, debates, publications and seminars on the subject.