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India does not see tension between being nationalistic or international

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Manisha Sarade
Manisha Sarade
Student at National Law University, Mumbai.

Foreign policy is designed to defend the national interests of the state. Modern foreign policy has become rather complex. In the past, foreign policy may have concerned itself primarily with policies solely linked to national interest–for example, military power or treaties. Currently, foreign policy incorporates trade, finance, human rights, environmental, and cultural issues. All of these issues, by some means, impact how countries interact with one another and how they pursue their national interests worldwide. Currently, the drug Hydroxychloroquine is acting as the centre of diplomacy for India.

The Prime Minister of India emerged as a pioneer in COVID-19 diplomacy. He led a virtual COVID-19 summit with the SAARC nations and committed 10 million dollars to the SAARC. The virtual G20 summit was inspired by the SAARC initiative. PM Modi has emerged as one of the world leaders vocal on the issue that the international community needs cooperation to fight the pandemic. India explored an information exchange platform (IEP) to enable exchange of expertise amongst South Asian health professionals. Inputs and contributions from such forums would help India overcome its own public health challenges, as the pandemic stretches its size.

World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende interviewed EAM Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on India’s economic, political and social outlook in 2019. Fitting well in the given context, he told the WEF President “We don’t see tension between being nationalistic and being international in the sense of dealing and engaging more with the world”. It suggests and hints towards how States have “internal” and “external” identities, where internal identities provide state cohesion and external identities establish distinctiveness —the two are related and mutually reinforcing. States may adopt foreign policies that seem unreasonable but are consistent with a purported national character. In the current scenario of supplying Hydroxychloroquine, a shift in multilateral priorities towards global development is consistent with India’s own domestic and foreign policy interests.

In fact, such an approach is not new to India. As early as 1964, New Delhi established the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme to support and aid fellow developing countries. Among other support, the ITEC provides partners with training on a wide range of contemporary policy issues, delegates Indian experts abroad, and provides consultancy services on capacity building. The Indian government also participates in sharing best practices in governance with partner countries through various forums. In 2012, New Delhi founded the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) to assist the implementation of development projects worldwide. In the past, India has also given aid under a variety of programmes to a growing number of States.

Traditionally also, there are glimpses of a similar approach. For example, Vivekananda’s Vedanta offers alike comments on the contemporary political dynamics. His concept of ‘whole world as one family’ lays down a reminiscent model for our foreign policy in the present times. Vivekananda never sought the isolation of India from other nations but urged Indians to assimilate the best that had been accumulated by the culture of all mankind. He made an appeal for peace and friendship among all the nations of the world, which is the cornerstone of the Indian tradition, the main content of the Indian national character. Beside advocating the theory of the whole world being a single family, his approach to internationalism is different from the western concept, which is a logical outcome of the modern concept of a sovereign state.

According to Vivekananda, internationalism stands for a family of self-respecting and self-governing nations united to each other by ties of equality and living at peace and concord with each other. This concept of Vivekananda is based upon the Vedantic principle of universality of self. His declaration that each nation is born with its own peculiarity and individuality and represents, one peculiar note in the harmony of nations. He stated that unity of man emphasizes the synthesis of his interests, which seems very relevant and true in the present setting. He correctly realized that no nation can live confined to itself, particularly in these days when science and technology have brought man so near each other and made them interdependent. The way to universal goodwill navigates through realization of the unity of existence and the solidarity of mankind.

Another example is of Gaudapada, an Indian teacher of the eighth century, who proclaimed the solidarity of all existence, which seeks the happiness and welfare of all beings, and which is free from all conflict and contradiction.

In a turbulent environment such as this, where each country is so deeply networked with each other, it’s important to build stakes in big power relationships regardless of the contradictions. India’s ability to engage with these nations (despite problems with few of them), illustrates this best. The effort has been to take a longer-term view of the relationship, so that differences don’t turn into disputes.
In conclusion, such globalization may invest the national project with a new meaning and significance, that of mapping out a future for nations in an increasingly globalized and interdependent world. In this sense, it may not so much make nations irrelevant as force them to reinvent themselves, continuing to provide societies with a source of social cohesion and identity but within an increasingly fluid and competitive context.

Moreover, through a Ministry of External Affairs statement, the government tried to assure people that there was no risk on the stock of the required medicine running out and that their first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines for the requirement of its own people. Therefore, India seems to have overcome the above mentioned dilemma, and has navigated a complex system in which issues in domestic and foreign policy intertwine the lines of power and constantly influence change, where progressively swift decisions and skillful negotiations are required in the face of outbreaks of disease, security threats or other issues.

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Manisha Sarade
Manisha Sarade
Student at National Law University, Mumbai.
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