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India's Foreign Policy Shifts and the Calculus of Power

India's foreign policy is witnessing dramatic shifts. The traditional practice of non-alignment and the multipolar concept are being replaced by new agreements that will lead to military alignments with the United States. India is moving away from the large formations of the non-aligned movement to smaller alliances like the India-Brazil-South Africa alliance. This would completely shift the strategic environment of the south Asian region and have a global impact. The Indo-US Defence Framework and the 123 Agreements are steps in this direction. These agreements curb India's independent foreign policy and entail increased militarisation, greater threat perceptions and instability.


India’s Foreign Policy Shifts and the Calculus of Power

India’s foreign policy is witnessing dramatic shifts. The traditional practice of non-alignment and the multipolar concept are being replaced by new agreements that will lead to military alignments with the United States. India is moving away from the large formations of the non-aligned movement to smaller alliances like the India-Brazil-South Africa alliance. This would completely shift the strategic environment of the south Asian region and have a global impact. The Indo-US Defence Framework and the 123 Agreements are steps in this direction. These agreements curb India’s independent foreign policy and entail increased militarisation, greater threat perceptions and instability.


here is a shift in India’s foreign policy from non-alignment to alignment; from the goal of creating a multipolar world to endorsing the US concept of a unipolar world. The strategic environment is being altered by a slew of agreements between India and the US where military engagement is being privileged. The shifts are also evident with changes in India’s foreign policy conceptualisations and relations with traditional allies. The national consensus that existed around non-alignment has broken down as changes in India’s strategic thinking are made and articulated by a small foreign policy elite in and around the government. This exclusive domain is actuated because it is not mandatory for the Indian Parliament to discuss or ratify international treaties or policy shifts.

The changes in Indian foreign policy are based on India’s aspirations for great power status and coincide with, or at least follow the Indian economic reforms since the 1990s. The argument is that India’s rising gross domestic product (GDP), its large middle class, its military and nuclear capability make it a potential power. India’s strategic thinkers have argued that non-alignment is “irrelevant” and not in “national interest”. They advocate that alignment with the sole superpower is in the interest of making India a great power. In this article, we analyse the context of this shift and its implications for India.

US Interest in India

US interest in India is recent and based on a reassessment on their interests in the 21st century. Pakistan has been the major US ally in south Asia and has the status as a major non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) ally. In contrast, India’s policies of non-alignment and domestic policies have been dismissed by the US through its history on various counts. They have however shifted perceptions since 2002 because of a number of reasons:

(1) The US national security and defence depart ment envisage US military dominance, termed as “full spectrum dominance”. This is to be done with: “the ability of US forces, operating unilaterally or in combination with multinational and interagency partners, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the full range of military operations”.1

They want “freedom to operate in all domains” with a set of alliances with other strong partners. India is seen as one such potential strategic partner.2 It is for this that the US has decided to make India into a “great power”.

  • (2) The US has decided to “dehyphenate” their relation and no longer “balance” India with Pakistan. US still needs Pakistan in Afghanistan and in its anti-terrorism policy but is dissatisfied with the results on Al Qaida, its record on proliferation, its shortcomings as a democracy, etc.
  • (3) The US sees China and India as the new major emerging powers. The national security strategy of the US, both in 2002 and 2005, cautions China “to mend its ways” and argues that China’s capabilities threaten the region.3 US differences with China include the issue of Taiwan, North Korea, human rights, democracy, proliferation, etc. US policymakers emphasise on the “containment” of China and the need to “balance” its power through countervailing forces.4 The Republican neocon project states that China’s regional leadership is “increasingly at the expense of the US” and advocates a new NATO-like organisation for Asia.5 India is seen as the potential ally in this military alliance. The Chinese are committed towards a multipolar world along with the Russians.
  • (4) The US views Russia as a state that has failed in its reform. US-Russia relations lack common vision on most issues, including: the domination and eastward expansion of NATO; US critique of Russian democracy; US support to regime change in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States ;Russian anxiety over US bases in central Asia; US direct intervention in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine; and US control of pipelines that bypass Russia. Differences on Iran, Iraq and Kosovo persist, and the Sino-Russian strategic partnership and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) provide an alternate forum for the two.
  • (5) The US has had different perceptions from the European Union (EU) on their occupation of Iraq; differences on the International Criminal Court; Kyoto Protocol; agriculture subsidies; the World Trade Organisation; handling terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
  • Slow European economic growth has led to stagnation in trade.

