You are on page 1of 9


In the 21
century, as the world order became more and more complex; the
importance of multilateralism also increased. With the emergence of the multi-polar
world order and increasing powers of WTO, IMF, UN, European Union, Brics, etc, India
cannot rely alone on the age old bilateralism in the realms of foreign policy and
international negotiations/agreements.
Multilateralism in its simplest definition, involves more than two sovereign
countries working together on a given issue.
For understanding the Indian foreign policy towards the present multilateral world
order let us analyze India‘s relations and interests with the UN, India‘s Participation in
Multilateral Trade Negotiations , BRICS, Nuclear-Non Proliferation and Testing,
SAARC and Counter-terrorism.
India- United Nations Relations
India has been one of the original 51 members of the United Nations who signed
the U.N. Charter. It participated in the San Francisco Conference and became the member
of the United Nations Organization on 30 October 1945. After attaining Independence,
India came out more forcefully to participate in the activities of the United Nations.
1. India has been very instrumental in helping the UN in the process of peace
keeping in the world. India has contributed troops to United Nations
peacekeeping efforts in Korea, Egypt and the Congo in its earlier years and in
Somalia, Angola, Haiti, Liberia, Lebanon and Rwanda in recent years, and more
recently in the South Sudan conflict.

2. India is the biggest democracy in the world and cherishes the values enshrined in
the UN Charter more than any other nation of the world. The constitution of India
reaffirmed, under Article 51, India's commitment to "promote international peace
and security; to maintain just and honorable relations among nations; to foster
respect for International Law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized
peoples with one another; and to encourage settlement of international disputes by
arbitration and other peaceful means (Art.51)". In carrying out this commitment,
India regards the UN as an invaluable platform for global deliberations,
negotiations and diplomacy.
3. India has played a consistently positive and energetic role in UN efforts for
disarmament and arms control. India stands committed to total nuclear
disarmament. India pleaded for the cause of disarmament and arms control in
Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee, special sessions of the UN General
Assembly and finally in Conference on Disarmament (CD). India had signed the
Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963) and Chemical Weapons Convention (1993), but
firmly resisted all pressures to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty and blocked the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

4. India has committed itself towards making Indian Ocean as Zone of Peace by
adhering to the doctrine of 'no first use'.

5. India is a member of almost all international agencies like UNESCO, WHO, FAO,

6. India advocate in favour of the reformation of the UNSC. India has served as non-
permanent member of the Security Council for six terms (each of two years
duration) from 1950-52, 1965-67, 1970-72, 1976-78, 1983-85 and 1990-92. India
has been seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council as a
member of the G4, an organization composed of Brazil, Germany, Japan, and
India, all who are currently seeking permanent representation. According to their
proposal the UN Security Council should be expanded beyond the current fifteen
members to include twenty-five members. If this actually happens, it would be the
first time permanent Security Council status is extended to a South Asian nation
and supporters of the G4 plan suggest that this will lead to greater representation
of developing nations rather than the current major powers.

India’s Participation in Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Post-1991, India‘s approach to the multilateral trading regime received a major
boost as its domestic program of economic liberalization coincided rather happily with
the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. This not only prepared India domestically to
deal with multilateral trade liberalization, it also provided India a vital bargaining chip in
multilateral negotiations.

In the words of a prominent Indian economist, ―The gap
between what the Uruguay Round required India to do and what India would have
wanted to do of her own volition was reduced.‖ Although certain areas – intellectual
property rights, services, agriculture, and quantitative restrictions – remained exceptions,
India was far more comfortable with the multilateral trade regime after 1991 than it had
ever been before.

India‘s stance at the WTO, two specific areas of negotiations-

1. Agriculture: For India, agriculture is a major area of concern, as it supports the
livelihood of 65-70 percent of India‘s population of 1.02 billion. Any multilateral
negotiation on agricultural market access and farm subsidies is bound to have its
implications for Indian agriculture and the vast population dependent on it. In an
attempt to protect this vulnerability and to ensure food security, India continued
with a protectionist trade policy in agriculture. Agricultural trade was never quite
favourably considered, even to the extent of imposing export taxes on certain food
crops. Moreover, India continued to pursue its commitment to provide various
input subsides to agriculture, concomitant with its policy objectives of food
security, rural development, rural employment and crop diversification. Thus,
India‘s stance on agriculture at the WTO has always been somewhat defensive. It
has maintained its demand for flexibilities to carry out with its measures of
support for agriculture and rural development.

