India’s foreign policy in 2018

  • In the past year, there has been change of government in most of the neighboring countries of India.
  • The  improvement in relationship between China and Russia can be influential to India’s interests in the world order. Moreover China’s BRI initiative has helped them get access to the deep routes in various south Asian countries.
  • According to strategists, India should be considerate towards its neighbors and listen to their interests rather than forcing them to follow our line of thinking. This will strengthen the faith of these countries on India.
  • India and its neighborhood: During the initial phase of the current government, ample of emphasis was given to the neighboring countries but later with time there was turbulence and unhealthy situations arising with Nepal, Pakistan and Maldives. But in the current year, the scenario has been favorable with most of India’s neighbors which is a positive sign to India’s current foreign policy with the south Asian nations.
  • Domestic dimension of India’s foreign policy in 2018: It was another milestone as after a long duration there has been domestic consensus on our foreign policy. This sends out an optimistic message to the world that Indian although may be largely polarized in its democracy and political situation but stands united when it comes its policy regarding its relation with other nations in the world.
  • Few highlights of 2018: Reality check with US president Donald Trump which has clearly indicated the strategic instability of US. Wuhan summit, an unusual phenomenon but extremely helpful and important in filling the gap between India and China which eventually led to peaceful and stable conditions around the Line of Actual Control (LOAC).
  • India showed its conviction towards maintaining good ties with Russia by showing interest in the Russian S-400 Triumf Missile System.
  • After a chaotic situation in Maldives, India has somehow managed to keep up its relationship with Maldives and has ensured continuity with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Current relations at a glance: –

India – US: India has continued practicing bilateral and trilateral military exercises with US and US continues to extend support by selling its advanced military weapons to India.

India – China: Although China still poses a sense of insecurity in the south Asian region, it has been on the same page with India in certain areas and has willingly participated in the Shanghai co-operation meetings.

India – Japan: India and Japan have collaborated to work on the Asia-Africa growth corridor and Indo-Pacific maritime security by holding trilateral meetings with the US.

India – Iran: India has continued to import oil even after US imposing sanctions on Iran. This clearly indicates India is no more entirely reliable on US and its allies.

India and Latin America: Latin American countries are facing unstable situations and the declining economies have not led to any significant change in the relation with India. Venezuela is facing financial crisis, Brazil’s newly appointed rightist power has shown differences in ideology with that of India. Hence, more needs to be done to strengthen India’s hold in Latin America.