    It is in this context that the US wants new allies and an expanded security structure of which India can become an integral part if they make the required changes in their policy. US interest in India is based on the following assumptions:

  • (1) India’s economic growth, the large middle class and opening markets, where India and US have significant trade, but the US wants greater market access.
  • (2) India’s increasing military imports of which US expects a greater share. Since 2005 a number of such contracts have been proposed. For example, in a note to the Congress, Pentagon officials said that India is likely to purchase $ 5 billion worth of conventional weapons, including platforms that could be “useful for monitoring the Chinese military”.6 The US would like to become the favoured defence provider to India and in the process partner India to pressurise China for US interests.
  • (3) India’s need for energy where US officials argue that not only will the US
  • be able to effectively compete to be a nuclear power and fuel supplier, gaining billions of dollars and jobs for US workers, but they might be able to wean away India from the Iran gas pipeline that India speaks of as the peace pipeline.

  • (4) The large and influential group of Indian Americans that impact on US foreign policy.
  • (5) India’s policy elite have an aspiration for “great power” status that will help India globalise. They calculate this on the basis of India’s fast GDP growth, techno logy base, middle class and military/nuclear capability. There is thus a convergence of US strategic, economic and military interests in India.
  • US interest in India was endorsed by US policy, first in the 2002 ‘National Security Strategy for the US’, which states that US national interest requires “strong relations with India”.7The same document argued that by pursuing advanced military capabilities China was “threatening its neighbours in the Asia Pacific”. Ironically, the US believes that its own or its allies militarisation is non-threatening, unlike that of China. Further, US analysts see India as a good contrast and “balancer” to China. India, similarly, began to see the US as a benign power since the 1990s when they initiated privatisation programmes. The argument that non-alignment was irrelevant became part of the discourse of security strategists. India was one of the first countries to welcome the US ballistic missile defence in 2001, a programme that is designed to control space and as a part of the effort of containment of China and Russia.

    Indo-US Entanglements

    In June 2004, Bush and Vajpayee signed the “Next Step for Strategic Partnership” (NSSP) after a series of talks between the two countries that had been initiated by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. The US government waived the nuclear-related sanctions on India in 2001 and allowed exports to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2004 as the basis for the NSSP. This strategy was outlined in their document:


    NACDOR-II: Vision and Voices of New Dalits

    National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) and Centre for Alternative Dalit Media will organize Second National Conference of Dalit Organisations or the NACDOR-II from 5-10 December 2007 in New Delhi. More than thousand Dalit Organisations from all over India will participate in this conference. NACDOR–II will begin with a traditional Dalit March to Parliament on 5 December, the World Dignity Day – International Day of Dalits’ Struggle. About 10 thousand Dalits from different parts of India will participate in this March. The Conference will end with NACDOR’s tradition of lighting 1000 lights of Dignity at India Gate on 10 December 2007.

    As a prelude to this, Centre for Alternative Dalit Media and National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) will organize Round Tables on five critical issues in New Delhi from 2 – 4 November 2007. Each will cover one specific theme and one specific issue. The five issues of Round Tables are:

    i. Social Exclusion and Discrimination: Towards Inclusive Society

    ii. Dalits: Opportunities for Socially Responsible Organisations

    iii. Feminism: Understanding Twin Dimension of Exclusion

  • iv. Dignity: Mainstreaming Dalits, Excluded and Marginalised
  • v. Governance: Right Based Model
  • We aim at bringing Dalit intelligentsia, progressive thinkers, researchers, ideologues and social activists to discuss and debate Dalits and their issues in the current context. Deliberations and conclusions of Round Tables would be shared with the community, civil society organisations, organisations of business and industry and of course peoples’ representatives from Panchayat to Parliament. These deliberations will help us in evolving New Dalit Agenda.

