How India’s Domestic Decisions Are Influencing Her Global Image

Towards the beginning of 2015, as a new government settled in, with a new administration at the helm, India saw a change in foreign policy. The US opened new chapters into its Indo-Pacific relations, while India, with renewed vigor, improved her relations with China. However, in the past year, much has changed.

What went wrong?

Over the past year, much of India’s bilateral efforts have been to manage the fallout from its domestic policies. The decisions of abrogation of section 370, calling for NRC or passing of CAA with religious distinction has earned much concern and criticism from countries and international organizations.

How has this affected India’s ties with the U.S. and Europe?

The most distinctive effect has been felt across India’s ties with the U.S. A pointed example was when in an event held by the Indian Prime Minister himself, the major opposition in the USA currently, the Democratic party, chose to stay away at large. Although the official line of business was that they chose to stay away from their President, the inherent reason is questionable. It was significant also as only five India-origin lawmakers were present to cover the prestigious event. The Kashmir issue also found a voice in the European parliament.

Has India’s ties with her neighbors faltered?

For its wording of the CAA, the government has neighbors fuming. Although relations with Pakistan have been stale since partition, its Bangladesh and Afghanistan that India poses to lose. Although Afghanistan was quite muted in its reaction, its Bangladesh, with who India has built up quite the strategic alliance over the ages, who seem to have taken offense. Over the year, India has developed mani land boundary, water sharing and agricultural treaty with Bangladesh. With CAA posed to label so many illegal immigrants as Bangladeshi nationals, relations have already begun to wear out. Although many in the current Bangladeshi government, agree that the inclusion of specific religious Bangladeshi refugees in the CAA is not in their country’s worst interest, the overall picture remains grim. It is only a matter of time before other Islamic countries, especially Arab nations, start raising their concerns over the policy.

How does India see the change in world opinion?

India has always maintained that no country or international organization is allowed interference in her domestic affairs. That has been the stand of previous governments as well as this one. Countrywide protests, support from the Indian diaspora across the world, and now the UN questioning the law made, has put India under the spotlight. Maintaining a policy of not allowing the foreign outcry to affect her policies is wise. However, to ignore the voices completely may be foolhardy.

How can foreign voices affect India?

To begin with, the UN has spoken out. The United Nations is perhaps the most powerful international conglomerate of nations out there. If they so wished, India could easily be targeted. UN does take firm actions and quite often. For example, complaints from a relatively small country such as Gambia last year has led to investigations against Myanmar for its actions against Rohingya Muslims. Similarly, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom has already spoken of putting sanctions against the Home Minister and other Ministers. Although it might seem like a laughable overreaction, we will be wise to remember that USCIRF is not a toothless body. At the very least, unless things improve, India is looking at a fall in the number of tourists and an array of cancellations by visiting foreign leaders.

Way Forward

The government must evaluate the toll its domestic decisions are taking on its diplomatic relations. With an external affairs minister at the helm, who himself is a trained diplomat, the nation’s interests are far better served with him acquiring diplomatic capital instead of having to defend the country’s domestic decisions everywhere. Our diplomatic capital is a hard-earned combination of goodwill, through being a democratic, secular, and stable power, bilateral transactions India holds in the present, and the potential it presents for the future. At a time of flux and economic instability across the western world, India has a golden chance of establishing herself as a global leader. India is known as the land of Gandhi. Let us not lose the highly held up global esteem over a few short-sighted decisions.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Has India played her hand with international politics by making some controversial domestic decisions in the past year? Discuss.

Published: January 9, 2020 | Modified:January 9, 2020

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