Are you aware of the bilateral, regional, and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests? Read further to know more.
India actively participates in various bilateral, regional, and global groupings and agreements that play a significant role in shaping its foreign policy and influencing its national interests.
India’s engagement in bilateral, regional, and global groupings and agreements is a testament to its commitment to advancing its national interests, promoting economic growth, ensuring security, and contributing to global governance.
The dynamic nature of international relations requires India to navigate a complex geopolitical landscape while pursuing partnerships that align with its strategic objectives.
Historical Background of India’s relations
Historical Background India’s relations with the world have evolved since the British Raj (1857-1947), when the British Empire monopolized external and defense relations.
When India gained independence in 1947, few Indians had experience in making or conducting foreign policy. However, the country’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, had established a small foreign department in 1925 to make overseas contacts and to publicize its independence struggle.
India’s international influence varied over the years after independence. Indian prestige and moral authority were high in the 1950s and facilitated the acquisition of developmental assistance from both East and West.
Although the prestige stemmed from India’s nonaligned stance, the nation could not prevent Cold War politics from becoming intertwined with interstate relations in South Asia.
In the 1960s and 1970s, India’s international position among developed and developing countries faded in the course of wars with China and Pakistan, disputes with other countries in South Asia, and India’s attempt to balance Pakistan’s support from the United States and China by signing the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971.
Although India obtained substantial Soviet military and economic aid, which helped to strengthen the nation, India’s influence was undercut regionally and internationally by the perception that its friendship with the Soviet Union prevented a more forthright condemnation of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.
In the late 1980s, India improved relations with the United States, other developed countries, and China while continuing close ties with the Soviet Union. Relations with its South Asian neighbors, especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, occupied much of the energies of the Ministry of External Affairs,
After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Indian intelligence agencies provided the US with significant information on Al-Qaeda and related groups’ activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India’s extensive contribution to the War on Terror, coupled with a surge in its economy, has helped India’s diplomatic relations with several countries.
Over the past three years, India has held numerous joint military exercises with US and European nations that have resulted in a strengthened US-India and EU-India bilateral relationship. India’s bilateral trade with Europe and the United States has more than doubled in the last five years.
Bilateral Groupings and Agreements
India-United States Strategic Partnership:
- The U.S. and India have developed a strategic partnership covering defense, economic, and technological cooperation.
- The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal (2008) marked a significant milestone in the bilateral relationship.
India-Russia Strategic Partnership:
- India and Russia share a longstanding strategic partnership, with cooperation in defense, space, and energy sectors.
- Defense agreements, including arms deals and joint military exercises, strengthen the bilateral ties.
- Despite border tensions, India and China engage in bilateral talks and participate in forums like BRICS and SCO.
- Trade agreements and border management discussions are essential components of the relationship.
- India and Israel collaborate in the defense, agriculture, and technology sectors.
- Bilateral agreements focus on counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and innovation.
India-Japan Strategic Partnership:
- India and Japan have a strategic partnership with a focus on economic collaboration, infrastructure development, and defense ties.
- Joint initiatives include the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad).
Some of the global groupings
The following are the global groupings.
India and UN
- India was one of the founding members of the UN.
- India has contributed soldiers to peacekeeping missions in Korea, Egypt, Congo, Somalia, Lebanon, Rwanda, and South Sudan
- Part of G4 (Brazil, India, Japan, Germany- primary motive is to gain an UNCS permanent seat), G77 (a loose coalition of developing countries for better bargaining; now has 134 members, not 77)
- India was amongst the most outspoken critics of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa, being the first country to have raised the issue in the UN (in 1946)
- In 1953, Vijaylakshmi Pandit was elected the first woman President of the GA UNITED NATIONS
- Kashmir issue: In 1948, the United Kingdom, which was hoping to avoid being seen as unfriendly to a Muslim state after the creation of Israel, used pressure tactics on its allies France, Canada, and the US to support the Pakistani viewpoint that Kashmir’s accession to India was disputable and had to be put to the test of a plebiscite. To this day, Indian strategic commentators and critics of Nehru bemoan his cardinal mistake of taking the Kashmir dispute to a UN that was packed with pro-Pakistani partisan powers. Nehru did not appreciate that the UN was an institution of power politics, not an impartial police force
- Security Council members of the US, United Kingdom, and France tried to prevent India from forcibly absorbing the Portuguese colony of Goa in 1961. But for the Soviet Union veto in favor of India, Goa would’ve become a disputed territory like Kashmir.
- Following the 1962 conflict with China, India became involved in two wars with Pakistan and entered a period of political instability, economic stagnation, food shortages, and near-famine conditions. India’s role diminished in the UN which came both as a result of its image and a deliberate decision by the post-Nehru political leadership to adopt a low profile at the UN and speak only on vital Indian interests
- Demand for a permanent seat on the SC (described in the SC section above)
India and the IMF
- India hasn’t taken any funding from the IMF since 1993, and all repayments for past loans were completed in the year 2000
- India has about 2.75% shareholdings and ranks 17th in voting rights amongst 24 voting constituencies (India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka form a single constituency)
India and the World Bank
- India is a member of IBRD, IDA, IFC, and MIGA, but not of ICSID.