2. Services: The upturn of India‘s services sector began only in the mid-1990s and it
has expanded very rapidly in the last decade and a half. Between 1994 and 2004,
the services sector grew at the rate of 7.9%, much higher than the growth rates of
other sectors as well as that of total GDP (3% for agriculture and allied, 5.3% for
manufacturing and 5.9% for total GDP). The share of the services sector in India‘s
GDP increased from 29% in the 1980s to 41% in the 1990s and to 50% in the
2000s. The expansion of the services sector has been accompanied with a rising
trade in services for India. India‘s share in world services exports almost doubled
between 1998-99 and 2004-05 (from 0.99 % to 1.8%). Nearly 50% of India‘s
exports of 31services are software services.

By September 2009, India had conducted ten rounds of trade negotiations with Japan,
six rounds with the EU, and three rounds with the European Free Trade Association

In August 2009, India also concluded the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement
(AIFTA), which had been in the works for a few years, and was a limited deal involving
many opt-out options.

Presently, when India is in a much more comfortable economic position, enjoying
unprecedented growth rates and economic prosperity at the macro level, India can aim at
a grand foreign policy design to promote a fair and equitable world order. Indeed, India‘s
heightened profile at the WTO at this juncture provides a golden opportunity for the
country to capitalize on the platform of WTO negotiations as a major foreign policy
instrument to play a competent leadership role for the developing world.


Perhaps the prickliest thorn in India‘s side as far as international treaties are
concerned relates to the issue of nuclear weapons. India‘s position on issues of nuclear
non-proliferation and testing has been marked by the consistent articulation of an
alternative vision of global disarmament and non-proliferation, and its diplomacy in this
realm has often resorted to ―high-minded moral rhetoric.‖ Until the so-called nuclear deal
concluded between the United States and India in 2007, endorsed by others in Vienna in
2008, India had suffered through diplomatic isolation on this issue for four decades.

1. India was one of the earliest advocates of nuclear disarmament when it called for
the inclusion of the item ―non-proliferation of nuclear weapons‖ on the UN‘s
agenda in 1964. India was also involved in the drafting of the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the early 1960s. However, it subsequently refused to
sign the treaty itself in 1968 on grounds that it was discriminatory and divided the
world into the nuclear ‗haves‘ and ‗have-nots‘. India‘s ‗peaceful nuclear
explosion‘ of 1974 served to further isolate its position in international nuclear
diplomacy, even though many of the principles India had promoted in the early
1960s – including the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and non-proliferation being
a step toward universal disarmament and not an end in itself – had found their way
into the NPT.

2. India did not abandon its position even when the NPT came up for permanent
extension in 1995. The following year, India doggedly opposed the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on grounds that the treaty did not
preclude subcritical testing by nuclear weapons states. Thus India argued that the
CTBT was merely a ―threshold‖ ban and not a ―comprehensive‖ ban. This did not
sit well with India‘s vision that the CTBT should really be a ―Comprehensive
Nuclear Disarmament Treaty.‖ Moreover, in the eyes of the world, India could not
let itself be ―captured‖ by the CTBT after opposing and avoiding the NPT for

Although India did its best to prevent the CTBT from reaching the UN
General Assembly for a vote, it was in the end predictably unsuccessful.

3. The events of 1995-96—combined with India‘s perceived security threat from
Pakistan‘s covert nuclear weapons program (assisted by China)– precipitated
India‘s second round of nuclear tests in 1998. Having refused to sign the original
NPT, opposed its extension, and opposed the CTBT; India technically did not
violate any international agreements. However, its actions did not endear it to
supporters of the global non-proliferation regime. The 1998 tests were followed by
American sanctions and condemnation from all corners of the international
community. Nonetheless, in 2000, President Bill Clinton made a successful and
highly publicized visit to India that initiated a longer process of US-India
rapprochement. India, however, remained recalcitrant on the nuclear issue. In
March 2004, then foreign minister in the BJP government, Yashwant Sinha,
“It was the imposition of an imperfect non-proliferation order, evidence of which
is all around us, that compelled us to make the transition from nuclear abstinence
to that of a reluctant nuclear power. And, it was after we, as a nation, agonized
over the issue for decades, that this Government finally took the plunge six years

These words suggested a fundamental disconnect between India‘s vision and the
reality of the global non-proliferation regime.

