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India and the International Order: Accommodation and Adjustment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2018


India is gradually changing its course from decades of inward-looking economics and strong anti-Western foreign policies. It has become more pragmatic, seeing important economic benefits from globalization, and some political benefits of working with the United States to achieve New Delhi's great-power aspirations. Despite these changes, I argue that India's deep-seated anti-colonial nationalism and commitment to strategic autonomy continues to form the core of Indian identity. This makes India's commitment to Western-dominated multilateral institutions and Western norms, such as humanitarian intervention, partial and instrumental. Thus, while Indian foreign-policy discourse shows little sign of seeking to fully challenge the U.S.-led international order beyond largely reformist measures of building parallel institutions such as the New Development Bank, India will continue to strongly resist Western actions that weaken sovereignty norms.

Roundtable: Rising Powers and the International Order
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 2018 

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1 Chris Ogden offers a compelling exposition of India's different levels of engagement with the global order and underlying conceptions. See Ogden, Chris, “Great-Power Aspiration and Indian Conceptions of International Society,” in Gaskarth, Jamie, ed., China, India and the Future of International Society (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), pp. 5370 Google Scholar.

2 See, for example, the views of former senior Indian diplomat in, Shyam Saran How India Sees the World (New Delhi: Juggernaut Books, 2017), pp. 3032 Google Scholar.

3 See one of the authors, Sunil Khilnani, “Understanding Nonalignment 2.0,” India Abroad, March 30, 2012. For the full document, see Sunil Khilnani et al., “Nonalignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the Twenty-First Century,” (2012), p. 8,

4 See, for example, Saran, How India Sees the World, p. 30.

5 Ollapally, Deepa and Rajagopalan, Rajesh, “India: Foreign Policy Perspectives of an Ambiguous Power,” in Nau, Henry and Ollapally, Deepa, eds., Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan and Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 73113 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Muthiah Alagappa, “A Changing Asia-Pacific: Prospects for War, Peace, Cooperation and Order,” The Kippenberger Lecture 2010, Centre for Strategic Studies, New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, CSS Discussion Paper 09/11 (2011), p. 29.

7 Hurrell, Andrew, “Hegemony, Liberalism and Global Order: What Space for Would-Be Great Powers?International Affairs 82, no. 1 (2006), p. 10CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Shiping Tang's idea of order as multilayered is welcome in this regard. See his Order: A Conceptual Analysis,” Chinese Political Science Review 1, no. 1 (2016), pp. 3046 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 See, for example, Kishore Mahbubani, “Will India Emerge as an Eastern or Western Power,” Occasional Paper Number 27 (February 2007), Center for the Advanced Study of India, Philadelphia, Pa. See also Ogden, “Great-Power Aspiration,” p. 54.

10 See, respectively, Cohen, Stephen, India: Emerging Power (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2001), pp. 6691 Google Scholar; Mohan, C. Raja, Crossing the Rubicon: The Shaping of India's New Foreign Policy (New Delhi: Viking Books, 2003)Google Scholar; and Shashi Tharoor, in V. Vasudevan, “Tharoor Criticises Nehru's ‘Moralistic’ Foreign Policy,” DNA, January 10, 2010,

11 Ollapally, Deepa and Rajagopalan, Rajesh, “The Pragmatic Challenge to Indian Foreign Policy,” Washington Quarterly 34, no. 2 (2011), pp. 145–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Menon, Shivshankar, Choices: Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2016), p. 129Google Scholar.

13 It was only after the 2008 financial crisis that the G-20 was upgraded to include annual meetings of the top leadership of member countries.

14 European Commission Statement, “G-20 Leaders’ Declaration: Shaping an Interconnected World,” Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017;

15 Author interview with senior Indian diplomat, New Delhi, India, April 2017.

16 For the minister of environment's response, see Liz Mathew and Amitabh Sinha, “Tougher Pollution Laws Soon, Vows Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar,” Indian Express, May 4, 2015, The newspaper is still publishing articles under the heading “Death by Breath.” For the entire collection, see

17 See, for example, “India's Modi Says Energy Pledge Not Based on Foreign Pressure,” Daily Mail, February 15, 2015,

18 Ollapally, Deepa and Mahalingam, Sudha, “Indian Perspectives on Energy Security: Convergence and Divergence,” in Mochizuki, Mike M. and Ollapally, Deepa M., eds., Energy Security in Asia and Eurasia (Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 2017), p. 82Google Scholar.

19 See Amiti Sen, “India, US Lock Horns over Intellectual Property at WTO,” Hindu Business Line, November 11, 2016,

20 Kahler, Miles, “Rising Powers and Global Governance: Negotiating Change in a Resilient Status Quo,” International Affairs 89, no. 3 (2013), p. 715CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 “Fourth BRICS Summit: Delhi Declaration,” New Delhi, March 29, 2012,

22 Leslie Maasdorp, “As the BRICS New Development Bank Turns Two, What Has It Achieved?” World Economic Forum, September 1, 2017,

23 For systematic analysis of China's growing networks, see Nadine Godehardt, “No End of History: A Chinese Alternative Concept of International Order?” SWP Research Paper, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin (January 2016), pp. 1–24.

24 See “Asia's Rising Powers at the BRICS Summit,” Rising Powers Initiative (Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.), Policy Alert #25, April 11, 2012,