From High Ground to High Table: The Evolution of Indian Multilateralism Rohan Mukherjee and David M. Malone Independent India’s multilateral strategy was designed defensively as a means to provide the country with some leeway in an intensely competi- tive bipolar world. Today,India casts itself as an emerging power intent on exerting the bilateral and multilateral influence that the country’s found- ing leaders had long aspired to. Obsolete frameworks such as nonalign- ment and developing world leadership have mostly been jettisoned in the process. However, questions remain about India’s willingness and capacity to take on global responsibilities to match its global aspirations. This arti- cle traces the evolution of India’s multilateral approach and examines its multilateral stance through several prisms: the UN Security Council, the World Trade Organization, global climate change negotiations, and some emerging international groupings of states in which India plays a role. Among our conclusions is that, in India’s diplomacy, much depends on do- mestic factors. K EYWORDS : India, multilateralism, non-alignment, United Nations Security Council, World Trade Organization, climate change, BRIC, IBSA, Group of 20. T HE EVOLUTION OF I NDIA ’ S APPROACH TO MULTILATERALISM OVER RECENT decades constitutes a silent, but as yet incomplete revolution. From idealist moralizer to often pragmatic dealmaker, India’s transition mirrors its rise— second only to China—from the confines of severe poverty and underdevel- opment. India’s voice carries more weight today in multilateral forums largely due to its enhanced economic power, political stability, and nuclear capability. India spent many years after independence in 1947 struggling to achieve the international status that it expected because of its civilizational greatness and geopolitical uniqueness. But a lack of material resources and military ca- pability long prevented it from securing a place under the “diplomatic sun.” 1 The Cold War global confrontation between East and West offered shelter through alliances, but threatened India’s newfound independence. During those early years, India turned to multilateralism as a way of magnifying its in- fluence in international affairs until it could exert influence more materially. Today, in almost every international forum, India has explicitly engaged with smaller groups of powerful nations to affect outcomes at the expense of the more broad-based universalist approach that it traditionally espoused (or claimed to). India does not extensively rely on the multilateral treaty-based system, preferring instead bilateral relationships with major and regional pow- 311 Global Governance 17 (2011), 311–329
ers in almost every field of international cooperation from trade to nuclear technology.
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