India’s post-Ladakh strategy must focus on the post-pandemic world order. Along with its borders, India must also secure its alliances, its economy, and the future of one of the world’s youngest population. India’s strategy must be pillared on strategic autonomy and strategic alliances.
Can the do be achieved together?
Strategic alliances are partnerships that go beyond trade and defence procurement. They are about combining and connecting expertise with a focus on mutual growth. In the Cold War-era India believed in non-alignment. Today, India is building strategic alliances by strengthening diplomatic ties in a changing world order.
India’s ties with West Asia are no longer anchored on oil or diaspora. The two sides are also working towards economic and strategic goals. Saudi Arabia has invested its sovereign funds in India. The money fuels India’s growth, while helping Saudi Arabia diversify its economy, marking a symbiosis for the new world order.
The strengthening of the alliance is paralleled by changing geo-politics. West Asia is distancing itself from Pakistan, considered India’s foe. At the same time, Pakistan is also growing closer to China. India and Saudi Arabia signed the strategic partnership council agreement in October 2019.
Besides common foes and common goals, strategic alliances are also built on mutual support for domestic and foreign policies. For instance India and France have had trade and defence ties over the years. The relationship has now graduated into a strategic alliance. Now, France openly supports India’s desire for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. France has used its position at the world body to back India on Kashmir. India, too stood by France when it was being attacked over the Prophet’s caricature. The two countries have also cooperated in the space sector.
Common values are also crucial in a strategic alliance; case in point – India’s alliance with Australia. Both believe in democracy and sovereignty, and remain opposed to Chinese aggression. Additionally, both back stability in the Indo-Pacific. In June 2020, India and Australia announced the elevation of bilateral ties to a ”common strategic partnership”.
India has strategic partnership agreements with over 30 countries, and is running an outreach programme. India must also steer clear of taking sides in tussles involving allies, and continue its policy of de-hyphenation which has proven to be a huge diplomatic success.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was India’s first head of government to visit Israel. He was also the first Indian PM to visit Palestine. Today, India and Israel and working together in various fields including science, technology, and agriculture. At the same time, India is calling for a two-state solution.
India buys weapons from Russia but continues to partner with the US in securing the Indo-Pacific. The US and Russia have been foes for long. Now, India has found a way to work with both.
As India chalks out its strategic alliances for the years ahead, it must ensure that ties are built on mutual respect for autonomy, aversion for expansionism, hawk-eye diplomacy, and provocation.
Solving the Ladakh stalemate was India’s strategic priority. With China off its back, India can now focus on its outreach programs, cement its alliances, and rebuild its economy.