India’s Multi-Alignment is India-led, India-only.
It is usually claimed that multi-alignment, which is India’s foreign policy ethic, not a policy per se, like non-alignment, is vague and tailored for retaining strategic ambiguity and earning some gains from any act of strategic hedging.
However, I see that there are some passionate and dispassionate claims about whether some partners are irritated or some create no sense of flexibility for India to lead for multi-alignment. My disagreement with this approach is that if Russia is considered even a partner which does not create flexibility for India, which might be true in some not all issues, even other partners such as the UK, the United States and others lack flexibility too.
Well, what are those parameters of flexibility and agility? Why do I ask this?
Well, I do because it would be funny to see what constitutes the same. A policy ethic can be seen as a tool which serves a power’s interests, which practices the same. But it is also true that those who favour a bloc, presume that this policy ethic can serve the interests of the foreign actors too, just because the policy ethic is merely adopted. However, a clear determination of realism thinking makes me realise that countries can feel free to disagree and take their positions reasonably. If it is assumed that the United States has a value-based commitment to some countries and wishes to focus on that embrace, it is perfectly plausible for India to multi-align and adopt strategic hedging as a neutral power. Many people had stated that India’s Russia relationship is “toxic”. It does not seem that way actually. Russia is not active enough, but claiming it to be toxic, only decreases the credibility of some IR academics, who have zero clue about the policy realities we all humans live in.
Also multi alignment is not a replacement to multilateralism and alliance systems, isn’t it?
Is it rhetorical yet direct? Absolutely. The basis of the Indo-Pacific Quad is that it is a “21st century solution for 21st century problems”. So, somewhere, it can gauge the multilateral institutions, but still is not a replacement to the multilateral institutions. Similarly, AUKUS (despite being very much centred around the US, the UK and Australia) is not some SEATO 2.0 or Asian NATO. Very well then. Even that Colombo Security Conference (India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Mauritius, with Bangladesh and Seychelles as observers) is a strategic forum. Older multilateral institutions since can fall or state inept or intact with less proclivity, clearly suggests that multi-alignment cannot replace multilateralism and collective security treaties. It can only create the space further, and even gather those lost territories of advantage, which help those countries.
If the answer to the question is yes, then it’s based on sovereign imperatives and power politics. It is just obvious.
Now, just examine this thread by Balaji S. Srinivasan and understand that even the proliferation of crypto demands state sovereignties to stay afloat, for example, in this case, of India and Israel.
And if someone doesn’t get this, sadly, the world is as it is for the Anglo-sphere. What can India do?
The Cold War era had clearly showed India its power limitations. India was still growing. Now, despite dependencies, India at least can shape its sovereign visions in the 21st century. I am glad that is visible.
And that is exactly what middle powers really do. I seek in multilateralism which is truly based on the realpolitik: something which countries develop by solving their own political puzzles. It isn’t some Battle Royale nor some Cold War 2.0 anymore. Power competition has to be seen differently. Maybe it is a clear agnostic limitation of those constructivists, who do not wish to look beyond the Anglophone countries. Congratulations, I cannot say much on your choices, but neorealism is the future.
The rules based order based on US supremacy had to fail due to systemic and obvious issues. The Five Eyes countries and their establishments knew it. Let’s be real. Dr Jaishankar stated that for even Europe, the Indo Pacific wasn’t even a concern until 2009 or so in MSC 2022.
Can there exist universal values? Some peripheral values can shape, so yes. So let the microwaves of realpolitik drifts happen. But it’s getting proven day by day. Even crypto integration requires state sovereignty to be solidified.
Either there are hard laws or soft laws. Either there are civilisation states or nation states.
Sovereignty as a strategic moat for geographies and societies will never go away. Despite the fact that people assume sovereignty to be tool of regressive ossification of global ambitions, and the waves of innovation and globalisation, which before the 20th century it was unfortunately reduced to, the realities have changed.
Let’s be real.
If international law scholars claim that public international law has to lead to a decentralised mode of global governance through the UN, the EU, etc., then that decentralised world is only possible through the churn of the realpolitik. China and the US now dominate the rules-based international order in their own ways. Powers usually are receptive about any possibility of having such struggles, which is why they consider that they must see, how escalations are avoided majorly. Even Saudi Arabia and the UAE are ignoring Joe Biden completely. This change is unprecedented. The European Parliament votes on sanctioning Hungary and Poland while both of these countries accept Ukrainian refugees and support the EU amidst the unfortunate crisis.
However, if it is claimed that decentralisation is a mythical or self-regulated exposition in global governance, then the scholars in the field of decoloniality, are correct in posturing that international law since the League of Nations till now, has been an imperialist centralised tool to govern the world. I heavily disagree with the decolonial thinkers because I seek multilateralism and its potential to solve global issues, still.
Future is helical for all civilizations. Evolution doesn’t stop. How it happens, we can’t just know. We can just estimate.
India mysteriously is in the best position to defend and influence multilateral institutions. The tenacity to shape and shift the scheme of multilateral institutions using the 3 Quadrilaterals and other forums, is justifiably going to be helpful and reasonable. Issue-based coalitions helps countries to hedge their leverage constraints. In fact, I would be wild enough to argue that the principles of bearing shared values, democratic virtues and moralism, are nothing but self-regulatory tools to shape the trajectory of international law, since power dynamics and their inscrutable realities completely shape the history of international law and its legitimacy, by all means.
Maybe, there are moral considerations on which countries agree. In my previous piece, I had argued that the humanitarian impact of conflicts leads to sympathy and concern for those who are badly affected, which is a general tendency. It seems clearer day by day, even if some people try to say that this even is the patronage of “shared values”. If my wild guess really makes so much sense.
It seems that international law is a decentralised legal corpse, shaping international lives, which are by all means, surely shaped by the weather and geographical realities of the realpolitik.
I rest my case on India’s multi-alignment.