As he seeks a say in defining the agenda of the quadrilateral security dialogue with Japan, the United States, and Australia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heralding his country’s self-confident pursuit of enlightened self-interest with all the major powers.
The proposition that India must tilt to one side, toward Russia and China, and keep its distance from the United States is a legacy from the 1970s. It does not square with contemporary reality.
The durability of the Indo-Pacific dynamic will depend essentially on New Delhi’s willingness to work with the United States and its allies in the region.
The rise of China and the turbulence in U.S. domestic politics have created great disorder, but they have also opened up room for creative Indian diplomacy in Asia.
The Indian, Japanese, and U.S. effort to connect the Pacific and Indian Oceans could be an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and enhance the bargaining power of small countries vis-a-vis Beijing.
In demanding that Pakistan suspend cross-border terrorism and asking that India play a larger role in the region, Trump and Tillerson have begun to clear the path for strategic regional coordination between India and the United States.
New Delhi must find ways to effectively intervene in the limited but inviting strategic space that is opening up between the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The BRICS summit highlights the need for India’s foreign policy relations with China, Russia, and the United States to reflect pragmatism and realism rather than idealism.
While the Trump administration’s efforts to get tough on Pakistan face challenges and potential dangers, the change in stance signals a new political will to pursue previously untried measures which offer some hope of success.
India must its increase its economic diplomacy and security cooperation with Afghanistan while countering the narrative that the success of the revised U.S. policy toward South Asia hinges on Kashmir.