India’s Involvement in Global Governance: Principles and Practices

China International Studies (English) - - Contents - Shi Hongyuan

India is actively involved in global governance and has made positive contributions in a number of areas. The international community looks forward to India’s greater participation. At the same time, India also needs to participate in global governance.

As a newly emerging power, India’s role in global governance1 cannot be ignored. Investigating the principles and practices of India’s involvement in global governance can help China expand its cooperation with India in this field.

Principles of India’s Involvement in Global Governance

Global governance, in India’s understanding, is all about creating an international order that addresses the interests of big and small nations.2 India’s principles of global governance have gradually taken the form of its long-time participation in and handling of international affairs based on its own national conditions, the regional environment and the changing international situation. They are mainly reflected in the following four aspects.

Promoting the formulation of global governance rules. This principle is consistent with India’s long-cherished aspiration to become a

major power. Given India’s status and long-term record as a stable, secular society and multicultural democracy, the Indian political elite envisions its rank in global affairs in the top echelon.3 As stated in the Indian Foreign Ministry’s annual report, India is willing and able to claim a place at the global high table. India’s voice has played a prominent role in shaping the global debates on issues ranging from global governance reform, climate change, multilateral trade negotiations, internet governance and cyber security, and transnational terrorism.4 But to become a global leader in governance, one must first become a global governance rules maker. Otherwise, a country can only accept the rules developed by others, which prevents it from playing a proactive role in the governance. Based on this, India emphasizes the role of emerging powers in international affairs, believing that after World War II, some international rules developed by Western countries have lagged behind the changes in the international situation and need adjustments. India’s leaders have repeatedly said that to achieve democratization in global governance, the role of emerging and developing countries in multilateral forums must be recognized, and the order brought about by the Bretton Woods system is incompatible with the reality of contemporary international relations.5 Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once talked about the gap between the mechanism of global governance and the changing reality. “The mechanism of global governance is mainly concentrated in the United Nations, which was mostly designed after WWII, reflecting the political and economic realities of that era. But since then, the world has changed dramatically from bipolarity to multipolarity… And it is very clear that today’s mechanism should be very different.”6 “In the face of the transfer of global power and its impact, we need to adapt… in an uncertain world,

where India can become a pole of political stability… And the existing global governance system needs to be changed to accurately reflect the reality of today’s power shift.”7 India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran contends that India has already contributed to changing the norms of global governance in several areas.8

Sticking to strategic autonomy in global governance. India hopes to maintain friendly relations with the major powers, international organizations and transnational corporations while maintaining its strategic autonomy, so that it has friends but does not feel bound by them. This idea is closely related to its pursuit of multilateralism and pragmatism. Manmohan Singh once said, “India is a very large country. It will not seek coalition with any regions or sub-regions, regardless of trade, economic or political aspects.”9 In the post-cold War era, India has become more practical and is no longer guided by the principles of Third World solidarity and non-alignment.10 India’s attitude to the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies best explains India’s position of multilateralism and pragmatism. It wants to be able to maximize its impact at the higher-level negotiating table in order to enhance its international status rather than guide developing countries in action and ideology.11 David Malone, President of the United Nations University, said that in the area of trade and climate governance, India does not necessarily form a loose alliance with developing countries.12 In fact, in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, India and five stakeholders formed an alliance; at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, India stood with China, South Africa and Brazil; in pursuing permanent membership in the United Nations Security

Council, India allied with Brazil, Japan and Germany. These are all typical examples of India’s pursuit of multilateral pragmatism. As Raja Mohan has pointed out, “Unlike in the past - when it was either guided by ‘innocent internationalism’ or saw itself as the leader of the South contesting the global hegemony of the North - India is now open to negotiation with the other powers on the management and modernization of international economic and political systems … Delhi continues to press for structural changes in the international system and to negotiate hard to preserve its national interests, but no longer as an adversary.”13

