The Status Quo for India


Today’s world is more turbulent and unpredictable than at any other period in history. The duo years of 2020 and 2021, have marked absolute uncertainty. The world is evolving day-by-day, where problems are becoming Transnational and their resolutions Trans-institutional. These global challenges require global solutions, not at a cost of exclusive state-based solutions, but inclusive, development-based ones. There has been a colossal shift in the global vision of nations during and after the post COVID’19 pandemic. As Robert Kagan rightly stated, “it is the repeat of history and the end of dreams.” 



Since the identification of the cause of the outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2019 and its pandemic designation in March of 2020, it has not only just destroyed the world but has also exhibited the fundamental flaws in the healthcare system and its maintenance in nations, both rich and poor. The corona pandemic showed what is certainly one of the biggest challenges, international development and humanitarian organizations have faced. There have already been repercussions for the world’s poor and impoverished, in terms of the direct impact of the public health crisis on health and mortality, and indirect influences on economic, social, and political systems. The international aid systems are usually seen as over-burdened, encountering questions about how to contribute best to the pandemic response and the post-pandemic world that is about to surface.

India recorded its first COVID-19 virus case in Kerala, on January 30th, 2020 leading to 3.31 crores infected and 4.41 lakh deceased and counting in the two waves that followed. Many think tanks prophesied a collapse and breakdown of all services, but, the timely lockdowns and proactive approach of the government, failed all these prophecies, and today India stands as one of the countries with a 38 per million death rate, as compared to 198 per million in other countries. The robust and resilient pharmaceutical sector of India, helped it to export its PPE kits and N-95 masks, of which India was a net-importer before. India also supported its neighbors and friends in the world community with a supply of primary drugs as grants or aid. India’s well-built and resilient pharmaceutical sector has contributed a lot to the major supply of vital medicines at home and abroad, which not only helped India gain a lot of goodwill but also worldwide appreciation.  As asserted by the Prime Minister at the 76th session of the UNGA, India became the first country in the world to develop a DNA-based Vaccine for CoronaVirus, showing its strength in Research and Development in Medical Sciences. But, this vaccine efficacy can only be put to effective use, if the hurdle of Vaccine Hesitancy is countered. One way of doing it is by increasing trust since much of the skepticism to get a Covid-19 vaccine begins from the lack of trust in the health care system and the pharmaceutical companies that brought the vaccines to business during a particular time, in few vaccination advocates, and in our government that is operating and stimulating it. Moreover, there are various tactics to combat misinformation, we must wage an all-out effort to build public trust. 

Covid 19 pandemic had an enormous impact on the economic front for the global community. With global growth rates falling and economic systems on verge of a breakdown, countries favored to reduce their globalized vision and preferred to self-suffice themselves, a term generally used as “slobalisation”, (referred to be as an antonym of Globalisation); where strong economic leadership started weaponizing the supply chains. India advanced towards a self-reliant economy with its AtmaNirbhar Bharat Program. 



As prognosticated and asserted by political think tanks, amidst the 4th industrial revolution, marked by Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, the world is again entering into the cold-war phase, with the core of heat being the Indo-Pacific Area this season.  We mark a  process of the rise of new power alliances in diverse parts of the globe. These power blocs are wanting to become strategic poles, thus driving the emergence of multi-polar world order. Multipolarity is the new flavor of the season in the 21st century, indicating a death blow to globalization and unipolarity. A new Hanseatic League-style pattern is trying to reemerge on the world stage with the coming unitedly of countries like Ireland, the Netherlands, the Nordic and Baltic states, while the Arab League, with 22 member states, is in total disorder with war, terror and despotism. Erstwhile superpowers like Russia and the United Kingdom are striving to find a place of influence in the new 21st-century world order. Leaders of both nations have high power ambitions — the UK leadership speaks about “Global Britain” while Putin focused his 2018 campaign encompassing the motto “Strong Russia”. Yet it resembles to be a longspun path ahead for both countries. Amidst all this, India is modestly constituting itself as an influential power. Vibrant democracy, literate and skillful manpower, and a vast middle class with great purchasing power are its assets that draw world recognition today. Its influential leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been able to afford the country on par with major powers in the world by proactive diplomacy and global positioning. The Indian Ocean is where India’s tomorrow lies. The global dynamism pole is invariably turning eastwards from the Pacific-Atlantic region, and the Indian Ocean region has surfaced as the most influential region today. 

