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International Relations

— Written By Archi Aggarwal,
University School of Law and Legal Studies, GGSIP University

India is tipped to be the most growing economy in the world. Many countries have realized this and as a result, India’s relations with foreign countries have improved. For a growing economy, it is important to maintain good relations with other countries. 

International relations are the ways in which two or more nations interact with and regard each other, especially in the context of political, economic, or cultural relationships.  Countries considered India’s closest include Russia, Israel, Afganistan, France, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and the United States.  

India has a strong history of maintaining good relations with other countries. Also, in recent years international relations of India has been under a lot of limelight. Here are some of the recent deals that made the headlines. India has played an important and influential role in other international organisations like East Asia Summit, World Trade Organization, International Monetory Fund, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Regionally, India is a part of SAARC and BBIMSTEC. India has taken part in several UN peacekeeping missions and in 2007, it was the second-largest troop contributer to the United Nations.  India’s foreign policy has always regarded the concept of neighbourhood as one of widening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalities. As many as 44 million people of indian origin live and work abroad and constitute an important link with the mother country. An important role of India’s foreign policy has been to ensure their welfare and wellbeing within the framework of the laws of the country where they live. 

India’s  territorial disputes with neighbouring  Pakistan and People’s Republic of China have played a crucial role in its foreign policy. India is also involved  in mirror territorial disputes with neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives.  

International relations promotes successful trade policies between nations and encourages travel related to business, tourism, and immigration, providing people with opportunities to enhance their lives and it allows nations to cooperate with one another, pool resources, and share information as a way to face global issues that go beyond any particular country or region. Contemporary global issues include pandemics, terrorism, and the environment. International relations advances human culture through cultural exchanges, diplomacy and policy development.  

I now have a better appreciation of the constraints under which IR studies operate in India. One of the most obvious is the lack of proper archiving of contemporary Indian primary sources which, by the nature of our subject, are primarily with and from government. And the more interesting, or controversial the issue, the less likely government is to transfer its papers to the archives. But that situation changed in fits and starts in this century and there are treasures to be discovered in the National Archives today, and not just in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Besides, as recent scholars have shown, there are treasures to be mined in state archives, in private papers, and in Russian and other archives abroad, all relevant to the study of India’s international relations.  Secondly, I still believe that there is a lack of rigour and discipline in our IR studies that results in a situation where, with a few exceptions, the best work on India and the subcontinent is done by scholars, many of them Indians, outside our institutions. 

Our goal should be to build Indian IR studies to a level where it measures up to international standards in the discipline. This is the minimum, the first step. If we are to study international relations we must be able to stand the quality test and be world class. This is essential if we are to achieve our real purpose, to devise the concepts and scholarship necessary for an understanding of India’s unique place and role in the world. In other words, ultimately to devise an Indian school of IR studies.  

Now I would like to talk about current international policy of government. Narendra Modi’s return to power as prime minister must prompt students of international relations to interrogate their own assumptions about India and its place in the world. It is no longer possible to ascribe epistemic meaning to terms that are commonly associated with the analysis of Indian foreign policy – the “national interest”, “international community” or “autonomy”, for that matter.  the traditional view that our foreign policy is crafted to preserve room for India’s development, while it gradually stakes out a greater political role in the world, has also been challenged by these elections. To be sure, Indian diplomats will not abandon overnight the country’s economic priorities for all else. But the 17th Lok Sabha election, it is safe to say, was not fought on developmental concerns alone – Modi impressed upon the electorate the need for strong, swift and decisive leadership, and one that places a premium on national security. The Balakot airstrikes lent fuel to that narrative, but Modi’s phenomenal victory strengthens his pitch and gives him the mandate for ‘bold’ decisions. In fact, the message from the recently concluded elections appear to be that India’s “development” can no longer be seen purely from an economic lens, but is equally an attribute of its political identity. 

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