In Dialogue: India’s Presence in the Indo-Pacific

In this month’s ‘In Dialogue’, we invite Sankaran Krishna and Aditi Malhotra to examine India’s position within the current geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific.

For many, India fails to receive the kind of attention generated by China, Russia or Japan when it comes to the region, which may, in part, be due to New Delhi’s careful positioning. While the human rights record of Narendra Modi’s government remains far from impeccable, Western leaders continue to talk up India’s role as a more ‘democratic’ and ‘human-rights based’ regional partner (mainly in opposition to China).

Together, Sankaran Krishna and Aditi Malhotra discuss the following question:

Should India enhance its geopolitical footing in global and regional political affairs?

Yes, India should enhance its footing in global and regional political affairs. India’s conduct in the Indo-Pacific has been subject to an ongoing debate, especially considering its weakness in actively shaping regional geopolitics. Yet, undoubtedly, New Delhi has come a long way compared to its South Asia-centric outlook of the 1990s. It remains a relevant regional actor today and continues to attract unprecedented attention from external actors (particularly the US and its allies) for its potential to balance Beijing in the Indo-Pacific region and eventually assume a more global role. Since the turn of the century, India has been viewed as an alternate model to China in Asia, with special mention of its democratic credentials and economic potential. Even New Delhi declares itself as a major power with prominent geopolitical, economic, and security interests in the Indo-Pacific.

Despite that, India’s role in the Indo-Pacific’s contemporary geopolitical scenario remains far from being an effective regional actor. This is not to suggest that New Delhi should involve itself in all headline-grabbing issues or seek to become the rule-maker or dominant leader. However, to live up to its self-conceived role as a leading/major power, it is incumbent on the Indian leadership to shape regional developments in a more involved, consistent and constructive manner.

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