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India's Global Role & Priorities

  • 05 Dec 2023

The World Bank claims in its most recent India Development Update, that India’s economy has demonstrated resilience despite a challenging external environment. The "Navigating the Storm" research concludes that while India's development prospects would be affected by the worsening external environment, the country's economy is better positioned than most other emerging markets to withstand global spillovers. Since India is one of the world's fastest-growing major economies. Its large and diverse market, coupled with a youthful workforce, makes it an attractive destination for foreign investments. As such, India's economic success has implications for global trade and investment. Its proximity to major global hotspots, such as the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, makes it a crucial player in regional and global geopolitics.

The Non-Aligned Foreign Policy of India

India's non-aligned foreign policy, rooted in post-independence idealism, has significantly shaped global relations. Embracing non-alignment during the Cold War, India, led by figures like Jawaharlal Nehru, played a pivotal role in the Non-Aligned Movement, challenging the bipolar dominance of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. This stance extended to regional dynamics, as seen in India's neutral position during the Iran-Iraq war and its mediation efforts in South Asia. Over the years, maintaining non-alignment has become challenging for India amid evolving global dynamics and its enhanced economic and military capabilities. The tension between idealism and realism persists, reflecting broader global struggles in foreign policy. India continues to navigate these complexities while engaging with major powers like the United States, China, and Russia.

The Economic Diplomacy of India

India has indeed been focusing on economic partnerships and trade agreements with key nations in recent years as part of its broader economic and foreign policy strategy. These efforts are aimed at boosting economic growth, increasing trade opportunities, and enhancing diplomatic ties. India has been actively involved in regional trade agreements, including the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). These agreements aim to promote intra-regional trade and economic cooperation among neighbouring countries. Trade and investment prospects have grown significantly over the past ten years as a result of the India Act policy. The value of goods exchanged between India and ASEAN nations increased to US$ 110.40 billion between 2021 and 2022. India adopted the initiative to cooperate with other countries to improve trade relations and has signed 13 free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries like Japan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Australia. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are agreements that two or more countries freely sign to remove trade and investment barriers including tariffs, import quotas, and export restrictions.

The Regional and Global Security Challenges

India navigates regional and global security challenges, rooted in historical context and evolving international roles. Facing terrorism, primarily from Pakistan, it employs a multi-pronged strategy, encompassing intelligence sharing, law enforcement cooperation, and diplomatic efforts to pressure harbouring nations. Ongoing border disputes, notably with Pakistan and China, prompt India to pursue peaceful resolutions through negotiation and dialogue. However, it asserts territorial integrity when required, evident in events like the 2017 Doklam standoff with China. India's security stance emphasises diplomacy, national interests, and safeguarding sovereignty, adapting strategies to changing geopolitics and economic-military capabilities.

India's Role in Addressing Climate Change Initiatives

India plays a significant role in addressing climate change through various initiatives focused on renewable energy and sustainable development. Our country has been actively involved in international climate negotiations through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and played a crucial role in the Paris Agreement negotiations. India ranks third among producers of renewable energy with 42% of its electricity coming from clean sources. 80% of new power capacity increases from renewable sources will be made possible by the country's objective of developing 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. Notably, the Indian government's promotion of green hydrogen through the "National Green Hydrogen Policy" is a prime example of the nation's commitment to advancing low-emission fuels. India's growing commitment to a better energy future is also seen in the record-breaking US$14.5 billion in renewable energy investments made in FY 2021–22. India is currently leading the net zero revolution, adopting sustainable growth as its guiding principle. India's amazing economic growth—which saw it jump from the 13th to the fifth-largest economy in the world—has inspired the nation to set ambitious objectives for sustainable growth.

India must build a road of unity and collaboration as it works towards net zero, utilising renewable energy, optimising logistics, promoting sustainable agriculture, and sustainable finance, and adopting revolutionary technologies. In addition to achieving its growth goals, India can lead a global movement towards a sustainable future by taking advantage of these interwoven themes. Working together, the government, private sector, international partners and, financial institutions can help India achieve its goal of being a net-zero nation, leading the way and inspiring the rest of the world.

