How relevant are reservations in modern India


Tobias Debiel

To person

Dr. sc. pol., born 1963; Professor of Political Science, Director of the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) and the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Center for Global Cooperation Research, University of Duisburg-Essen, 47048 Duisburg. [email protected]

Herbert Wulf

To person

Dr. rer. pol., born 1939; Professor of Political Science, Senior Expert Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg (see above). [email protected]

India is at a crossroads in foreign policy and economic terms. After gaining independence in 1947 and the bloody war of partition, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had a policy of non-alignment formulated not to join either of the two blocs in the Cold War. Economically, this foreign policy was based on the conception of the swaraj, which underpins the greatest possible self-sufficiency. With the end of the bloc confrontation and the pressure to open the Indian economy to the world market, these two constants disappeared in the early 1990s. The Indian government had to "reinvent its foreign policy". [1]

In economic terms, the focus was on growth; In terms of foreign policy, India aligned itself with the Look EastPolicy [2] and the orientation towards Asian countries (ASEAN and the Middle East) are increasingly focused on the neighborhood - an attempt to avoid dependencies and counteract the feared expansion of China. Due to various changes of government, the value orientation fluctuated between liberal internationalism and Hindu nationalism. [3] At the same time, the phase was from 1990 to 2010 grosso modo shaped by pragmatism and a neoliberal economic policy. This primacy of the economy was not translated into the formulation of a new foreign policy strategy. The phenomenal boom since the liberalization measures in the early 1990s increased India's international reputation. At the same time, it was the ticket to the BRIC (S) -Club with a corresponding gain in status, not least in the context of the G20, but also in foreign policy concepts of Western governments, such as that of the Foreign Office on global shaping powers. [4]

But Indian politics needs a clearer orientation for various reasons: First, the years of high growth rates are over, at least for the time being; This calls into question the basis for the international reputation, but also the continuation of the previous development model. The current growth crisis [5] could turn into a balance of payments crisis as foreign exchange reserves become scarcer. Second, think tanks and decision-makers in India are aware that the country is more likely to be driven by its potential than its manifest weight than emerging power is to be assessed. Compared to the People's Republic of China, there are fears that India will not be competitive in the medium term without structural changes. Possible ambitions to maintain global weight in the long term will only materialize if India overcomes its internal weaknesses - above all systemic corruption, the economic reform deadlock, the caste barriers and the still horrific problem of poverty. [6]

The lively debate about the necessity of an explicit foreign policy strategy reflects a process of self-discovery by the foreign policy elite, [7] which revolves around the concept of "strategic autonomy" and paradigmatically relies on flexible, policy-specific alliances in a multipolar world. It is only against the background of this debate that one can judge what role the BRICS Forum plays or could play in Indian foreign policy. Participation in the BRICS group is widely supported. However, it remains controversial whether the club can have a prominent relevance for the implementation of medium and long-term goals of Indian foreign policy and with what diplomatic and financial capital one should participate. [8] The country is currently a proud, but at the same time indecisive club member.

Concept of "strategic autonomy"

"Strategic autonomy" in India means to be maneuverable on an international level regardless of outside influence. The country has largely abandoned the policy of non-alignment on many issues. [9] In pursuing strategic autonomy (on the basis of its own development model and sufficient power resources), i.e. articulating one's own interests and contributing to the shaping of the world order, the government emphasizes institutionalized multilateralism. At the same time, it pursues a pronounced bilateralism and is increasingly involved in informal clubs. This is not understood as a possible contradiction, but as different melodies that can be played in free sequence on the foreign policy keyboard.

With its multipolar orientation, India wants to overcome the injustices of the current distribution of votes and power in the important forums of world politics - such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the UN system. In addition to quota and voting rights reforms in the IMF, it calls for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The positioning, backed by moral rhetoric, has led to a style in international negotiations that critical observers have described as "an unrealistic combination of arrogance and poverty". [10] The country has earned a reputation for itself in global negotiation forums as "the India that can't say yes" [11] - an image that only partially fits a profile as a future "creative power".

Institutionalized multilateralism on a global level is contrasted by pronounced bilateralism, particularly with regard to the South Asia region. In the face of adverse circumstances, it can be described as a smart neighborhood policy; viewed more critically, however, it also reflects a lack of ability to integrate regionally. India has not succeeded in building a relationship of trust with its smaller neighboring countries and in acting as a "benevolent hegemon"; Relations with Pakistan in particular are characterized by mistrust. Bilateralism is most clearly reflected in the rapprochement with the USA. After decades of distance in Indian-American relations, the 2005 nuclear treaty opened up new opportunities for India to use civilian nuclear technology. [12] The meeting between US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington in September 2013 once again underlined the rapprochement with an agreement on cooperation in the production of modern weapon systems. In parts of the Indian press the "close partnership" was celebrated, and the general and former MP Shankar Roychowdhury concluded: "India is in the big boys club now, and must carry its own big stick." [13] Although this rapprochement with the The United States can have foreign policy consequences for the relationship between India and Russia (India's largest arms supplier to date) and in a special way means reinsurance against China, which is assessed as expansionist, foreign policy experts believe that this bilateralism counteracts US unilateralism and one collective hegemony to be able to establish, in other words: India's participation in global political decisions. [14]

Beyond multilateralism and bilateralism, a new foreign policy variant has gained in importance in the past ten years: participation in clubs of different composition and size. The G20 and the BRICS are particularly prominent; At the same time, however, India is striving for a connection to numerous regional forums (ASEAN, Shanghai cooperation, Asia-Pacific dialogue) and is keeping open club options below the BRICS level for selected questions, for example in IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) and BASIC frame (BRICS without Russia).