The shifting trajectory of India’s foreign policy

The article analyses the impact of India’s growing engagement with the U.S. on relations on India’s foreign policy.

What signing of BECA mean

The centrepiece of the third 2+2 dialogue was the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation.

With the signing of BECA, India is now a signatory to all U.S.-related foundational military agreements.

Built into the agreements are provisions for a two-way exchange of information.

India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), in 2016, and the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), in 2018.

By appending its signature to BECA, India is in a position to specifically receive sensitive geo-spatial intelligence.

The foundational military pacts effectively tie India to the wider U.S. strategic architecture in the region.

Issues with signing BECA

With the signing of these agreements, India’s claims of maintaining strategic autonomy will be doubtful.

By signing BECA, India has signed on to becoming part of the wider anti-China ‘coalition of the willing’ led by the U.S.

By signing on to BECA at this juncture, India has effectively jettisoned its previous policy of neutrality, and of maintaining its equi-distance from power blocs.

Impact on relations with China

China-India relations have never been easy.

Since 1988, India has pursued, despite occasional problems, a policy which put a premium on an avoidance of conflicts with China.

This will now become increasingly problematic as India gravitates towards the U.S. sphere of influence.

India’s willingness to sign foundational military agreements with the U.S. would suggest that India has made its choice, which can only exacerbate already deteriorating China-India relations.

Impact on the relations in the region

India needs to pay greater attention at this time to offset its loss of influence in its immediate neighbourhood (in South Asia), and in its extended neighbourhood (in West Asia).

Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, normally perceived to be within India’s sphere of influence, currently seem to be out of step with India’s approach on many issues.

At the same time, both China and the U.S. separately, seem to be making inroads and enlarging their influence here.

The Maldives, for instance, has chosen to enter into a military pact with the U.S. to counter Chinese expansionism in the Indian Ocean region.

India needs to ensure that the latest UAE-Israel linkage does not adversely impact India’s interests in the region.

India must also not rest content with the kind of relations it has with Israel, as Tel Aviv has its own distinct agenda in West Asia.

Furthermore, India needs to devote greater attention to try and restore India-Iran ties which have definitely frayed in recent years.

India’s role in Afghanistan

India must decide on how best to try and play a role in Afghanistan without getting stuck.

India had subscribed to an anti-Taliban policy and was supportive of the Northern Alliance (prior to 2001).

The new policy that dictates India’s imperatives today, finds India not unwilling to meet the Taliban.

India must decide how a shift in policy at this time would serve India’s objectives in Afghanistan, considering the tremendous investment it has made in recent decades to shore up democracy in that country.

India’s role in SCO and NAM

SCO, which has China and Russia as its main protagonists and was conceived as an anti-NATO entity will test India’s diplomatic skills.

Even though India currently has a detached outlook, vis–vis the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and has increasingly distanced itself from the African and Latin American group in terms of policy prescriptions, matters could get aggravated, following India’s new alliance patterns.

It would be a rude awakening for India, if it is seen as no longer a stellar member of NAM.

Impact on relations with Russia

The impact of India signing on to U.S.-related foundational military agreements, cann

ot but impact India-R

ussia relations.

India-Russia relations in recent years have not been as robust as in the pre-2014 period, but many of the edifices that sustained the relationship at optimum levels, including annual meetings between the Russian President and the Indian Prime Minister have remained.

It is difficult to see how this can be sustained, if India is seen increasingly going into the U.S. embrace.

Almost certainly in the circumstances, India can hardly hope to count on Russia as a strategic ally.

This is one relationship which India will need to handle with skill and dexterity, as it would be a tragedy if India-Russia relations were to deteriorate at a time when the world is in a state of disorder.

Consider the question “What are the implications of India’s signing of foundational military agreements with the U.S. for India’s relations with the other countries”

Conclusion

While India moves towards more robust engagement with the U.S., it must also consider impact of such move on the relations with the other countries.