Every global power willing to exert its influence and command over the area has led to Asia in the core of gravity, a recent instance being the creation of AUKUS ( group of Australia, UK, and the US). India has eternally professed a rule-based international order, and its recent presidency in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) this January, asserted the same, by a large consensus being on Maritime Security, yet, countries with expansionist plans, continue to be a theme of concern. On the same table, India has been linked with the USA, Japan, and Australia, in a strategic alliance identified as Quadrilateral Dialogue (QUAD), whose primary purpose is to maintain peace and order in the Indo-Pacific. Need of the hour is equal access as a right under international law to the value of common spaces on sea and in the air that would need freedom of navigation, unrestrained commerce, and amicable settlement of disputes under international law. It is necessary to install connectivity in the region based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, discussion, good governance, transparency, viability, and sustainability. Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is important for Indo-Pacific security. MDA signifies an adequate understanding of any activity linked with the maritime environment that could affect the security, safety, economy, or environment. The security & peace and law-abiding character of the countries throughout the region are critical. This will also enable multipolarity in the region. India is looked to by the smaller states in the region, to come ahead and help them grow their opportunities, both economically as well as militarily. India should strive to accomplish their ambitions. Powerful naval capabilities, multilateral diplomacy, and economic integration with nations are needed for India to meet the hurdles within the Indo-Pacific region. India needs to adhere to its vision of the Indian Ocean i.e. Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).


Climate Change

Since time, there has been a tussle of choice between Economy and Ecology. The world confronts an unprecedented, yet neglected prolonged, challenge of Climate change. Consequent heat waves, untimed monsoons, unusual droughts, high incidence of glacial flood outbursts, etc. all exhibit hints of a catastrophic and destructive end, which none state, single-handedly can control. The year 2020 recorded the second-hottest year in the 141-combined year account, both for land and oceans. India, being a developing tropical and populated country, experiences a more prominent challenge dealing with the outcomes of Climate Change than most other countries. Climate Change is a global phenomenon but with local consequences. There are both external and domestic dimensions to India’s Climate Change policy which has been enunciated by two principal documents. One is the National Action Plan on Climate Change(NAPCC) adopted on June 30, 2008. The other is India’s Intended Nationally Determined Commitments(INDC) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) on October 2, 2015. The NAPCC has a primarily domestic focus. The INDC is a narrative of a plan on Climate Change action declared in the run-up to the Paris Climate Change summit held in December of the same year. India has been vocal and active in its efforts to combat climate change and shift its focus on renewable energy. India has been vocal and engaged in its efforts to combat climate change and move its center on renewable energy. India has anchored a target of attaining 450GW of energy by renewable sources by 2030. As of July 2021, India had 96.96 GW of renewable energy capacity, representing 25.2% of the overall installed power capacity, giving a vast possibility for the development of green data centers. Lately, following the Democrats got in power at the white house, there has been a huge vocalization of climate change by the USA, seen through the USA re-joining the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The advanced countries have been highlighting the necessity for each nation to declare their net-zero emissions plan (when a country consumes the equivalent volume of carbon/GHGs, they release), while the circumstances have been different. as developing countries compete for their space to develop. The USA has announced its net-zero economy by 2050 and China by 2060, yet, announcing their net-zero emissions plan for developing countries like India, appears excessively immature. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR RC), is being vouched for by developing nations, a principle within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which would afford satisfactory space to developing countries to strengthen their infrastructure and alleviate their masses out of poverty. 

India’s focus in the forthcoming years persists to counter the Twin-Challenge to provide more energy as well as cleaner energy; India is searching for substitute fuels like methanol and ethanol; Technological experimentation in Hydrogen-based Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs); and Grid Integration. 

To succeed in India’s clean energy aims, a well-planned road map is required, for which NITI Aayog is coming up with Energy Vision 2035. A diversified energy mix is what India needs to concentrate on, no doubt solar and wind have a lot of potential. Hydrogen would be a game-changer in the Indian energy transformation space. Renewable sources of energy are anticipated to substitute fossil fuels by 2050. India should be operating on domains like investment in infrastructure, capacity building, and better integration in the near and immediate tomorrow.


