India is an important neighbour of China. India shares many common features with China, such as a long history of civilization, a large population, vast territory and so on. However, from China’s perspective, India is not a great-power country yet, although India’s self-perception is different. Because of this difference, Indian scholars are interested in the “new pattern of relationship between the great powers” proposed by China, and wonder which countries fall under the concept of “great power” according to China.
The Philosophy Of India’s Great Power Diplomacy
As the first country in Asia, which gained independence from the Western colonial rule, India has been in constant pursuit of being a “great power” country and it has influenced its decisions in shaping of the country’s modern policies. India believed that it can get rid of nightmares such as British colonial rule by becoming a great power. It is not a correct judgement but nevertheless, this philosophy played a crucial part in Nehru formulating India’s Non-Aligned Movement policy and thereby becoming one of the leaders in the world for Non-Aligned Movement. In Nehru’s own words, the reason why India chose non-alignment is because India could not have a completely independent foreign policy, regardless of which great power it aligned with. Dependence could not have helped India to rise as a great power and would have limited its role as a vassal. From Nehru’s point of view, relying on independent foreign policy was the only way India could become a great power country, second to the U.S. and Russia. It is mostly his ideas that have been translated into action in India’s foreign policy, and served as the cornerstone of India’s great-power diplomacy today.
On one hand, India’s great power diplomacy reflects India’s self-perception: India has already acquired the major characteristics of a great power. India’s rise will continue to have an important influence on the world. Meanwhile, as a country with soft power, India considers that its political system and values, or culture and religion, all have a universal significance. On the other hand, India’s great-power diplomacy also indicates India regards positive relations with the great powers as the main objective of its diplomacy. In the 2014 Indian elections, the 10-year ruling Congress Party fell out of the power. The Bharatiya Janata Party represented by Modi secured an overwhelming victory. Modi’s experience in local government indicated that he would take economic development as his top priority. However, he focused on diplomacy instead after he came to power, visiting major great power countries and invited leaders from the great power countries to visit India. It clearly signaled that India’s great-power diplomacy has entered a brand new stage.
India’s Great Power Diplomacy Practice
India upholds an independent foreign policy, which is commonly regarded as maintaining a parallel relationship with major powers. However, sometimes it is difficult to realize this policy as India’s policy and practices are restricted in the international system. For example, during the Cold War, India’s great power diplomacy was restricted by the bipolar structure. In order to compensate for its less-than-favorable relations with its neighbors, India actively formed a quasi-alliance with the Soviet Union, thereby turning the great power diplomacy into a lopsided pattern, which was contrary to Nehru’s principles of non-alignment and was actually against the best interests of India.
India’s great power diplomacy obtained an important breakthrough in the new century. In 2003, Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing became a landmark trip to improve bilateral relations. India and China reached a series of important agreements, and for the first time defined China-India relations as “long-term constructive partnership.” In 2004, India’s new prime minister visited Washington and reached a “civilian nuclear cooperation”, which was considered as a great achievement for India’s great power diplomacy. Furthermore, India reached an agreement of annual summit with the EU, reached an agreement with Russia to establish a system of annual exchange visits, and with Japan to establish a similar mechanism as well. From India’s perspective, such kind of diplomatic achievements indicated that India had already stepped out of the nuclear shadows and rebuilt a new position on the world diplomatic stage.
Great Power Diplomacy of The Modi Government
Contrary to the outside perception, Modi didn’t take much action in domestic development policy, but rather made foreign visits frequently, including visits to Tokyo and Washington. In New Delhi, he met with the Heads of State from China and Russia with cordial hospitality, and invited Obama to be the first American President to attend India’s Republic Day parade.
India’s new achievements in great power diplomacy include introducing China’s capital investment in India’s railway construction and industrial projects, reaching an agreement with Japan to construct the “golden corridor” plan from Bombay to New Delhi, continuing military technology cooperation with Russia and introducing Russian nuclear reactors and establishing a new cooperation platform with the U.S. after eliminating the past conflicts. These achievements are more or less related to geopolitical factors, but overall, India is committed to create an “all favorable” international environment for the need of economic construction and development, rather than the need of national security.
Sino-Indian Relations have a clear outlook, but still needs more effort
India’s major efforts in expanding great power diplomacy have drawn attention from international media. Coincidentally, China held a high-level meeting on foreign affairs in November of 2014, which also proposed to promote “great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.” The common interest in great power diplomacy by emerging powers indicates that the international system might be on the edge of reforming, and the great powers are major forces determining the direction of this reform. Thus, Sino-Indian relations might witness a new breakthrough, while the great powers that wish to maintain status quo would be considering whether they could thwart this breakthrough. As a result, a positive unfolding of Sino-Indian relations might encounter a lot of uncertainties. Only with more efforts from both sides could India and China achieve mutually beneficial goals.