4. While a change of government in India in 2004 did not bring about a change in
India‘s nuclear diplomacy, a shift in the second George W. Bush administration‘s
priorities brought about a momentous development in India‘s relations with the
international non-proliferation regime. In 2007, India concluded the ‗123
Agreement‘ with Washington that would produce an end to over three decades of
nuclear isolation for India. Following intense lobbying by both the US and India,
by October 2008 the deal had been approved by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and the US Senate,
achieving for President Bush his main positive foreign policy legacy. The
agreement not only legitimized India‘s nuclear program and its non-proliferation
record, it also opened the channels of nuclear commerce between India and other
members of the NSG, most notably Russia and France.

Events following the deal moved faster than the debates surrounding them. During
President Obama‘s visit to Delhi in November 2010, the US became the first nuclear
weapons state to endorse the idea of talks between the five nuclear weapons states (as per
the NPT) and the three nuclear-armed states outside the NPT: India, Pakistan and Israel.
As observed by an Indian journalist, ―In doing so, India and the US have assembled the
basic building blocks of a framework which has the potential to transcend the NPT, while
remaining faithful to the twin goals of non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear
weapons.‖An outcome of this nature would certainly help to bridge India‘s vision of non-
proliferation with the rest of the world‘s, and also to diminish the controversies in India
and abroad over India‘s opposition to the NPT and CTBT.

India and BRICS

Co-operation on the economic front is one of the focus areas of India‘s policy
towards BRICS. It believes that global challenges can only be addressed by co-operative
effort, with the full and equal participation of major and emerging powers and

1. For India, cooperation with other BRICS member-states provides an excellent
opportunity to share its development experiences with them as well as learn
from their experiences. India exchanged ideas and experiences on food
security, agriculture, disease, foreign aid, energy and global warming. Sharing
these experiences not only helps the BRIC member-states themselves, it also
allows them to share experiences and ―best practices‖ with the developing
world and thereby expand South-South cooperation.

2. Moreover, India has also tried to use BRICS as a forum to engage China as
the latter has become the largest market for the fast-industrializing countries of
East Asia. The volume of China-India trade has soared in recent years, and is
likely to reach trade volume of $100 billion by 2015.Not only that, India also
wants to resolve the age-old mistrust and complicated relationship between the
two countries since the 1962 war between them. India shares land border with
China, Pakistan and Bangladesh and faces many potential threats. Although
Sino-Indian relations have improved in recent years, India is threatened by
China‘s expanding presence through bases in Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh
and Sri Lanka, leading to a possible encirclement around the Indian
subcontinent as well as potential competition in the Indian Ocean area. By
improving relations with China and by co-operating in a multilateral forum like
BRICS, India would like to stabilize the regional environment by neutralizing
China in the simmering issues between India and Pakistan.

3. India wants to strengthen its ties with Russia within the multiple co-operative
networks, the then India‘s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, ―Russia‘s
influence will be utilized to convince Pakistan that the strategy of using terror
as an instrument of state policy is counter-productive.‖ India seeks co-
operation with Russia to devise effective counter-terror strategies by co-
coordinating intelligence and information gathering systems between the two
On the other hand, there are immense opportunities to expand trade,
investment and technology flow between the two countries. Co-operation in
the fields of energy, nuclear energy program and defense are the other
important aspects of co-operation between the two countries, besides shared
views on issues like economic slowdown, climate change and global

4. With Brazil, India has a unique partnership arrangement that has attracted
international attention. Both countries have directly challenged Western
nations over free trade during various rounds of WTO negotiations, most
notably at the 2003 Cancun meeting. Brazil and India have co-operated in
the multilateral level on issues such as international trade and development,
environment etc. The target of US$10 billion in trade was already achieved by

5. At the fifth BRICS Summit in March 2013 in Durban (South Africa), the
leaders of the member countries agreed that setting up the development bank
was feasible and viable. The leaders, in a statement, said, ―Developing
countries face challenges of infrastructure development due to insufficient
long-term financing and foreign direct investment, especially investment in
capital stock.‖
The leaders said, therefore, new bank should have ―substantial‖ initial capital so
that it can effectively finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects in
BRICS as well as other emerging and developing countries. The new bank will
supplement the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for
global growth and development, they said.
They had noted that emerging economies are keen to develop their versions of the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund against the backdrop of mounting
criticism of the BRICS and increasing capital outflow from developing markets. In earlier
summits, the BRICS nations had also called for reforms in the IMF and World Bank.