Global governance must respect national sovereignty and not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. This is different from the Western concept of governance. In the case of humanitarian assistance, for example, India insists on full respect for the sovereignty of territorial integrity and national unity of the recipient country.14 India opposes the practice of conflating human rights with humanitarian assistance, and is reluctant to call aid for victims of war humanitarian assistance, instead using terms such as “disaster relief” or “development cooperation.”15 Some scholars have suggested India’ can thus avoid taking sides should a civil war break out in a recipient state. In peacekeeping operations, India also advocates respect for national sovereignty, and only with the consent of the relevant country will India participate in UN peacekeeping operations. It insists that “the role of the UN must be based on impartiality, equity and non-interference.”16 India opposes the use by some major powers of “humanitarian intervention” as a pretext

for trampling on the sovereignty of other countries, arguing that this will only be counterproductive, leaving behind a weak national structure. As for the reasons for pursuing these principles, Raja Mohan explained that India, “as a country that was established less than seventy years ago and that faces many challenges in turning its population into a nation, is deeply committed to state sovereignty as the most important principle in international relations. Since the end of the Cold War, India has been concerned both about the threats to its own sovereignty from external intervention and, more generally, about the nature of the international community’s approach to the question of state sovereignty when facing humanitarian crises and transnational security threats. India is wary of the cavalier manner in which the Western powers have intervened in various parts of the world in the name of nation building, promoting democracy, and fixing failed states. And it is deeply concerned that new tools, including cyberwarfare, social media, and nongovernmental organizations, are being used to undermine state sovereignty.”17

South Asia should become a key area of global governance. South Asia is riddled with contradictions, and non-traditional security issues are prominent. This region has one-third of the world’s Muslim population and has over 200 Islamic extremist groups and Jihadi organizations of various names and sizes. Most of the Islamic terrorists who have struck in different parts of the world have had some link or the other with the region.18 Terrorism, drugs, money laundering, the smuggling of small arms, state support for non-state groups and illegal migration are all threats to South Asian countries, relations between countries and the

India’s fate is inextricably linked with South Asia’s governance. Poor governance in South Asia will directly affect India’s going beyond Asia.

17 “Changing Global Order: India’s Perspective,” p.55

18 Ajit Doval, “Islamic Terrorism in South Asia and India’s Strategic Response,” Policing, Vol.1, No.1 (2007), p.63.

region as a whole.19 India’s fate is inextricably linked with South Asia’s governance. Poor governance in South Asia will directly affect India’s going beyond Asia. Only with good governance in South Asia will India be able to participate more in global governance.20 For India, maintaining stability in South Asia and keeping friendly relations with its South Asian neighbors remain critical geopolitical goals. “A nation’s destiny is linked to its neighborhood,” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said.21

Main Areas of India’s Involvement in Global Governance

India participates in global governance in a wide range of fields with the focus on the following areas:

Security field. This is reflected in India’s active participation in peacekeeping operations and advocacy on international counterterrorism efforts. As of October 2015, India had participated in the United Nations peacekeeping operations 48 times out of 69, sending 180,000 peacekeepers, first place in the total number of people dispatched.22 In July 2016, out of the UN’S total 101,674 peacekeepers, India’s peacekeepers accounted for 7,713, second only to Ethiopia, ranking second in the world.23 India has been called “an indispensable participant in peacekeeping operations” because of its large number of peacekeepers.24 India insists on taking action under the UN’S unified command and abiding by the three principles of peacekeeping operations, namely neutrality, no use of force unless for self-defense, and consent.25

As a result of its outstanding performance, India has been praised by the international community. “India is well ahead of most others in this field, and we will continue to look to India for insights and advice,” said former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.26 Some academics have suggested that being one of the traditional peacekeepers with vast experience and demonstrated strengths in UN peacekeeping, India should be the “leader” in new thinking on peacekeeping in the 21st century.27 “India is fast becoming an “active contributor of public goods in international security.”28

With regard international counter-terrorism efforts, India has actively appealed to the international community to fight terrorism and promote international counter-terrorism cooperation. In 1994, at the initiative of India, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, which for the first time made it clear that a state cannot support terrorism and a state has the obligation to combat and extradite terrorists. In 1996, India was responsible for drafting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.29 In 1999, the UN passed a resolution on the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, which mainly discussed India’s draft on terrorism, calling on states not to encourage terrorist activities, and not to provide funds, training camps or other support.30 After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, India has made joint efforts, for example, sharing intelligence, flagging the bank accounts of suspected terrorists, and constructing transportation corridors in Afghanistan with many countries, including the United States, Russia, members of the European Union, China and Japan. India also actively supported the UN Security Council in adopting a series of resolutions on

combating terrorism.31 In November 2014, Prime Minister Modi urged the UN General Assembly to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and called on the international community to unite in the fight against terrorism and extremism.32 At the BRICS Summit in Goa in October 2016, India joined the other BRICS countries in calling on all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach to combating terrorism, blocking the sources of finance for terrorism, dismantling terrorist bases, and countering misuse of the internet, including social media, by terrorists.33 In addition, India regularly participates in the meetings of the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate and works closely with the Council’s al-qaeda and Taliban monitoring team. Commenting on India’s performance, some commentators have pointed out that India has firmly grasped the counterterrorism issue at the United Nations level and demonstrated it is able to achieve multilateral outcomes in international peace and security, which it had been unable to do since the era of Jawaharlal Nehru. India has gained more confidence since it is seen as one of the world’s new economic performers, evident in its guidance and leadership of the UN counterterrorism mechanisms.34