Global Terrorism

This September, the world marked 20-years of mortifying, 9/11 terrorist strikes on the USA, plus the end of a prolonged battle in Afghanistan. There has been a tremendous push in the foreign vision of the USA, as soon as the democrats entered the oval office, evident from the president of the USA asserting “shifting focus towards more relevant things”.  The rapid departure of US troops from Afghanistan has been equaled by the speedy progression of the Taliban across the nation. The Taliban itself prevails a significant variable. If the Taliban does not include the concerns of all Afghans, it simply sets the stage for the next cycle of the civil war in Afghanistan. The US retreat from Afghanistan today strengthens the firmly held opinion in China that the US is in final decline.  The withdrawal, at a time when China is extending a dilemma to the Western model of global governance, is perceived in China as a prominent ideological triumph. However, for China, possible Taliban backing to the Xinjiang separatist groups is a major concern. 

India will hold three crucial areas in dealing with the Taliban. First, defending its investments, which spread into billions of rupees, in Afghanistan; Second, blocking an expected Taliban government from being a cat’s-paw of Pakistan; and Lastly, making sure that the Pakistan-backed anti-India terrorist organizations do not receive backing from the Taliban.

The era of peace in Afghanistan guarded by the US military ubiquity has come to its end. This would mean new limitations on India’s strength to operate inside Afghanistan. Three fundamental conditions will remain to cast India’s Afghan policy. One is India’s deficit of direct physical passage to Afghanistan. This emphasizes the point of India holding effective regional allies. The second is that Pakistan can destabilize any government in Afghanistan. But it does not have the power to assemble a stable and legitimate order in Afghanistan. And lastly, the contradiction between the gains of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a permanent one. Pakistan likes to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate, but Afghans deeply value their independence. All Afghan sovereigns, including the Taliban, will look for allies, even Pakistan. The recent comments made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan at UNGA’s 76th session, give the more comprehensive backing of Pakistan to the Taliban government, as he calls to “strengthen, stabilize the Taliban Government in Afghanistan”.

India should center on enhancing its engagement with several Afghan groups, including the Taliban, and getting effective regional allies to defend its shares in an unstable Afghanistan. Multilateral Organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) must be used in dealing with the Afghan issues and obtaining stability. Geography, membership, and capabilities make the SCO an influential forum to approach the post-American challenges in Afghanistan. An autonomous, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan is essential for peace and stability in the region. To ensure the same, the Afghan peace process, as asserted by India’s Afghan policy, should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled. Also, there is a need for the global community to strive against the global affair of terrorism. In this context, it is high tide to affirm the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (proposed by India at UN in 1996). More militancy is observed in the region where the state fails to deliver. Thus, Administrative and military reforms within Afghanistan are the need of the hour to undertake the menace of surfacing Taliban 2.0. 

The international community was never successful in placing an accepted global definition of terrorism. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the United Nations worked to comprehensively explain the term miscarried majorly because of the diverse opinions between several members concerning the use of violence about conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. All these countless deviations have made it unrealistic to culminate a  Convention on International Terrorism that incorporates a single, all-encompassing, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism.  

India has forever been a lead player to profess counter-terror diplomacy at international forums and dialogue. Concerning the multi-layered and complex menaces and predictions rendered by terrorism, India has embraced a multi-faceted counter-terrorism strategy. Given the ubiquity of cross-border terrorism, domestic and criminal-justice level responses could not foretell outcomes. New Delhi is convinced that ‘no individual nation, however prosperous or influential, will be able to beat this act solely. Thus, it has adapted to its counter-terrorism strategy beyond the domestic, legal, and criminal justice approaches which endeavored to solve the intricacy at the diplomatic level. It is of the perspective that while countering terrorism, the global community ‘could not work in cribs built either by barriers or bureaucracy. There was never a more robust case for enhanced multilateral action, more coordination, and more aid on any theme amongst every stakeholder than on terrorism now. As a consequence, India has invested more time, energy, and diplomatic resources to counter-terrorism at the United Nations than other multilateral destinations.

India bolsters that terrorism cannot and should not be perceived in our versus their framework and challenged through a strategy fragmented in line with international perimeters. Instead, it should be globally defined as a ‘criminal and unjustifiable act’. The international community must embrace a universal ‘zero-tolerance policy’ to undertake the menace efficiently. Although India is a vehement advocate of coercive stratagems toward non-state actors, its polling record in the Security Council on resolutions approving counter-terrorism sanctions and the use of force imparts that it is hesitant in using coercive measures against other sovereign states to counter-terrorism or in the name of counter-terrorism. The antiquity of India’s approach to the use of sanctions or the force divulges that it stands with the coercive measures only if such measures fall in line with the principle of respect for state sovereignty, the resulting principle, and proper authorization of the Security Council. India confers the UN’s‘ coordination role’.  The regional multilateral bodies can also execute an immense role in counter-terrorism efforts, as highlighted at the recent Shanghai Corporation Organisation’s meet on September 17, through the role of Regional Anti-terror Structure (RATS). But again, there is a long path ahead to achieve global unison on whom to designate terrorism or a scapegoat. 