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    Deadline for submission of the papers: 10 October 2007

    Mailing address for applications: Ashok Bharti National Convener National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) M-3/22, Model Town-III, Delhi 110009 Email:

    ‘India as a Global Power: An Action Agenda for the United States,’ July 14, 2005, which stated that the US will make India into a “great power”. This was unveiled in the Bush administration strategy paper ‘A New Strategy for South Asia’, March 2005, where the US invited India to collaborate with it militarily and economically in exchange for this “great power” status.8

    The Indian government under prime minister Manmohan Singh welcomed this alliance with the belief that India will now become a great power both at the regional level and internationally. Two agreements between India and the US in June and July 2005 tie India with the US with the intent “to transform Indo-US relations” stating that: “The leaders of our two countries are building a US-India strategic partnership in pursuit of these principles and interests”.9

    Military Links

    A number of military links between India and the US have been entered into and a number of others are awaiting approval. The new framework for India-US defence relationship, June 2005, states that (1) the two countries shall conduct jointly exercises and exchanges, (2) colla borate on multilateral operations, (3) streng then capabilities to defeat terrorism, (4) expand interaction to promote regional global peace and stability, (5) enhance capabilities to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, (6) expand the two-way defence trade between the two countries,

    (7) build greater under standing between our defence establishments, (8) conduct peacekeeping operations, etc.10

    This agreement is comprehensive, allo wing India to become a base for US military activities on a wide scale. This sanctions naval exercises in the Straits of Malacca, Alaska, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, as also military exercises in Mizoram and elsewhere. The Pentagon argues that collaborations or inter-operatability with the Indian military will help the US military agenda related to counter terrorism, countering proliferation, peacekeeping, anti-narcotics operations, etc. Suggestions to deepen cooperation in the Indian Ocean are proposed.11 In 2006, India and the US agreed to sign a military logistics support and maritime support agreement to ensure and secure the maritime environment.12 The defence framework supports the Access and Cross Servicing Agreement (Logistics Support Agreement) that gives US ships access to Indian naval facilities for maintenance and repairs. This essentially means that warships can practically use Indian facilities without a formal base. Regular joint naval exercises are part of these agreements. With this clause, India by proxy becomes part of the US, Japan and Australia axis that seeks to dominate the high seas in the region.

    US strategists argue that India’s naval capability is superior to that of the Asso ciation of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. India can thus provide the US easy access to the entire region and can be used for the US Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The Defence Framework make no direct mention of the US-sponsored PSI or the Container Security Initiative (CSI). These initiatives give the US and other members the right to apprehend any ship/ container that they believe may be carrying WMDs or nuclear material. In other words, just like Iraq was attacked on the suspicion of the existence of WMDs, a similar attack could be carried out on any container/ship in international waters. India’s linkage with these initiatives and US military exercises binds the country to these operations. But the scope of the Defence Framework and later agreements is so wide that it can be indirectly used for the PSI. The Framework thus allows complete access of the US military to Indian military assets of and facilities to advance its hegemonic agenda in Asia and Africa. Indian strategists who want a “Blue Water” navy are willing to be part of the US naval adventures in exchange. This is in sharp contrast to India’s traditional position of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace safeguarded by India.

    As Rashid and Pervovich state, in 2005 and 2006 there were 21 Indo-US meetings on issues ranging from defence procurement, military service to service, trade and commerce, etc to establish a comprehensive and long-term strategic partnership between the US and India. And further that “the president has approached the new relationship with India with a clear vision of the geopolitical challenges likely to confront the US in the 21st century”.13 By July 2006 prime minister Manmohan Singh had already promised that in exchange for nuclear supplies India would separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities, place the latter under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, maintain a moratorium on testing and work with the US to conclude the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty.14

    Democracy as Intervention?