Economic field. India is actively seeking to increase the voice and voting rights of emerging countries in the international financial institutions. India has said that the formula for the allocation of quotas in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should be so devised that apart from a country’s share of world economic output and trade, it also includes the size of a country’s population and the average rate of growth of GDP over the previous five years. The inclusion of these two variables will make the formula more dynamic, as it will reflect

the future potential of the member countries and will make the formula forward-looking rather than predominantly influenced by historical circumstances.35 “A reformed and more stable financial architecture will make the global economy less prone and more resilient to future crises … there is a greater need for a more stable, predictable and diversified international monetary system … The IMF and World Bank urgently need to address their legitimacy deficits” and the reform is to meet the need for “a substantial shift in voting power in favor of emerging market economies and developing countries to bring their participation in decision making in line with their relative weight in the world economy.”36

At the BRICS summit in Goa, India and the other BRICS members called for the advanced European economies to meet their commitment to cede two chairs on the Executive Board of the IMF, and ensure that the increased voice of the dynamic emerging and developing economies reflects their relative contributions to the world economy. India also proposed an independent BRICS Rating Agency.37 Driven by India and other emerging powers, the share of the United Kingdom, France and Italy in the IMF has declined while the share of eight emerging economies, including India, has increased from 12.42 percent to 15.91 percent;38 India’s share in the IMF now stands at 2.8 percent, with its voting right rising to eighth,39 and its share in the World Bank has risen to 3.15 percent and its voting power now ranks seventh.40 In July 2014, the BRICS members established the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingency Reserve Agreement (CRA), with an initial authorized capital of $100 billion and an initial subscription capital of $50 billion, to further enhance reform of the international financial system. The first president of the bank is from India.41 “The setting up of the BRICS bank was a significant step for inclusive global economic growth,” Prime Minister Modi declared.42 John Mashaka, a US financial analyst, commented that India’s proposal for a BRICS bank shows “the emerging nations are trying to pull out of the western dominated World Bank and the IMF.”43 In addition to advocating the establishment of the BRICS bank, India also actively joined the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and became the second largest shareholder with an 8.52 percent

stake and 7.5 percent of the voting rights.

Climate change. India has been active in international cooperation on climate change. In 1993, India ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and in 2002 ratified the Kyoto Protocol. In July 2005, the Asia-pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, whose mission is to accelerate the development and application of clean energy technologies, was established with India as a party. India has also made use of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in the Kyoto Protocol to vigorously develop clean development projects. In fact, India and China have been major international exporters of CDM projects. In the global climate negotiations, India always adheres to the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, requiring developed countries to assume more obligations. In December 2015, after arduous negotiations, the Paris Agreement was reached between all the parties. India is committed to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level, and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.44

Global commons. On the issue of cyberspace governance, India’s position previously vacillated, On the one hand it advocated the Undominated global cyberspace governance, thus being labeled by the United States as “having lost the prestige necessary to continue building a new order in cyberspace,”45 while on the other hand it proposed a multi-stakeholder model.46 Not until 2015 did India’s attitude become clear. “The internet must remain plural. It must be managed by a multistakeholder system,” said the Indian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, at the meeting of the

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held in June 2015, “Not only do we support multi-stakeholderism, but also we encourage multi-stakeholderism itself to embrace all geographies and all societies.”47 However, India also stressed that if national security is involved, the national government should have supreme power of management and control.48 India in fact takes a middle position. On the one hand, India hopes to provide security for its many internet users and active private and public sectors. The security of these users and that of global cyberspace governance are closely related.49 On the other hand, India is also concerned about a recurrence of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. All the planning for the attack “was done via Google Earth … The terrorists used cellular phone networks as command and control, and social media to track and thwart the efforts of Indian commandos.”50 Given this, India set up the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and asked the various departments to set up similar bodies. These teams work around the clock. In 2013, India issued a national internet security policy that aimed to train 50,000 internet security professionals over five years.51 By the end of 2015, India had signed Memorandums of Understanding with the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore to combat cybercrimes and cyberattacks.52