UN reforms

Three decades into its existence, globalization is at the edge of its tether. Nations over the world are frequently rotating inwards. Global institutions are losing their importance and impact over huge portions of the globe. It is high time that to preserve their relevance and their faith, the global institutions address the continued appeals for their reforms. There has been a usual inclination of growing the number of Transnational challenges (for instance, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemics, climate crisis, cyber-security, poverty, etc..). The UN holding the epitome of multilateral world order will be enormously required in dealing with global issues. Hence, reforms in the UN are essential to restore the UN’s effectiveness as a multilateral organization, induce more transparency to the organization and enhance its credibility. The UN has been inadequate to respond efficiently to the once-in-a-century global crisis triggered by the coronavirus. At the UN Security Council, China blocked a serious dialogue on the root and sources of the crisis. While the US stepped out of the World Health Organisation on accusations of supporting China. 

UNSC is the UN’s chief executive organ, but the veto powers held by the UNSC’s five permanent members are applied as a tool to shore up their geopolitical interests, notwithstanding the unfortunate outcomes for the victims of armed conflict, as seen in Syria, Iraq, etc. Moreover, it does not exhibit today’s distribution of military and economic power, nor a geographical balance. Thus, the arrangement of the 15-member Security Council ought to be further democratic and representative. This has been long overdue on the demand, particularly from the so-called Group of 4 (G4) countries — Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan — which advance a permanent seat for each of them. The ECOSOC has been criticized because it has been overshadowed by institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, which lack democratic processes, transparency, and accountability. It can be asserted that the UN has a lot to do but it has too scarce money, as it is in a constant financial crisis due to the unwillingness of members to pay their contributions on time. The UN cannot be effective until its budget remains constrained. While the broad number of international law treaties influencing international trade, economics, and human rights has proved very effective, laws forbidding the use of force have been less so. Thus, there is a necessity to incorporate more personnel and carry out structural reforms for the UN Peacekeeping Operations. Achievable solutions to reform UN finances can be setting a ‘reserve fund’ or even a ‘world tax’. Also, India can propose a bicameral parliamentary assembly framework for UNGA, to increase its productivity. The prime goal of India’s existing multilateralism should be to secure its territorial integrity, particularly at a time when China has embraced an aggressive demeanor on the border. Here, India can leverage multilateralism to assist India’s interests. Like aligning with Quad countries or pulling with mechanisms like FATF to install pressure on Pakistan to end sponsoring cross-border terrorism in India. Moreover, while restoring its role in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), India must engage with other multilateral institutions as new rule-making as India is not at a disadvantage if rule-making takes place outside the UN.

The subcontinent has historically been an integrated geopolitical area with a shared civilizational heritage. Evenly valid is the certainty of versatile contemporary sovereignties within South Asia. In dealing with these twin realities, the principles escorting India’s commitment are not excessively hard to discern. As a portion of the ideational restructuring of India’s foreign policy, what is primarily needed, aside from competent diplomacy, is the adoption of judicious plans, the chase of realistically attainable aims, and, above all, a demonstration of continuity of policy, irrespective of differences like the Administration. These may be time-absorbing but are a surer recipe for prosperity in accomplishing foreign policy objectives. India will always be a reliable ally and loyal friend and is bound to restore bilateral relations based on mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual sensitivity. These are not easy principles to follow. But the new vocabulary on “mutual respect and mutual sensitivity” is positively cherished. Using foreign policy to create more opportunities and space in the international arena, India should approach flexibility and pragmatism. India’s consistent pursuit of this framework could serve India better to accomplish the paradoxical dynamic with its neighbors and the global arena.

Sahil Jindal, a student of political science, hails from the state of Punjab. He has a keen interest in International Geopolicitcs, Indian Politics, and Law. He has been a part of several research panels on geopolitical studies, along with being on a panel in podcasts and panel discussions on various issues.