SAARC‘s existence has enabled South Asian political leaders to meet regularly
and carry on informal discussions to address their mutual problems. This is no mean
achievement given South Asia‘s past history and low level of interaction among South
Asian countries since their independence. Informal talks among the leaders at regularly
held SAARC meetings have led to inter-elite reconciliation on many sensitive issues,
producing some noteworthy results in South Asia.

The Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) was
signed in 1993 and four rounds of trade negotiations have been concluded. With the
objective of moving towards a South Asian Economic Union (SAEU), the Agreement on
South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was signed during the Twelfth Summit in
Islamabad in January 2004. SAFTA entered into force on 1
January 2006. The
Association has carried out Regional Studies on trade, manufactures and services,
environment and poverty alleviation, SAFTA and Customs matters.

Despite its professed and ostensible support for multilateralism, India has been
actively seeking alternative mechanisms to expand trade. This has inspired a flurry of free
trade agreements (FTAs) within the wider neighbourhood. For Indian policy-makers, the
contentious history of the subcontinent has played a major role in slowing the movement
on multilateralism: the chronic tension, occasional conflict and perennial absence of trust
between India and Pakistan and periodic hiccups in relations with other neighbours have
contributed to the uneven progress on multilateral bodies like SAARC. For India,
‗SAARC is two decades old and has moved nowhere‘: existing internal trade between the
SAARC countries only amounts to 5% of their total trade. In contrast, trade within
member countries of ASEAN and the EU accounts for 22.5% and 55% respectively.
Further, the track record of SAARC in resolving contentious bilateral disputes has been
less than promising.

India has been traditionally lukewarm about SAARC. There has been for some
time an underlying conviction within New Delhi‘s political and bureaucratic elite that
SAARC bestows an undeserved sense of equality on its smaller neighbours, an
opportunity for them to gang up to the detriment of India‘s interests, and that India can
prosper more easily if it is not shackled to its immediate neighbourhood. As far as India
is concerned, to some degree SAFTA will demonstrate whether the regional cooperative
framework can work at all. Yet New Delhi remains skeptical as to whether Pakistan will
in the end accept the SAFTA structure. Whether that would derail the initiative or India
would go ahead with the others remains an open question.


1. India have to deal with cross-border terrorism domestically, and international
terrorism externally in the 21
2. After 2008 Mumbai attacks, the Indian government‘s strategy changed, with
new ways of extraditing terrorists. Between 2010 and 2013, India signed 33
extradition treaties, including ones with Saudi Arabia, Portugal, the United
Arab Emirates, and Bangladesh, all 33 of which have led to the extradition of
wanted terrorists to India over the past few years.
3. Counterterrorism is no longer a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan.
The Afghanistan factor weights heavily in Pakistan‘s calculations. It can hardly
be a coincidence that cross-border attacks are increasing in India at the same
time as the international community accelerates draw-down from Afghanistan.
4. It should be noted that, though SAARC and the Shanghai Cooperation
Organizations have conventions on counterterrorism, they, too, have little
headway in implementation. Clearly, counterterrorism is still a problematic
issue when it comes to multilateral action.


Apart from the discussed points, India has to deal with the issues of climate
change through UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and by adhering to the
Kyoto Protocol. For instance, recent developments such as –Arria Formula Meeting of
the Security Council on ―The Security Dimensions of Climate Change‖, and National
Action Plan on Climate Change (2008-2017). India also have many multilateral
agreements pertaining to maritime safety with countries of ASEAN and Australia; Indian
Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) and Indian Navy‘s Milan
Programme (biennial naval exercise of 14 Asia-Pacific countries) are an example of
India‘s multilateral maritime safety activities. India also has multilateral economic and
strategic agreements with the European Union and ASEAN.

It can be concluded by saying that, India cannot survive in the 21
century without
multilateral agreements and relationships with various international organizations like the
UN and regional organizations like SAARC; in short, India is tied to the interconnected,
globalized and multilateral world through multilateralism.