- Main assistance by IBRD has been provided for roads and highways, energy, urban infrastructure (including WATSAN), rural credit, disaster management, and financial services.
- The major sectors of IDA assistance provided are health education, agriculture, and poverty reduction sectors.
- A key feature of the current strategy of the World Bank in India is its focus on supporting low-income and special-category states, where many of India’s poor and disadvantaged live.
- The new strategy proposes a lending program of $3 billion to $5 billion each year over 2013-17. 60% of the financing will go to state government-backed projects. Half of this, or 30% of total lending, will go to low-income or special-category states.
- India represents IFC’s single-largest country exposure and has a portfolio of about $3.6 billion in India.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
- India participates in global trade negotiations through the WTO.
- It advocates for fair trade practices, especially in agriculture, and supports the interests of developing nations.
Group of Twenty (G20)
- India is a member of the G20, a forum for major economies to discuss global economic issues.
- G20 summits provide a platform for India to engage with other influential nations.
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
- India seeks membership in the NSG, a group that regulates nuclear trade.
- NSG membership is crucial for India’s access to advanced nuclear technology.
Some of the regional groupings
The following are some of the regional groupings
Heart of Asia Conference
- Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process is a platform to discuss regional issues concerning Afghanistan and its neighbors. The broad areas of focus are the following ie, Counterterrorism, development, poverty, and drug trafficking.
- Members include the regional neighbors of Afghanistan including India. The conference also has 17 other supporting countries including Western countries like the USA, and the UK. It also has supporting organizations like the United Nations for its activities
- Raisina Dialogue a conference initiated by India. It aims at improving the relations between India’s neighbors in the Asian region. It is modeled based on the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
- The theme of the first conference was “Connecting Asia“. It aims at Asian integration and improving Asian integration with the world.
Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC):
- It comprises six member countries, namely India, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
- The organization takes its name from the Ganga and Mekong, the two large rivers in the region, and thus aims to build relations in the countries through which both these rivers flow.
- To develop future trade and investment opportunities in the region, they emphasize four areas of cooperation, which are tourism, Culture, Education, and Transportation.
BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation):
- BIMSTEC comprises of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal.
- Its regional spread is among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. They aim to improve technological and economic cooperation.
- The grouping has identified 14 priority areas, some of which are Transport and communication, Tourism, Environment, Disaster management, Counterterrorism, and Transnational Crime
SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)
- SAARC is a grouping of countries in the South Asian region to promote regional unity and economic cooperation.
- Its member countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
IBSA (India Brazil South Africa) Dialogue Forum
- IBSA is a trilateral grouping that represents multicultural democracies among these three countries that are spread over three continents.
- It aims at promoting South-South cooperation. The summits take place regularly every year and the broad focus areas are Agriculture, Trade, Energy, Transport, Science and Technology, and Education.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
- SCO is a Eurasian (Europe+Asia) organization comprising of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were also accepted as full members recently.
- Becoming a member of SCO is a diplomatic victory for India as it aspires to become a global power
- The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) can get a boost. INSTC aims at connecting India, Russia, Iran, Europe, and Central Asia
- The construction of the TAPI gas pipeline will also get a revival as the works are stalled for a long time
- Central Asia and Russia are rich in oil, natural gas, coal, and other minerals like Uranium. The import of such natural resources can become easier by joining SCO
- The development of Chabahar Port for access through Iran can become a nodal point for accessing the land-locked Central Asian countries
- The BRICS summit was the annual BRICS summit, an international relations conference attended by the heads of state or heads of government of the five member states Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
- Now that NAM (Non-alignment) is almost defunct and very little wealth is left in the Commonwealth, BRICS provides a great alternative for India to build its global profile.
- India has tried to use BRICS as a forum to engage China as the latter has become the largest market for the fast-industrializing countries of East Asia. India wants to resolve the age-old mistrust and complicated relationship between the two countries since the 1962 war between them.
- The New Development Bank (NDB), formerly the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states.
- The bank’s primary focus of lending will be infrastructure projects with authorized lending of up to $34 billion annually.
Previous Year Questions
- Critically examine the aims and objectives of SCO. What importance does it hold for India? 
- The newly tri-nation partnership AUKUS is aimed at countering China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region. Is it going to supersede the existing partnerships in the region? Discuss the strength and impact of AUKUS in the present scenario. 
- ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)’ is transforming itself into a trade bloc from a military alliance, in present times – Discuss. 
- What is the significance of Indo-US defense deals over Indo-Russian defense deals? Discuss concerning stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 
- ‘The long-sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalized nations has disappeared on account of its newfound role in the emerging global order.’ Elaborate. 
- Several outside powers have entrenched themselves in Central Asia, which is a zone of interest to India. Discuss the implications, in this context, India’s joining the Ashgabat Agreement, 2018. 
- “Increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in India and growing interference in the internal affairs of several member-states by Pakistan are not conducive for the future of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).” Explain with suitable examples. 
- The aim of Information Technology Agreements (ITAs) is to lower all taxes and tariffs on information technology products by signatories to zero. What impact would such agreements have on India’s interests? 
- India has recently signed to become a founding member of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). How will the roles of the two Banks be different? Discuss the strategic significance of these two Banks for India. 
Read: Foreign Relations notes
Article written by Aseem Muhammed