India strives to be staunchly sovereign, diplomatically autonomous, economically strong, socially cohesive, militarily powerful, culturally vibrant, forefront of science and technology, pragmatic and influential in international relations, confident and satisfied society in pursuit of dignified peace and tranquillity in a multipolar world. At the heart of India’s national interests lie the well-being of its citizens, national image and influence. For accomplishing these lofty goals, it is paramount to develop Comprehensive National Power (CNP) and configure it to promote national interests. However, India’s comprehensive national development is predicated on a stable strategic environment. Therefore, the principal goal of India’s foreign policy is to successfully navigate complex strategic environment in the quest of positioning India in a prominent place in the comity of nations.
Strategic Horizon Scan
From a realpolitik perspective, India recognizes that behaviour of states will continue to be driven by Social Darwinism where there are no permanent friends or foes – only national interests, survival of the fittest paradigm, and balance of power will rule the roost with a looming risk of falling into Thucydides’ trap. We are living in a world where ‘Pax Americana’ has lost its sheen; gone are the days of unipolarity, pre-emption and American universalism. We are witnessing the rise of China, resurgence of Russia in Eurasia and growth of middle-level powers like India. The contours of a new diffused and polycentric world order are becoming dark. The Black Swan of the Covid pandemic has impacted the momentum of globalization, disrupted supply chains, induced economic shocks and caused a fortress mentality in nation states. The US debacle in Afghanistan had led to victory of jihadi ideology and impacted balance of power in Eurasia. The Ukraine conflict has deepened the chasm between the US-led west on one hand and the Russia-China strategic alignment on the other hand, thus impacting the balance of power in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. The ensuing Cold War or strategic brinkmanship is characterized by the following attributes:
There is contestation over ideology, between liberal democratic world vis-à-vis other models of governance. Powerful states are vying for domination of locations in the Indo-Pacific, Eurasia, Arctic, outer space, cyber space and cognitive space, monopolies resources such as energy, water, food, rare-earth metals, semiconductors and microchips; using these as tools of strategic coercion.
Contestation over technology such as Artificial Intelligence 5G/6G, cyber, big data, blockchain, robotics, autonomous vehicles, hypervelocity vehicles, space and counter space technologies.
Weaponisation of the economy by the US and European Union has disrupted global financial system leading to the rise of inflation, food crisis, creation of alternate economic blocs, trading system and diversification of manufacturing hubs and supply chains.
Multi-domain wars and grey zone conflicts have become a new normal with lines between declared and undeclared wars becoming amorphous thus, compounding security-insecurity dilemmas.
Arms race, forward military posturing and dangerous manoeuvres are fraught with risks of accidental flare-ups exacerbated by strategic mistrust and hyper-nationalism. A series of miscalculations or propensity to up the ante in the Ukraine conflict is fraught with risks of nuclear brinkmanship. Likewise, Taiwan is fast emerging as the most volatile flashpoint between the US and China, with potential for escalating into a major war that will engulf other countries and damage global peace and security.
The Arctic Region due to its abundant natural resources has emerged as a new strategic frontier
. With the melting of ice, harnessing of energy resources and minerals, operationalization of Northern Sea Route has become a reality. The strategic geography of the Arctic puts Russia in a dominating position as an anchor of Arctic outreach. China, too proclaims itself as a Near Arctic State and is building its capacities to fructify Polar Silk Road and is collaborating with Russia for the commercialization of the Arctic resources. These developments are deemed inimical by the US led Western alliance. Ukraine conflict has made the Arctic Council and other collaborative initiatives virtually defunct. On the contrary, the voices from the US and NATO for expansion in the Arctic to balance are getting loud and shrill.