    The Defence Framework was followed by the Manmohan Singh’s and president Bush’s July 18, 2005 resolve to create a Indo-US “Global Partnership” and agreements on the Global Democracy Initiative, where the two would be committed to promoting democracy in third countries on a global scale. Both countries dedicated $ 10 million a year to promote democracy globally. The question is do both countries have the same vision on democracy? The US believes that Russia and Venezuela are not democracies; they believe that Hamas is a “terrorist organisation” and do not recognise it, despite its electoral victory. The US is the mainstay of Israel’s policies in Palestine. India has long critiqued the idea of international intervention on the grounds of human rights, democracy or any other social clause. Does the Global Democracy Initiative bind India to this vision? Is India going to participate with the US in spreading democracy to central Asia, Pakistan and Iraq? If not, why do they need a common fund and initiative?

    The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture brings the US agricultural multinational companies and products into Indian agriculture that Indian agri cultural scientists argue are based on unequal access. As opposed to this, India’s interest in becoming a member of the UN Security Council, in its bid to become a great power, is not mentioned in any Indo-US document.15 The Hyde Act and the 123 Agreements have to be placed in this context.

    123 Agreement

    The 123 Agreement is more than just an agreement on nuclear supplies and should be viewed in the broader context of this new alignment. The Hyde Act of the US forms the perpetual framework for this Treaty. It is a US National Act in keeping with nuclear non-proliferation and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).16 The Hyde Act makes special changes to enable the US to supply nuclear fuel and technologies to India as an exception, in return for safeguards and inspections by the (IAEA) and also certifications by the US president to the US Congress on India’s overall foreign policy positions. The next step for India to operationalise this agreement would be to sign similar agreements with the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

    The Hyde Act states that while exporting nuclear fuel or technology to India the US has to abide by the following: The American president will report and certify annually to the US Congress if India’s foreign policy is “congruent to that of the US” and more specifically on India joining US efforts in isolating and even sanctioning Iran.17 The US will cease nuclear cooperation if India conducts a test. And all materials including reprocessed material will be returned.18 This Act demands that India participate and ultimately support the PSI that we mentioned above, which enables the US to intercept ships in international seas. 19 This Act wants to bind India into various US initiated treaties and regimes of which India is not part of, including the MTCR, Fissile Material Cut off Treaty, etc.20 The advisory in the Hyde Act points to specific issues that the US wants India to do. These include that India sign the FMCT, and the PSI, that India sign up to the Australia group and the Wassenar Arrangement, and that India “dissuade, isolate, sanction and contain” Iran. The US would pressurise India on all these issues and eventually as India gets more bound, violations on these counts would lead to suspension of the agreement and a return of the nuclear technology and fuels.

    The text of the 123 Agreement was kept a secret until the Indian union cabinet cleared it and it became binding. Public and parliamentary discussion followed only after it became irreversible. The 123 Agreement has been reworked by Indian and US negotiators to make it more palatable since the Indian political class outside the ruling, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) found the Hyde Act highly discriminatory. Thus some of its provisions remain ambiguous and the text is open to divergent interpretations. But this ambiguity will remain only until the 123 Agreement has been operationalised.

    Once through, the US can interpret this to its convenience. It should be remembered that as an act of the US Congress, the Hyde Act is a national law which is binding on the US in the 123 Agreement. This will have serious implications when India spends billions of dollars for some seven per cent of its energy requirements, ties itself to US defence imports and has to mortgage its foreign policy in perpetuity.

    The argument by the Indian foreign minister that India is not bound by the Hyde Act is at best partial because the US which is party to the agreement is bound by it. The Hyde Act functions as “national law” which binds the US. There is no ambiguity in the agreement on this at all. Article 2 of the 123 Agreement states that the parties to the agreement “shall implement this Agreement in accor dance with the respective applicable treaties, national laws, regulations, and licence requirements concerning the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes”. This Article 2 can be used by the US at any time to delay, deny or disapprove nuclear supplies and to

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    therefore pressurise India on any foreign policy or domestic policy decision. India’s independent decision-making gets curtailed in this Agreement in perpetuity. There can be no doubt that the 123 Agreement is bound by the Hyde Act.