Although far away from the Antarctic and the Arctic, India believes that it is closely concerned with polar governance. India’s view is that both the Antarctic and the Arctic are “global commons” and the common heritage of mankind. Polar governance cannot be decided by just the

polar countries or developed countries. Ashish Gautam, a researcher at the Institute for Defense Research and Analysis in India, has commented that only through the participation of international organizations, nonpolar stakeholders (both state and non-state) and indigenous peoples’ organizations will the legitimacy, authority and effectiveness of polar governance be ensured.53 India in the 1950s put forward some suggestions in the United Nations on Antarctic governance, which laid an important foundation for the drafting and adoption of the Antarctic Treaty.54 India hopes to apply the experience of the Antarctic to the Arctic. “India has been actively involved in all law of the sea negotiations for well over 50 years and its contribution has been significant,” said Sivaramkrishnan Rajan, a member of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, “India has strong experience in deep sea exploration as well as more than 30 years of scientific research and expeditions to the Antarctic, which makes India’s position unique for an important role in the Arctic Council.”55 In 2007, India began an Arctic expedition. In July 2008, India established the first scientific expedition station in the Svalbard Islands. In 2013, India planned to invest $12 million over five years on its Arctic expedition. In the same year, India became an official observer of the Arctic Council.56

Restraints on India’s Involvement in Global Governance

Although India is actively involved in global governance and has made positive contributions in a number of areas, its limitations are also

evident. As Raja Mohan has put it, although India has traditionally played a prominent role in multilateral organizations, its participation has not been able to keep pace with the external expectations of the role India should play.57 In addition to the complexity of global governance itself, some factors restrict India from playing a bigger role.

Gap between goal and ability. Global governance is dependent on national strength. Strong national strength enables a country to play a bigger role in global governance. India’s interest in global governance is constrained by its strength, and its ability to participate in global governance and rules making lags behind its ambitions.58 Although India’s strength has greatly improved, with its total GDP in 2015 ranking among the world’s top 10 (at about $2.1 trillion according to the current exchange rate), it lags largely behind the United States (about US$18 trillion at current exchange rate) and China (about US$11 trillion at the current exchange rate). India’s per capita GDP is only $1617, compared with the US’ $56,000 and China’s $7,990.59 In fact, India’s domestic development is full of contradictions. Its political, economic and social development is incoherent and unbalanced and it still has a severe poverty problem. India has the largest number of people still living in poverty in the world, according to estimates by the World Bank, and about 400 million people in India earn less than $1.25 a day, about a third of its population, and accounting for one-third of the world’s extremely poor.60 According to the United Nations Human Development Index 2015 report, India ranked 130 out of 188 countries, no better than many African countries.61 The poverty rate in India is 53.7 percent, according to multidimensional poverty criteria (education, health and life).62 The Nobel laureate Amartya Sen talks of two Indias: “the first … lives a lot like

California, the second (and more populous) … lives a lot like Sub-saharan Africa.”63

In the security field, India is confronted with various challenges, and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) poses a growing threat. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) opposes the Constitution, is attempting to overthrow the government by force, and plans to achieve its goal in five steps by 2050.64 Today, the Indian Communist Party has influence in up to 10 states, involving 106 regions65 with 35 percent of India’s total population.66 In addition, India also has various political disputes, sectarian conflicts, ethnic conflicts, separatist forces, corruption and other issues, that will require a lot of commitment and resources to deal with, greatly restricting India’s ability to participate in global governance.

Weak discourse power. The existing discourse and decision-making powers of global governance are mainly in the hands of Western countries, and they are worried that emerging countries will break the existing world order and build a new one unfavorable to Western countries. The conflicts between traditional powers and emerging countries are most likely to occur on three fronts: one on the systematic level, another on distribution, and the third on institutional effectiveness.67 However,

India and other newly emerging countries are stakeholders in the existing global governance system and are less likely to support a revolutionary change in the pattern of global governance. Their proposals for change in global governance are well within the scope of existing reforms, past and present.

there are no indications that the newly emerging countries of India, China and Brazil desire drastic changes in the existing global governance structures, since their economic success is achieved through economic integration. They only seek to gain greater influence to match their rising economic, military and political capabilities. These countries are stakeholders in the existing global governance system and are less likely to support a revolutionary change in the pattern of global governance. Their proposals for change in global governance are well within the scope of existing reforms, past and present.68 For example, in the context of global rules, although India has its own ideas, it does not seek fundamental or structural changes in the global governance system. India is only interested in strengthening its role in the existing system, rather than creating a new governance model.69 However, the developed economies are reluctant to give more room to emerging countries and they are taking steps to limit the role of emerging countries in global governance. The possibility of emerging countries taking advantage of the global governance mechanisms to enhance their international status has been greatly reduced.70

