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Para diplomacy-A New Way for Indian Foreign Policy?

  • 18 Mar 2023

Para diplomacy refers to the use of sub-national actors and organizations to further the interests of a state in the international arena. It is a concept that has gained prominence in recent years as countries look for alternative ways to pursue their foreign policy goals. In this blog, we will examine the significance of para-diplomacy in Indian foreign policy, the background of Indian foreign policy, the importance of para-diplomacy, its implementation in practice, and the criticisms and challenges it faces. 

Background on Indian Foreign Policy 

The foreign policy of India has evolved significantly since its independence in 1947. India's early foreign policy focused on non-alignment, a strategy that avoided formal alliances with either the Western or Eastern blocs during the Cold War. Over time, India has shifted towards a more pragmatic foreign policy, pursuing closer economic and security ties with the United States and other major powers. 

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is the primary institution responsible for formulating and implementing India's foreign policy. It is responsible for managing India's diplomatic relations with other countries and international organizations. The MEA is supported by a network of Indian missions and consulates abroad, which are responsible for promoting India's interests and strengthening its ties with other countries. 

Para diplomacy and its Importance 

Para diplomacy can play an essential role in complementing the efforts of traditional diplomacy by leveraging the resources and expertise of sub -national actors. This can include NGOs, religious leaders, cultural organizations, and the Indian diaspora. These actors can be instrumental in promoting India's interests and values and can also help to build bridges with other countries and cultures. 

One of the critical advantages of para-diplomacy is that it can broaden the reach and impact of a state's foreign policy. By working with a range of sub – national actors, a state can engage with a broader range of audiences and stakeholders beyond the traditional diplomatic corps. This can help to build greater understanding and support for a state's foreign policy goals. 

Another advantage of para diplomacy is that it can help to create new and innovative ways of pursuing foreign policy goals. For example, Indian NGOs can play a crucial role in promoting development cooperation, human rights, and environmental sustainability. They can also serve as necessary intermediaries between the Indian government and other countries and international organizations. 

The role of the Indian diaspora in para-diplomacy is also significant. The Indian diaspora is a global community of people of Indian origin who are spread across the world. They can play an essential role in promoting India's interests and values and can help to build bridges between India and other countries. For example, the Indian diaspora can help boost trade and investment between India and the countries where they reside and help build cultural ties and understanding. 

Para diplomacy in Practice 

In recent years, para diplomacy has gained prominence as a new way for countries to pursue their foreign policy objectives. With its large and influential diaspora community, India has been at the forefront of exploring the potential of para diplomacy.  

Examples of Para diplomacy in Indian Foreign Policy 

The use of para-diplomacy in Indian foreign policy can be traced back to the early 1990s when India started using its diaspora community as a tool to enhance its economic and political influence abroad. India's diaspora community has been instrumental in promoting the country's interests in various regions of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, and the United States. For instance, the Indian diaspora in the United States has played a crucial role in advocating for Indian interests in the US Congress and in various other forums. 

The Role of the Indian Diaspora in Para diplomacy 

The Indian diaspora is one of the world's largest and most influential diaspora communities, with millions of Indians living and working in various countries across the globe. The Indian diaspora has been an essential component of India's foreign policy. The Indian government has been actively engaging with the diaspora through various initiatives such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which is a biannual event that brings together members of the Indian diaspora from around the world. 

The Indian diaspora has been instrumental in promoting India's economic interests abroad. Indian diaspora communities have established businesses and invested in various sectors, including technology, healthcare, and finance, which have helped to enhance India's economic presence in these countries. The Indian diaspora has also promoted cultural exchange and highlighted India's cultural and historical heritage. 

The Role of the Indian Military in Para diplomacy 

The Indian military has actively promoted India's foreign policy objectives, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. The Indian army has been involved in various peacekeeping missions, disaster relief operations, and other humanitarian efforts, which have helped to enhance India's reputation and influence in the region. The Indian military has also been involved in various capacity-building initiatives, such as training programs for military personnel from other countries, which have helped to build trust and enhance India's reputation as a responsible global power. 

Criticisms and Challenges 

Despite its potential benefits, para diplomacy in Indian foreign policy has faced criticism and challenges. One of the limitations of para-diplomacy is that it operates outside the formal structure of international relations and can often lead to inconsistencies in foreign policy. For example, while Indian corporations may be promoting Indian economic interests, their actions may not align with the government's foreign policy objectives. Additionally, para diplomacy can lead to a lack of accountability and transparency, as non-state actors may be subject to different regulations than state actors. 

Another criticism of para-diplomacy is that it can undermine the role of the state in shaping international relations. Critics argue that the increased influence of non-state actors in shaping foreign policy can dilute the state's authority. For example, corporations may prioritize their own interests over the national interest, leading to conflicting objectives between the state and non-state actors. 

Pdiplomacy in Indian foreign policy faces numerous challenges in its implementation. One of the main challenges is the need for coordination between the state and non-state actors. This lack of coordination can lead to inconsistencies in foreign policy and undermine the effectiveness of para-diplomacy. Additionally, para diplomacy is often limited by the need for more resources and infrastructure, making it difficult for non-state actors to engage in foreign policy. 

To conclude 

In conclusion, para-diplomacy has become essential for Indian foreign policy in recent years. While it has the potential to further various objectives such as economic cooperation, cultural exchange, and people-to-people engagement, it also faces criticism and challenges in its implementation. Despite these challenges, para-diplomacy is likely to play an increasingly important role in Indian foreign policy in the future. The future of para-diplomacy in Indian foreign policy will depend on the ability of the state and non-state actors to work together effectively and overcome the challenges posed by the implementation of para-diplomacy. By addressing these challenges, India can leverage the potential of para-diplomacy to achieve its foreign policy objectives and promote its interests in the international arena. 

Prateek Chatterjee  

He is a writer who is passionate about breaking down complex subjects and communicating them clearly and concisely. Whether through articles, blog posts, or marketing copy, he loves helping people understand and engage with difficult ideas & notions. 

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