India's Rise on the Global Stage Amidst Regional Decline

2024 MAY 8

Mains   > International relations   >   India Foreign Policy   >   India and Developing world


GS 2 > International Relations


  • As India solidifies its status on the global stage, its regional influence in South Asia paradoxically wanes, challenged by the ascent of China and shifting geopolitical allegiances among its neighbours. This dichotomy highlights critical implications for India's ambitious role as a pivotal power in international politics.


  • Economic Growth
    • India's robust economic growth over the past three decades has elevated its status on the global stage. From a weak and poor country in 1991, India has transformed into one of the fastest-growing major economies, attracting international attention and investment.
    • For instance, India's GDP has grown significantly, from $270.11 billion in 1991 to approximately $4.11 trillion in 2024, making it the world's fifth-largest economy.
  • Geopolitical Dynamics in the Indo-Pacific:
    • India's strategic role has been magnified by the U.S. withdrawal from the region and China’s rising influence, creating both challenges and opportunities for India. This shift has made India an indispensable counterbalance to China in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing its global prominence while also stretching its regional commitments. This dual role underscores India's crucial position in broader geopolitical strategies.
  • Diplomatic Engagement:
    •  India's proactive diplomacy and efforts to mediate in global crises have enhanced its international stature and positioned it as a key player in shaping the global order.
    • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar articulated India’s diplomatic strategy as a 'multi-vector policy', metaphorically referring to it as 'Vishvamitra' or a friend of the world.
    • For instance, India's role in mediating between Ukraine and Russia during the Ukraine war showcases its growing diplomatic influence and capabilities.
    • Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, India emerged as a 'pharmacy of the world', providing critical vaccine supplies and other medical assistance to over 150 countries, demonstrating its commitment to global health and safety.
  • India’s Role in Global Geopolitics: 
    • India's strategic location and size position it as a key player in global geopolitics, actively participating in forums like the G-20 and strategic groups such as the Quad. Its involvement extends to G-7 meetings as an invitee and participation in BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, underscoring its influence. These roles enhance India’s global presence and highlight its importance in international policy discussions, even without a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
  • Military Capabilities
    • India India's military capabilities have grown significantly, enhancing its role as a rising global power.
    • For instance, India boasts one of the world's largest militaries, consistently ranked among the top five globally by the Global Firepower Index. The country maintains a formidable arsenal of over a hundred nuclear weapons.  
  • Demographic Dividend
    • India's young population presents a significant demographic dividend, providing a large workforce and consumer base that drives economic growth and attracts global interest.
    • For instance, India's demographic profile, with a median age of around 28, contrasts with aging populations in many developed countries, making it an attractive market for businesses and investors.
  • Sustainable Development and Climate Leadership: 
    • India is a key player in global climate initiatives, committed to reducing carbon emissions and expanding renewable energy. Its leadership in the International Solar Alliance and adherence to the Paris Agreement highlight its role in promoting sustainable energy and addressing environmental challenges.


  • China's Assertive Regional Strategy: 
    • China's aggressive foreign policy and strategic initiatives, notably the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), have significantly shifted the geopolitical landscape in South Asia. By cementing economic and strategic ties with countries traditionally under India's influence, such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, China has challenged India’s dominance. This shift has encouraged these nations to lean more towards Beijing for economic benefits and geopolitical support, thereby diminishing India’s influence in its traditional sphere.
  • Geopolitical Shifts: 
    • The United States' partial withdrawal from regional engagements, especially following the Afghanistan conflict, has created a strategic vacuum that China has quickly exploited. This shift has complicated India's strategic calculus and reduced its dominance in its immediate neighbourhood.
  • Regional Balancing Acts:
    • South Asian countries are engaging in balancing, bargaining, hedging, and bandwagoning strategies vis-à-vis India and China, further complicating India's regional position.
    • For instance, countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are seeking to balance their relations between India and China to maximize benefits and minimize risks.
  • Impact of Indo-Pacific Focus: 
    • India's strategic pivot to the Indo-Pacific, motivated by the need to counter China's maritime ambitions, has led to a redistribution of its strategic resources. This shift may have inadvertently reduced India's focus and influence in South Asia as it seeks to establish itself as a pivotal power in a broader, globally influential arena


To address the challenges posed by its regional decline and ensure its continued global rise, India could consider the following strategies:

  • Revisit Regional Approaches: India should reassess its traditional approaches to the region and adopt new strategies that reflect changing geopolitical realities. Example: India could focus on enhancing economic cooperation and people-to-people ties with its neighbours to counterbalance China's influence.
  • Focus on Strengths: Rather than trying to match China's power in every aspect, India should leverage its strengths, such as its democratic values and cultural heritage, to enhance its influence in the region. For instance, reclaiming cultural and historical ties, such as its Buddhist heritage, can help foster closer relations with neighboring countries.
  • Upholding the Gujral Doctrine in India's Regional Policy: The Gujral Doctrine, formulated by former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, represents a foundational principle of India's foreign policy towards its neighbours. This doctrine emphasizes the importance of goodwill gestures, non-reciprocity, and prioritizing regional stability and cooperation. In the context of India's current challenges in maintaining regional influence amidst China's rise, adhering to the principles of the Gujral Doctrine becomes increasingly relevant.
  • Investment in Regional Development: The Gujral Doctrine prioritizes economic and developmental assistance to neighboring countries without expecting reciprocity. .India's financing of infrastructure projects like road networks and power plants in Bangladesh and Nepal contributes to regional connectivity and economic development. These investments not only benefit neighbouring countries but also enhance India's influence and goodwill in the region.
  • Engage in Maritime Diplomacy: Given the challenges in its continental strategy, India should prioritize its maritime advantages in the Indo-Pacific region. Example: India could deepen its engagement with maritime states like Sri Lanka and the Maldives to strengthen its position in the Indo-Pacific. Also, India's participation in joint naval exercises with countries like the United States, Japan, and Australia, such as the Malabar exercises, showcases its commitment to maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Collaborate with External Partners: India could partner with like-minded countries and regional organizations to address common challenges and counterbalance China's influence. Example: India could work closely with the U.S., Japan, Australia, and the EU to promote regional stability and economic development in South Asia.
  • Utilize Soft Power: Leveraging its traditional strengths and unique advantages is essential. India's cultural diplomacy initiatives, such as promoting yoga and Indian classical music festivals, serve as avenues for building people-to-people ties with neighbouring countries, emphasizing India's soft power beyond economic or strategic considerations.


Q. “The dichotomy between India’s global rise and regional decline has profound implications for India’s global aspirations “.Discuss. (15 marks, 250 words)