Contradiction between global governance and national interests. The goal and purpose of global governance is to solve global problems and make the situation better, not the other way round. But India faces a dilemma in balancing global governance with national interests, particularly on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. India carried out nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 respectively, and refused to sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear-test-ban Treaty. India believes that nuclear weapons remain a significant security guarantee, and India’s size and geographical location are such that it cannot withstand the serious security implications of a ban on the development of nuclear weapons. Not a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, India has reasons and the right to develop nuclear

68 Ibid., p.726.

69 “India’s Aspirations in Global Politics,” p.5.

70 “Rising Powers and Global Governance: Negotiating Change in a Resilient Status Quo,” p.726.

weapons. There is nothing that can force India to change its position unless the nuclear non-proliferation regime can completely eliminate nuclear weapons.71 India sees itself as a “responsible” nuclear country,72 claiming that its record on nuclear non-proliferation is exemplary and does not violate any international law because it is not a signatory to the Non-proliferation Treaty.73 However, this view is absurd. India’s behavior lowers the threshold of responsibility for international nuclear nonproliferation and has a disruptive effect on the mechanism. Not only has India delivered to other nuclear ambitious countries a wrong message that “noncompliance with international rules brings rewards,” but it has also indicated to other treaty signatories such as Brazil, Argentina and South Africa that “compliance will only lead to deception.”74 In addition to nuclear nonproliferation, India’s approach to other issues is also inconsistent with the purpose of global governance. Barbara Crosette, a veteran journalist, has pointed out that India is the “headache of global governance” on some global issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, human rights and corruption.75 In some international negotiations, India has even become obstructive, and it has become known as Dr. No.76

Suspicious and fearful neighboring countries. As a large country in South Asia, South Asia should be the priority of India’s participation

Without the participation and cooperation of neighboring countries, regional governance in South Asia is out of the question and India will lack a solid foundation to play a leading role in regional governance.

in global governance, but the complex relationship between India and neighboring countries is a constraint on India’s leadership in promoting regional governance. Although India since the mid-1990s has begun to adjust relations with its South Asian neighbors and shown some goodwill, the effect is not obvious. This is mainly due to three reasons. First, India’s strength far exceeds other South Asian countries, and neighboring countries are full of doubts and worries about India’s regional strategic aspirations.77 Second, India has had disputes and conflicts with a number of neighboring countries in South Asia, and these countries distrust India.78 Third, the disputes in one way or another still exist between India and many of its neighbors. To this day, India is still an important factor in the politics of some countries in South Asia. Because some countries fear India and still feel hostile toward it, politicians in these countries often use India as a means to support their political stance.79 Handling entanglements with neighboring countries will cost India a lot of resources and energy, which will limit India’s strategic ambitions within South Asia. India’s ability to function in the international arena depends largely on its ability to manage its relations with its South Asian neighbors. The past 60 years of history have proven that India’s ambitions to try to bypass its “nasty” neighbors and concentrate on pursuing bigger strategies have never been unimpeded.80 Without the participation and cooperation of neighboring countries, regional governance in South Asia is out of the question and India will lack a solid foundation to play a leading role in regional governance.

The international community looks forward to India’s greater participation. At the same time, India also needs to participate in global governance.


As a rising power, India is needed in global governance. India’s support and participation play an important role in promoting global governance, which would be incomplete without India. Sometime between 2025 and 2030, India, the United States, China, and possibly Europe, will be the four key players in global governance and they will largely determine governance on the 21st century’s global issues and decide the role of developing countries in world politics and the global economy. From this point of view, the international community looks forward to India’s greater participation.

At the same time, India also needs to participate in global governance. This is not only because some of the problems that exist in India and in the region are the objects of global governance that need to be addressed and improved, but also because, with the overall rise in strength, India hopes to leverage global governance as a platform to expand its influence, elevate its status, and increase its discourse and rules making powers in the global governance system. In this regard, India will continue to pursue its multilateral pragmatism, and will devote more resources and energy to global governance in areas and regions that can promote its own interests. It is foreseeable that India will increasingly participate in global governance and its role will continue to expand, but as a stakeholder in the existing global governance system, since only integration in the existing economic system can lead to economic growth and the rise of the country. India has neither the intention nor the ability to build a new global governance system. It will choose to advocate reform within the existing system to achieve and maximize its own interests.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa meet at the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa, India on October 16, 2016.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.