Non-alignment 2.0

Regrounding India’s foreign policy

Zorawar Daulet Singh

K Subrahmanyam has been one of the eminent expositors to state it bluntly: non-alignment was always the practice of realpolitik cloaked in idealism. That the ideological veil got confused as an end in itself, manifesting in moral outbursts, was as much a reflection of India’s relative material weakness in the international system as it was of strategic naiveté.

For New Delhi, the implications of contemporary interdependence must be clear. Bluntly put, neither Washington nor Beijing will upset their bilateral relationship over India, despite US efforts to cultivate India as a potential alliance partner.

This, arguably, has more to do with enhancing US leverage on India rather than solely constraining China. Similarly, in China-Japan relations, the bilateral economic interaction is too high for Japan to seek exclusive relations with India. Thus, exploiting the cleavages in today’s system requires far more sophistication than in the bipolar world, where neither bloc had economic leverage over the other.

Thus, the overlapping bilateral linkages involving all the major centres of power imply that a “friend” or “foe” choice for India is simply inconceivable. Rather, India must adopt a multivector philosophy that will facilitate greater strategic flexibility within the dynamic web of international alignments. And this, surely is the kernel and essence of non-alignment.

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