Indepth Analysis of current policies: –
  • India and China
The Asian superpower’s economic and geostrategic ambitions will continue to shape India’s responses on almost every front, from its relations with the neighbourhood to the US and Russia in the West and ASEAN and Japan in the East. Despite the Wuhan meeting and the cooling of tensions caused by the Doklam standoff, and the inauguration of a “people to people” track during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit, many differences remain. But new opportunities too have arisen for cementing some cracks in the relations. Beijing, under pressure of its economic slowdown coinciding with the US trade war against it, is keen to build bridges in the region and elsewhere, at least for now. Former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has long made the case for a new modus vivendi to replace the strategic framework formulated in 1988 during Rajiv Gandhi’s visit, which served both countries well for three decades but is now under strain. According to Menon, a new framework should have: “respect for each other’s core interests; new areas of cooperation like counter-terrorism and maritime security and crisis management; a clearer understanding of each other’s sensitivities; settling or at least managing differences; and, a strategic dialogue about actions on the international stage”.
  • India and Pakistan
There will be no thaw in relations for the foreseeable future. The Kartarpur initiative or the release of long held prisoners by either side could have been leveraged by both for a wider engagement, but there is no inclination towards this. With the rhetoric, especially on the Indian side, becoming increasingly communal, the bilateral engagement is likely to remain trapped by the need for each side to come out the “winner” for domestic audiences. New Delhi is still in a funk about being upstaged by Pakistan’s decision to open the Kartarpur gurdwara to Indian pilgrims, and while hastily scrambling aboard the initiative, has denounced it as an ISI plot to revive secessionism in Punjab. While there may be more small gestures to keep a minimum engagement going, such as easing up visitor visas, it will be followed immediately by toxic rhetoric. The first half of 2019 could see Pakistan being used as a whipping post for the election campaign. A breakthrough, if any, could come with a different approach in Kashmir after the elections, and progress, if any, in ties with China, as India’s new big insecurities flow from the consolidation of China-Pakistan economic and security ties through the CPEC. Agreeing to maintain the ceasefire on the LoC would be the easiest way to restore some calm. But the LoC is also where it is easy to demonstrate one-upmanship.
  • India and the Taliban
New Delhi’s claim that Pakistan has been isolated in the international community has not been borne out by the key role the Pakistan army is playing in the push for a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. President Trump may have made it plain on Twitter what he thinks of Pakistan, but he apparently sent a more polite message requesting Prime Minister Imran Khan for Pakistan’s cooperation in furthering talks with the Taliban. The plan itself is far from clear. The last round of direct talks between the US and the Taliban was held in October, but since then the news that the US would soon withdraw 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, close on the heels of the announced pullout from Syria, caught President Ashraf Ghani off guard. It furthered the impression that the Trump administration was desperate to make concessions to the Taliban without a real plan in place for a peace deal that would have widespread acceptance. Not just Ghani, but Iran and Russia, which consider themselves stakeholders, would be hardly pleased. Earlier this month, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi went on a tour of Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia, but the results are unclear. One fallout of the 10-year freeze in India-Pakistan ties is that New Delhi has painted itself out of the Afghan picture. Russia has tried to keep India in the frame through New Delhi’s “non-official” participation in the Moscow process, but the future of that process is uncertain. The challenge would be for India to stay relevant in Afghanistan as the so-called endgame approaches.
  • Friendship with neighbours
India’s vision of itself as the self-declared “regional superpower” has been cut to size by the smaller countries in South Asia deciding to leverage China’s ambitions in the region, particularly the Indian Ocean, to their own advantage. New Delhi has tried to fight Beijing’s deep pockets by backing those political parties and leaders in these countries whom it sees as being more “pro-New Delhi” — as in Sri Lanka and the Maldives — or through high-handedness, as in Nepal. In 2018, India celebrated the electoral defeat of Abdulla Yameen in the Maldives, and the political and judicial putdown in Sri Lanka of a move by President Maithripala Sirisena to bring back the “pro-China” Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. However, as New Delhi has realised, even pro-India leaders in these countries do not like to take dictation. In Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three visits in 2018, and promises to speed up long-pending projects, have not yet succeeded in reversing the damage done by the 2015-16 economic blockade in support of the Madhesis. Bhutan, as journalist Tenzing Lamsang wrote in this newspaper, does not want more development assistance from India, but more trade and investment that would provide employment, and help wean away the country from its singular dependence on hydropower exports to India. Much of India’s problems in the neighbourhood have arisen from viewing these countries through a security prism in which China looms large. In the new year, the key for India will be to discover how to make — and remain — friends with these countries.
  • India and Trump’s US
New Delhi has found much to celebrate in the Trump administration, starting with the US President’s open stand against Pakistan for doing nothing to rein in terrorist groups despite being given billions of dollars of American assistance. Signalling their growing strategic convergence, the two countries signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in September, to facilitate interoperability between their militaries, and sale of high-end technology. Trump hailed India as a key player in a free and open “Indo-Pacific” over the China-dominant Asia-Pacific. However, the downside is that US protectionism on the trade front has already singed some Indian exports, its visa rules are hurting Indian professionals, and its collision course with Iran has already impacted India’s oil purchases from that country. It could also adversely affect the operability of Chabahar port, which New Delhi has built as an alternative route to trade with Afghanistan after being locked out of the land route by Pakistan. And Defence Secretary James Mattis, India’s biggest advocate in the Trump administration, who in the first week of December promised to “work out everything” on India’s purchase of the S-400 air shield system from Russia that could attract US sanctions, has become the latest to quit the Trump administration. In 2019, the third year of the Trump presidency, India-US relations will remain a work in progress.


  • India will have a huge impact if the US pulls soldiers out of Afghanistan.
  • Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud visits India.
  • India-UAE-Saudi Arabia: India to focus on the West Asia outreach.
  • Keeping the neighbourhood in mind, India will continue with its South Asia outreach.
  • US-China-Russia Cold War will have an impact on India.
  • Elections in countries such as Indonesia, Australia: The elections are closely being monitored.
  • UK-Brexit: The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, 2019. India is preparing itself to work with the UK irrespective of what happens in the coming year since the British PM Theresa May has been facing a lot of challenges back home.

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