Redrawing the arc of influence-India’s Foreign Policy

Deals with the India’s Foreign Policy (PM’s Visit to US & Israel)

The U.S. visit:

  • The Prime Minister charted a time-tested course, concentrating mainly on counter-terrorism and the defence security partnership, avoiding contentious trade-related issues.
  • The naming of the Hizbul Mujahedeen chief as a “specially designated global terrorist” and a “new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals” were the high points of the counter-terrorism agenda.
  • Reiteration of India’s position as a major defence partner and confirmation of the sale of the Guardian Unmanned Aerial System to India, reflected the deepening security and defence cooperation.

In the case of Israel:

  • The main focus of the visit was on defence cooperation, joint development of defence products and transfer of technology.
  • Most of the agreements signed related to transfer of technology and innovative technology-related items and India expects to benefit substantially, considering that Israeli export rules are far more flexible than those of the U.S.
  • Both countries also expressed a strong commitment to combat terror.
  • India and Israel decided to set up a $40 million Innovation Fund to allow Indian and Israeli enterprises to develop innovative technologies and products for commercial applications.
  • Israel was, no doubt, a resounding success, but Israel was already one of the very few countries which had shown a complete understanding of India’s defence and security needs, even ignoring the sanctions imposed on India by some countries.
  • Israel’s supply of critical defence items during the Kargil conflict (of 1999) is an excellent example.

China’s Presence:

  • China is a far bigger investor and trading partner of Israel than India.
  • India and Israel also have differences over China’s BRI: Israel is eager to participate in it, unlike India, and possibly views this as an opportunity to develop a project parallel to the Suez Canal.
  • China in Asia is already exercising some of the political and economic leverages that the U.S. previously possessed.
  • China has a significant presence in East and Southeast Asia, is steadily enlarging its presence in South Asia, and is also beginning to expand into West Asia.
  • For instance, China’s influence in Iran today appears to be at an all-time high, whereas India’s influence seems to be diminishing.
  • Most countries in the region also demonstrate a desire to join China-based initiatives.
  • Even in South Asia, despite India’s commanding presence, China has been successful in winning quite a few friends among India’s neighbours such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Peacekeeping with Russia:

  • The problem for India and Indian diplomacy is that at this time India-Russia relations appear less robust than at any time in the past half century.
  • India’s ‘Act East and Look West’ policies have given a new dimension to Indian diplomacy in both East and West Asia.
  • In both regions, however, but especially in West Asia, Indian diplomacy still lacks the nimbleness required to deal with fast-changing situations.
  • In West Asia, despite its long time presence in the region, a 9-million strong diaspora, and the region being its principal source of oil, India is not a major player today.

The ‘Act East’ policy:

  • The ‘Act East’ policy has produced better results. Closer relations with countries in East and South East Asia, especially Japan and Vietnam, are a positive development.

Cause of concern for India:

  • In the Asia-Pacific, India has to contend with an increasingly assertive China.
  • There is little evidence to show that India’s diplomatic manoeuvres individually, or with allies like Japan, have succeeded in keeping the Chinese juggernaut at bay — or for that matter provide an alternative to China in the Asia-Pacific.


What Indian diplomacy currently needs to do is to find a way to steer amid an assertive China, a hostile Pakistan, an uncertain South Asian and West Asian neighbourhood, and an unstable world. The strategic and security implications of these, individually and severally, need to be carefully validated and pursued. Indian diplomacy may possibly need to display still higher levels of sophistication to overcome the odds.


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