    While there is much debate on the fine print of this text, as far as the strategic shift in foreign policy is concerned several things are clear:

  • (1) The 123 Agreement is discriminatory. It imposes a test ban, and more (the reasons for terminating the Agreement are deliberately ambiguous) without similar commitments by the US.21 This is a virtual acceptance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) rejected by the US, without any reference to global and regional disarmament, that makes the deal not only unequal but directed towards capping India’s nuclear deterrence. US under secretary of state Nicholas Burns has categorically stated that India’s nuclear reprocessing facilities would in fact come under IAEA safeguards in perpetuity and the agreement would not support the weapons programme. The Indian government denies this, leaving much ambiguity on the issue.
  • However, for advocates of peace and anti-nuclear weaponisation, like the authors, a decision on test ban and nuclear disarmament should be India’s sovereign decision. In its covert support to the Israeli nuclear programme and to the apartheid South African regime, no such conditions were laid down. These deals were clandestine but the fact is that nothing in the US law stopped them. So the US argument that the US Atomic Energy Act, 1954, etc, bans any such deal or preferential treatment, including vital provisions providing reprocessing technology, is simply not true.
  • (2) Given the latitude provided for the termination of the agreement, uninterrupted nuclear fuel supply is not guaranteed. Thus, if the US finds any Indian foreign policy position going against its national interest, for example, the US is particulary interested in our cooperation with Iran, non-participation in the PSI or FMCT, it can mean that the US can cut off fuel supplies leading to disruptions.
  • (3) Nuclear power energy at present is
  • 2.6 per cent of total power capacity. India projects that it will produce 20,000 MW in 2020, but that will still be only 7 per cent of the total energy generated. The US has built no nuclear plant since 1973, yet it will become a major technical supplier because of the strategic partnership. Congressional reports, for example, show that General Electric will be the main US company to gain from this.22 Scientists have calculated that for importing 30,000 MW e of power reactors, the capital investments will be at least about Rs 1,2,00,000 crore.23 Other scientists have argued that the “much hyped promise of nuclear technology doesn’t translate to much in real terms. Long years of isola


    tion have made us self-sufficient….” Questions are thus raised whether India can afford disruptions of fuel supply and more important, as former prime minister V P Singh questioned, can India afford so much for the sake of such a strategic tie up? Besides this, there are other key questions, like the safety and disposal of nuclear waste, alternate sources of energy, like thorium, and its future that remain unanswered.

    (4) It is crystal clear that this constitutes a drastic shift in India’s strategic course, by tying India to the US and making it dependent on the US for fuel and technology. India’s foreign policy decisions will have to be endorsed by the US and coincide with US interests. India will be able to make more untested nuclear weapons that will increase the threat perceptions globally and fuel a nuclear arms race. The exclusions given to India in the nuclear non-proliferation regime will push other countries to do the same, opening the flood gates for the spread of nuclear weapons. Traditional and historically tested allies like Russia, the central Asian and west Asian countries will feel alienated from India and its new pro-US alignment.

    India’s Foreign Policy Vision

    India officially continues to adhere to non-alignment. Many of the recent documents on India’s foreign policy focus on the concept of a multipolar world as opposed to the US commitment of a unipolar world. The unipolar concept entails US domination to include unilateral decisions on areas of key US interest, placing US law above international law, forced globali sation, containment of states, regime change, unilateral attacks on “rogue” states, US style democracy, non-proliferation enforced by the US, etc. The concept of a multipolar world on the other hand is based on the existence of multiple power centres, multilateral institutions and laws, plural methods of development, democracy and markets, coexistence of multiple cultures, etc. It is supported by Russia, China, France and many other countries. India has seen it as an extension of the idea of non-alignment.