Healthcare Diplomacy of India

India has played a pivotal role in healthcare diplomacy by producing and distributing vaccines, providing medical aid, and collaborating with international organisations to respond to global health crises like COVID-19. Its contributions underscore the importance of international cooperation in addressing global health challenges. India has long been known as the "pharmacy of the world" due to its robust pharmaceutical industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, India emerged as a crucial hub for vaccine production. The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, produced millions of doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine (Covishield) and supplied them to both domestic and international markets. India launched a vaccine diplomacy initiative, providing COVID-19 vaccines to neighbouring countries and other nations around the world. This initiative, known as "Vaccine Maitri," aimed to assist countries in need, enhance global vaccine access, and strengthen India's diplomatic ties. India collaborates with international organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF to strengthen its response to health crises and to ensure the effective distribution of vaccines and healthcare resources. India's commitment to global health extends beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has been actively involved in addressing other health crises, such as the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, through initiatives like the Global Fund.

India and Multilateralism

India's involvement with global organisations is a crucial aspect of its foreign policy because it gives the nation a platform from which to defend and advance its national and international interests. Particularly with the United Nations (UN), BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the significant international organisations, the Indian government has conducted insistent interactions. India has been a member of the United Nations since its inception in 1945 and has actively participated in various UN bodies and agencies. India has aspired to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, commonly known as the P5 (the five permanent members). India argues that as one of the world's most populous and fastest-growing economies, it deserves a seat at the table to represent the interests of the global South. Overall, the government has essentially enlarged and continued the international agenda set by earlier administrations. This includes, broadly speaking, making India a major player in the world, fighting terrorism, and achieving development goals. India has developed a strategy to portray itself as a competent global power that is dedicated to maintaining peace, order, and resolution of disputes through its participation in the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO).

Soft Power of India

India's soft power is magnified through Bollywood, yoga, and the vast Indian Diaspora. Bollywood, renowned globally, is celebrated for its vivid cinematography, catchy music, and narrative richness, depicting Indian culture and values. This cinematic influence extends India's cultural footprint, reinforcing its image as a diverse and vibrant nation. Yoga, originating in India, has surged worldwide, symbolising the nation's holistic lifestyle. With yoga centres spanning the globe, it embodies India's commitment to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

The Indian Diaspora, among the world's largest, serves as a cultural bridge. These communities, deeply connected to their Indian roots, actively promote the nation's traditions and values. High-achieving individuals of Indian origin, such as Kamala Harris, Rishi Sunak, Sundar Pichai, and Satya Nadella, contribute to a positive global perception of India. Their success underscores India's impact in various fields, from politics to technology, enhancing the nation's soft power and global influence.

In conclusion, India's evolving global priorities reflect its ambition to assert itself as a significant player in international affairs. While pursuing economic growth, security, and sustainable development, India also seeks to contribute to the emergence of a multipolar world order that accommodates the interests and aspirations of diverse nations. India's role in shaping the future of global governance will continue to evolve as it navigates complex geopolitical dynamics and works towards its national interests and the common good of the international community.


  1. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/12/05/india-better-positioned-to-navigate-global-headwinds-than-other-major-emerging-economies-new-world-bank-report
  2. https://www.mea.gov.in/Speeches-Statements.htm?dtl/9285/Indias_Foreign_Pol-icy_Successes_Failures_and_Vision_in_the_Changing_World_Order_Talk_by_
  3. https://www.ibef.org/blogs/free-trade-agreements-a-thrust-to-indian-trade
  4. https://www.vifindia.org/article/2023/march/17/indias-internal-security-challenges#:~:text=Cross%2Dborder%20terrorism%2C%20radicalization,Cyber%20space%20(Dark%20net)
  5. https://www.ey.com/en_in/climate-change-sustainability-services/how-india-can-balance-growth-and-sustainability-in-its-net-zero-journey#:~:text=With%20pride%2C%20we%20stand%20as,capacity%20additions%20from%20renewable%20sources.
  6. https://www.mea.gov.in/interviews.htm?dtl/33797
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