India’s involvement in the Quad — the forum that also involves the US, Japan and Australia — has been criticised as a deviation from New Delhi’s traditional policy of non-alignment. In order to clear the “confusion on what the Quad is and its future in India’s international relations”, some key questions must be answered, says C Raja Mohan, Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and Contributing Editor of The Indian Express.
Over the years, India has experimented with alliances of different kinds – during World War I, some nationalists aligned with imperial Germany to set up the first Indian government-in-exile in Kabul; during World War II, Subhas Chandra Bose joined forces with imperial Japan to set up a provisional government in Port Blair; and in independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who unveiled and championed non-alignment, signed security treaties with Bhutan, Nepal, and Sikkim. Also, Nehru, who actively opposed American alliances in Asia, turned to the US for military support in 1962.
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Is an alliance with the US on the cards?
Unlikely, argues Raja Mohan, because Donald Trump’s administration is firmly against alliances. More importantly, India has never asked for an alliance.
Both countries, however, are interested in building issue-based coalitions in pursuit of shared interests.
Are alliances essentially instrumental in nature?
In the past, India’s treaties with Nepal, Bangladesh, and Russia were meant to address India’s security imperatives, while most of China’s alliances were fundamentally transactional in nature. Democratic India cannot be as brutally transactional as communist China – however, Raja Mohan concludes, New Delhi can learn a thing or two from the way Beijing has forged alliances. “An India that puts its interests above the doctrine will find coalitions like the Quad critical for its international prospects,” he writes.
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