    US policymakers reject the idea of both non-alignment and the multipolar concept and have launched a campaign to convince India about these. For example: secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who announced in March 2005, that it was US policy to “help” India become a world power, said in June 2005 that New Delhi would have to abandon “old ways of thinking and old ways of acting”.25 Speaking to the US-India Business Council, she said: “I know there are some that still talk about non-alignment in foreign policy…..It has lost its meaning”.26 She has repeated this in different words, asking India to drop non-alignment and join instead “the coalition of democracies” led by the US. Strobe Talbott, former deputy national security advisor to the Clinton administration called the multipolar concept “a pretty stupid proposition”.27 In India, sections of the press and so-called strategic thinkers have since been echoing these words and sentiments.

    US pressure is working on India. In September 2005 India went against the rest of the non-aligned movement (NAM) countries and voted with the US on sanctions against Iran. Thus India, which from 1995-2005 India opposed the US in the UN on 80 per cent of all its votes, has now voted with them on sanctions against Iran, opposition to a Small Arms and Light Weapons Treaty, on the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No wonder then, India has stopped talking of democratisation of the United Nations and its goal of joining the Security Council.

    Impact on the Region

    The Indo-US engagements have raised threat perceptions in the entire Asia Pacific region. Even US Congress and policy analysts have noted that the new US linkages with India have “significant implications” for Asia and on US relations with Pakistan and China.28

    China Angle

    The Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherji has asserted that India rejects “outmoded” practices such as the “balance of power” between India and China. The US however adheres to it and it forms the crux of their relations in Asia where the containment of China is part of national security doctrines. Strategic advisors to the Indian government accept this thesis as central to their understanding. It is used to justify nuclear weaponisation and now to accept the 123 Agreement.

    Advisors and analysts including Terescita Schaeffer, Selig Harrison and others project the importance of India as a nuclear and economic power to “counterbalance China”.29 This is mirrored by Indian strategic analysts like K Subrahmanyam who argue that India must “balance China” as the “major balancers of powers would like”. They project China as a perpetual threat, playing on select memory of past Sino-Indian relations, and advocate that now “China is a surrogate threat to India through its proliferation of nuclear technologies to Pakistan”.30Will a combination of the most powerful state in the world, the US combined with India “balance” China? Or will such an alliance upset the “balance” and stability by sheer military might and threaten China, thus leading up to a new nuclear race? The stabilisation of Sino-Indian relations after almost a dozen rounds of bilateral talks and significant trade relations can once again be destabilised and result in increased militarisation. The Chinese response to the Indo-US nuclear deal is muted but firmly critical of the US on its double standards on nuclear proliferation. They will in all likelihood oppose India in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, when the issue comes up there.

    Pakistan’s Threat Perceptions

    The confidence-building measures that India and Pakistan have engaged in over the past few years are in jeopardy. Pakistan’s National Command Authority, chaired by general Pervez Musharraf said that the Indo-US deal “would destabilise the subcontinent and fuel a nuclear arms race”.31 The belief of some strategic analysts that an arms race will benefit India’s development is misplaced. Pakistan is already urging China for further access to nuclear technologies. The confidence-building between India-Pakistan and India-China will receive a blow. All the countries of south Asia are watching the Indo-US strategic embrace with trepidation. India’s old position of keeping the US out of the subcontinent’s politics has not only been reversed, but India is being seen as the state that will further the US interests in this region and beyond.

    Other Fallouts

    Our traditional time tested relations with Russia and west Asian countries will clearly get disrupted as we get involved in US hegemonic policies. India’s close defence tie up with Israel is testimony to this. India’s old position of support to the Palestine cause is much more muted. India voted with the US on sanctions against Iran and then abstained a second time. The US policy that has demonised Islam and propagated the idea of “clash of civilisations” goes against our fundamental

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    values. The strategic shifts in foreign policy entail such fall outs.

