As India’s economic and political clout expand, so do its desire to play a larger role in the international arena. Among the broader international community, India has increasingly been viewed as a like-minded emerging power capable of balancing China’s influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
It is therefore necessary to better understand India’s own ambitions and capabilities. In order to do so, it is crucial to identify its strategic priorities as well as the factors and processes that affect its decision making. Through a number of regional groupings as well as bilateral and multilateral partnerships, India has sought to signal its intention to become more involved in international affairs. However, questions persist about the capacity and political will within India to sustain these efforts, as partnerships like the Quad (comprising the US, Japan, Australia and India) have faltered and some of India’s traditional allies in South Asia have begun to lean towards China.
This conversation will consider what India’s long-term vision is for South Asia and the Indian Ocean region – beyond expectations of its role as a counterweight to China – and what influences the framing and fulfilment of this vision. It will also take up India’s ‘strategic autonomy’, long viewed as fundamental to the country’s foreign policy, and discuss whether it is impacted by evolving relationships with the US and Russia.
Professor Harsh V Pant is Director, Studies and Head of Strategic Studies Programme at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He is also Professor of International Relations at King's College London.