India losing friends and looking vulnerable – Asia Times

India losing friends and looking vulnerable - Asia Times

Both the Hamas-Israel discord and the Ukraine-Russia conflict have had a significant impact on India’s corporate and security calculations.

The turmoil have in many ways disproven the predictions and assessments of some Indian strategists, forcing India to make serious adjustments to its international policy priorities.

India faces a greater level of vulnerability along its northern frontier and the Indian Ocean parts, as well as from possible Chinese dynamic activities in the strategic places where India acts and operates primarily in isolation from companions and supporters.

There are no readily available, publicly accessible, merged documents outlining the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) government’s foreign policy approaches and solutions.

To be sure, specific insight into India’s international plan priorities and direction can be gleaned from the numerous interviews, speeches and writings of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

As India approaches the 2024 Lok Sabha election, Jaishankar’s recently released book” Why Bharat Matters” serves as a valuable resource for understanding some of Modi’s foreign policy shifts since 2014.

The book emphasizes India’s alleged increased power, posture, intent, and strength over the course of his ten-year rule and outlines Modi’s changed foreign policy position.

It also emphasizes the importance of maintaining India’s rising global standing, a not-so-subtle plea for continued popular support for Modi and his BJP at the upcoming general election.

One notable aspect of Jaishankar’s book is India’s decision to forge, for the first time, a strategic partnership with the West in general and the US in particular, marking a significant departure from past foreign policy approaches.

This tactical shift is attributed to the unquestionable dominance of the US in current and upcoming global affairs. Jaishankar emphasizes that regardless of how countries view the US – as an ally, competitor, neutral party, or undecided – none can afford to be indifferent to American influence.

In addition, Jaishankar examines the geopolitical dynamics surrounding China, noting that Beijing cannot fully fill the role that the US has left in contemporary global affairs.

The US’s extensive reach and impact on the international order remains unparalleled, influencing India’s strategic calculations and partnerships, the chief diplomat writes.

Jaishankar opines that India’s often vexed relationship with China, characterized by longstanding border disputes, a full- scale war in 1962 and now occasional but sometimes fiery skirmishes, adds a layer of complexity to its foreign policy considerations.

The importance of securing India’s borders was highlighted by the loss of 20 Indian soldiers in June 2020’s Galwan Valley clashes with Chinese troops. In the book, Jaishankar emphasizes India’s national prerogative to strategically collaborate with the US to ensure peace and tranquility along its borders.

Jaishanker also points out that India’s expanding international cooperation with the US in the Indian Ocean rimland is a key component of its evolving foreign policy.

The foundational agreements that support this partnership include the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement ( BECA ) in 2020, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement ( COMCASA ) in 2018, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement ( LEMOA ) in 2016, and the General Security of Military Information Agreement ( GSOMIA ) in 2002.

In addition to strengthening India’s standing internationally, particularly in terms of securing its borders from China and ensuring maritime security in the Indian Ocean, these agreements designated India as a US defense partner.

But recent geopolitical events, notably the Ukraine- Russia war and the Hamas- Israel conflict, have introduced new challenges and vulnerabilities.

India relies heavily on Russian arms and ammunition, which account for about 65 % of its arms imports. Russian technology and materials are also highly dependent on the nation’s arms industry. However, in the current situation, Russia faces challenges in maintaining that level of support for India.

Russia’s inability to provide steady supplies to India is due to its shortfall of weapons and ammunition as a result of the conflict with Ukraine. In fact, Russia has resorted to importing war supplies from Iran to support battlefield supplies, including drones, making it nearly impossible for Russia to provide India with immediate or medium-term support.

Economically, Russia’s extensive trade partnership with China, which reached US$ 240 billion in 2023 and is projected to grow to$ 300 billion in 2024, widely outweighs its trade with India, which stood at about$ 65 billion in 2023.

Due to Moscow’s close economic ties to Beijing, which it fears might have, choosing India over China is unlikely for any conflict scenario. Moreover, Russia and China are collectively working to advance multipolar global governance, further aligning their strategic interests.

Due to their engagements in the Ukraine war and contingent supplies for Israel, India’s strategic partners, including the US and its NATO allies, may not be able to provide arms and ammunition to India.

In a conflict scenario where New Delhi needed to import armaments, Israel would be limited by its ability to support India with arms and ammunition.

Additionally, India’s changing stance in the Hamas- Israel conflict, particularly Modi’s alignment with Israel based on his personal bonhomie with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has alienated India in the Global South.

Due to India’s perceived resurgence toward the West and the abandonment of the world’s poor countries at global forums, the Global South, which includes the Arab world and many Muslim countries, is now more likely to support China.

The geopolitical dynamics have significantly affected India’s global standing. India’s clear new alignment with the West and away from the Global South was demonstrated by Modi’s withdrawal from the Non-Alignment Movement ( NAM ) summit in January 2024.

Although no one has yet seen or felt the effects of that perceived shift, they may have a significant impact on India’s standing and security in the near future.

The author tweets at @BhimBhurtel