    The Third World and the Strategic Shift

    India’s geostrategists have a changed perception vis-à-vis the third world and other NAM countries, which the country was historically aligned to. India has used both “soft power” and “hard power” options to increase its influence on third countries. This perception is based on the following assessments:

  • (1) India discontinued its government to government development cooperation with all but six bilateral donors (DFID, EC, Germany, Japan, USAID, Russian Federation). Instead donors could assist NGOs directly.
  • (2) India has gradually changed from a recipient of aid and assistance to a giver of aid. Minister of state for external affairs Rao Inderjit Singh stated in April 2005: “Our technical and economic cooperation programme – ITEC [to 156 states] is almost four decades old. …a rough monetary value to the wide range of training and other facilities that we have shared with our friends from Africa, I am sure he would estimate it at well above a billion dollars”.32
  • (3) India Development Initiative (IDI) dedicates a $1.5 billion soft credit fund over five years through the Exim Bank for supporting development projects mainly in Africa.
  • (4) India has leased an air base in Ayni in Tajikistan which it argues is for nonmilitary purposes, but others see this is as part of India’s move towards increasing its strategic depth in central Asia.
  • (5) India has assisted Afghanistan in projects that range from roads to hospital building as a way of maintaining its influence in the region. It has extended more than $100 million in credit to the outlawed Myanmar regime, including for upgrading their railway. India has thus emerged as Myanmar’s second largest market, absorbing 25 per cent of the country’s exports.
  • (6) India maintains its influence in several south Asian states like Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, as is well known.
  • In this context India has gradually disengaged from the large southern groups that it once partnered and has played a key role in forming new groups like the G-4, G-15, G-20 and G-33. India has become part of many regional groupings, like India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), as a more direct way of promoting South-South Cooperation as well as establishing a stronger political and economic relationship. Other African countries are now asking why they are not included, as the Ugandan president did, while offering India direct supplies of Uranium.33 India sees this as better way of negotiating rather than joining with others who are “left behind”. This gradual but significant disengagement with the third world is driven by India’s great power perceptions. Its aid policies follow the intentions of the west in the creation of markets for Indian capital. The concept of “soft power” policies remains part of the neo-realist framework, where the interest of the state is primary, regardless of the impact on citizens.

    National Interests and the Calculus of Power

    India’s foreign policy shifts have been justified in terms of the “national interest”. The hollowness of this realist concept has been exposed further in the recent debates in Parliament and outside, where both the proponents and critics of the 123 Agreement claim to uphold the national interest and yet have diametrically opposed positions to the agreement as well as what constitutes the national interest. Clearly the national interest is nothing more than a legitimating ideology.

    The concept of power needs to be examined since the whole exercise of shifting India’s foreign policy is based on the goal of achieving “great power status”. Similarly, the US is presenting to India this “great power” package. Neither of the two however has explained what this “great power” is for? Do they have common perceptions on this power? Clearly, the US wants India to be a power as part of its “hub and spokes” principles, where they need partners to further their international positions. The ruling party wants India to be a great power to give its elite greater access to a globalising world. Both want power “over others”, power to dominate internationally and regionally. Neither wants it in terms of empowering common people. The Indian government has not explained the implications and fallouts of this new military alliance with the US.


    The strategic shifts in India’s foreign policy are far reaching. The time tested tenet of non-alignment is being cast off as an outmoded concept and is being systematically replaced by a strategic alliance with the US. India’s stated aim of sustaining a multipolar world has received a severe setback. India’s repeated advocacy for global nuclear disarmament is muted and militarisation endorsed. The strategic shifts tie India into a web of defence arrangements that give logistic support and engage in exercises with the US military, lending support to US designs to maintain an unequal global order and sustain US hegemony. Becoming a strategic partner of the US lends support to its positions like its Ballistic Missile Defence and various political manoeuvres at a time where even its old partners in Europe and elsewhere want to disassociate from it. In addition India gets associated with the cultural aspects of the US war against terrorism, including the ideas of “clash of civilisations”, “with us or against us”, “rogue states” and the demonisation of Islam. It links us to US policies that endanger ordinary citizens and create national security states.In addition, India gets bound in discriminatory treaties which the country had opposed when it did not consider itself a great power. The Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement are just the culmination of this policy of strategic subservience to the US. And most of this has been done behind the back of Parliament, keeping the Indian people in the dark. It is important to contest this shift in Indian foreign policy and return India to a non-militarist peaceful path that remains independent and non-aligned.



