Strike When The Iron Is Hot: It’s Time To Strengthen India’s Ties With West

Despite India’s aim to reconnect with the global south, its growing concerns about China’s increasing influence in the developing world have made it clear that geopolitics is not far behind.

Strike When The Iron Is Hot: It’s Time To Strengthen India’s Ties With West

India’s increased engagement with the global south—including its recent summit with developing nations and its G-20 presidency with a development-focused agenda—does not indicate a lessened interest in building stronger ties with the West. India’s diaspora, capital, technology and trade—all have the West as their foremost partner. Cooperation with the G-7—comprising the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan—is critical for India to meet the political and military challenges that China poses in the region. India’s dual orientation towards the West and the global south are converging, as both are expressions of New Delhi’s repositioning against Beijing’s growing hegemonic influence.

The West recognizes the importance of a strong India that can counter the growing influence of China and Russia among developing nations. The Biden Administration’s recent offer of various technologies to India, including jet engines, highlights the USA’s desire to strengthen ties with New Delhi despite its ambivalence towards Russia’s war in Ukraine. The US is also keen to incorporate India into a network of trusted global supply chains. Therefore, bringing India—which is poised to be the world’s third-largest economy in the very near future—into the G-7 process is the next step that the West can logically take. The G-7 is evolving from a forum solely for aligning economic policies to a bloc of leading democracies that cooperate on global security and other critical issues—including more effective competition with China and Russia.

India’s current outreach to the global south is not primarily geostrategic, but rather an effort to reconnect with a global constituency. During the Cold War, India had built up considerable goodwill in the global south, but has somewhat neglected these regions in recent years while focusing on finding its place in great-power relations, reconnecting with its neighbourhood and joining Asian regional institutions.

Renewed Interest in Global South

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently renewed his interest in the global south, which was partially prompted by the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on developing countries and the impact that Russia’s war with Ukraine has had on the world’s food and energy security. India’s growing economy, over the past three decades, has given it more ways to support and invest in poor nations. India’s presidency of the G-20 this year presents a significant diplomatic opportunity to build on this re-engagement with the global south.

Despite India’s aim to reconnect with the global south, its growing concerns about China’s increasing influence in the developing world have made it clear that geopolitics is not far behind. While India does not have the resources that China brings into play, it could partially fill the vacuum left by the West. However, India’s impact through acting alone would be limited, and partnering more closely with the West could provide much stronger competition to China, which is a geopolitical priority for both India and the West.

India is not alone in its concerns about China’s growing influence in the global south. Japan has also recognized this issue and is taking action. During his visit to the US in January this year, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the need for G-7 leaders to engage more with the global south and to do so with greater humility. Kishida warned that ignoring the global south could have serious consequences, stating that even if the developed world believed it was on the right path, being in the minority without the support of the global south would hinder efforts to resolve critical policy issues.

The Rising Influence of Japan

The rising influence of Japan in the geopolitical arena, coupled with its robust security policies, has made it an attractive partner for India. Japan’s unique position as the only Asian country in the G-7 can help bring more diversity and balance to Western policies and bring the group closer to India on regional issues. Prime Minister Kishida has expressed concern over the West’s inability to persuade a significant portion of the global south about the risks of Russian aggression against Ukraine, an issue on which India has remained silent due to its historical ties with the Soviet Union. Like India, Japan is also wary of China’s growing influence in the global south and has no interest in seeing it as a part of this bloc.

Japan and India have been strengthening their partnership in recent years to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. Both countries have also joined the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), alongside Australia and the US, due to their shared security concerns regarding China. Furthermore, India’s economic and security cooperation with Japan has been increasingly focused on the Western countries. This trend reflects the growing recognition among Tokyo and New Delhi that closer alignment with the West is essential for counter-balancing China’s aggressive designs in the region.

New Delhi sees itself as a power rooted in both the global south and the West. Its growing engagement with the G-7 reflects this approach. India’s attendance at G-7 summits has transitioned from being occasional since 2000 to becoming regular in recent years. India was a special guest at the 2019, 2021, and 2022 G-7 summits and Prime Minister Modi is expected to attend the upcoming summit in Hiroshima. By including India in the group, the West can gain greater influence and legitimacy with the global south.

The idea of expanding the G-7 to include democracies outside the geographic West, such as India, deserves more attention. Strengthening the group while maintaining its democratic values would benefit the US and G-7’s goals of weaning India away from Moscow and enabling it to compete with Beijing. It would also increase the West’s influence and legitimacy with the global south and help break the old East-West and North-South divides that have long shaped international conflicts and debates.

About The Author

Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst, and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Private Limited which is a Subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia.

(Views expressed are the author's own & do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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