The concept of "global security" is indicative of a change in thinking on
security - it is largely a recent realization that following the Cold War it is
no longer possible for any major countries to remain oblivious to developments
taking place around them as the world is now interconnected and interdependent.
While countries will still have a "national perspective" on security influenced
by their own geography and history, it is increasingly accepted that we are now
dealing with global threats and global challenges which call for global
responses. It is now acknowledged that India has a vital role to play in
ensuring peace and stability in the global security arena.
In the global context, India is pursuing a traditional super power policy based on a combination of the "soft power" of economic strength and the "hard power" capabilities of conventional and nuclear deterrence. On many international issues, India shares threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. However, the differences in foreign policy approaches become clear, for instance, in the area of multilateralism. While some global players, such as the European Union, associate the concept of effective multilateralism with a strengthening of the United Nations which aims to achieve a jurisdiction of international relations, whereas India tends to pursue a selective form of multilateralism in order to assert its national interest.
In the recent past, the nuclear deal between India and the US attracted the attention of the international community. With fears of nuclear isolation if the deal fails, it's a litmus test for Indian foreign policy which will have regional and global consequences. The international community condemned India's nuclear tests in May 1998. Then New Delhi was isolated, but the world is now ready to exempt India from the so called basic norms of the global non-proliferation regime. That this transformation occurred within a decade after the nuclear tests has a lot to do with changed perception of India in the international arena. This is but a dimension of the changing nature of the "new" Indian foreign policy. After decades of frustration, miscalculation, unrealized potential, India is now emerging as a factor in the global balance of power. In the coming years, it will have an opportunity to shape outcomes on the most critical issues of the 21st century like the construction of Asian stability, the management of globalization, the war on terror, non-proliferation, climate change, energy security, WTO negotiations and the future of the UN.
The changes can be viewed in terms of three concentric circles of India's global engagement:
- The first circle relates to India's immediate neighborhood.
India can't realize its dream to become a factor in world politics without
settling relations with neighbours. As frustrating as it might be, there is no
other alternative but to deal patiently with neighbours. In recent years, India
has offered increased political and economic cooperation to its neighbours.
This has included building and strengthening structures of functional
cooperation, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic
Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Indian Ocean Rim initiative.
- The second circle of India's security policy is focused on what is called
"extended neighborhood" - encompassing Africa, the Persian Gulf,
Central Asia, Indian Ocean region and Southeast Asia. Sourcing India's energy
needs, the presence of large number of Indians in Persian Gulf and Southeast
Asia, growing economic and security linkages with ASEAN, the threat of
fundamentalism in Central Asia - are evident factors that necessitate greater
Indian engagement with these regions.
- The third circle includes Indian strategic engagement with major global heavyweights. The disappearance of Soviet Union "liberated" India to intensify bilateral relations with all major powers. India's stride in the military and economic realm is firing the imagination of major powers. The US, Russia, and Japan were early to recognize the rise of India, while the European Union has been late, though not too late to recognize this change.
While neighbours and some super powers see the "rise" both with appreciation and suspicion, the task of leading the region towards economic modernization, political moderation, and social development inevitably falls on India which will have a direct impact on global security.
Shakti Prasad Srichandan is a Senior PhD Scholar at the Center for European Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
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