    1 Joint Vision 2020, ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’,

    US Department of Defence, May 2000, at:

    2 Ibid. 3 ‘The National Security Strategy of the US’,

    2002, at:

    pdf This perception is repeated in their 2005

    Doctrine as well. 4 The Washington Post editorial: “It [India] can

    help the US as a trading partner and as a

    strategic counterweight against China”, quoted

    by Amit Baruah, ‘China Will Give India, US

    a Hard Time at the NSG’, Hindustan Times,

    August 19, 2007, p 6. 5 E Bork and G Schmitt, ‘A NATO for Asia:

    Project for a New American Century’, http:// htm

    6 Congress Records Service, Washington (CRS) Report for the Congress, US-India Bilateral Agreements in 2005, September 2005, available at: crs/rl33072.pdf.

    7 National Security Strategy of the United States at; NIC Report, ‘Mapping the Global Future’ at html.

    8 ‘Background Briefing by Administration Officials on US-South Asia Relations’, March 25, 2005, at ps/2005/43853.htm. Also, Ashley Tellis, former senior advisor to the US ambassador in New Delhi, ‘India as a New Global Power’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 2005, at files/

    9 Ibid.

    10 ‘New Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship’, June 28, 2005, at[http:// June/31.htm.

    11 Suggested in David Fulghum, “Indian ‘Scare,’” Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 4, 2004, cited in: CRS Report for the Congress, US-India Bilateral Agreements in 2005, September 2005, available at: http:// pdf.

    12 US statement on president Bush’s visit to India, Februrary 22, 2006, at: http://www.whitehouse. gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060302-13. html.

    13 Ibid.

    14 Faiza Rashid and George Pervovich, ‘A Survey of the Progress in US-India Relations’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 2005, at files/

    15 ‘Joint Statement between President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’, July 18, 2005, at rls/pr/2005/49763.htm. ‘New Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship’, June 28, 2005, at htm. See also CRS Issue Brief IB93097, India-US.

    16 The MTCR was used for the Soviet Union to deny it access to even the most basic technology. It continues to be used for Russia and many others.

    17 Henry J Hyde US-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, Public Law 109-401 (2006). Now on The Hyde Act, Section 104g(2) E(i).

    18 The Hyde Act, Section 106 and Section 104

    (3) (B). 19 The Hyde Act, Section 104g(2) K. 20 The Hyde Act, Section 104c E,F,G. 21 123 Agreement between US and India, Text,

    Asian Age, August 4, 2007.

    22 Adam Entous, ‘With Bush’s Help, GE Courts Indian PM, Nuke Sector’, Reuters, July 23, 2005.

    23 A Gopalakrishnan, ‘Assured Fuel Supply a Miracle’? Asian Age, August 5, 2007.

    24 P K Iyengar, ‘123 Agreement Is a Gilded Cage’, Asian Age, August 17, 2007.

    25 Condoleezza Rice quoted in Financial Times, London August 3, 2007, p 5.

    26 Ibid.

    27 Strobe Talbot, in Padma Desai, Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, p 180.

    28 CRS Report for the Congress, US-India Bilateral Agreements in 2005, September 2005, available at: awc/awcgate/crs/rl33072.pdf.

    29 CRS Report for the Congress, US-India Bilateral Agreements in 2005, September 2005, available at: awc/awcgate/crs/rl33072.pdf.

    30 K Subrahmanyam, ‘Calling off the Deal’, The Times of India, August 20, 2007, pp 1 and 17.

    31 Financial Times, London, August 4-5, 2007, p 3.

    32 Speech by minister of state for external affairs, Rao Inderjit Singh at the South African Institute for International Affairs Johannesburg, April 4, 2005, at http://

    33 Indian Express, August 11, 2007, p 8.

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