TWQ: The Pragmatic Challenge to Indian Foreign Policy - Spring 2011

  • Apr 1, 2011

    A subversive pragmatic vision is increasingly challenging some of the key foundations of India’s traditional nationalist and left-of-center foreign policy, diluting the consensus that shaped the policy, and raising new possibilities especially for India’s relations with the United States and global nuclear arms control. This debate between two centrist foreign policy perspectives is not yet settled. The two are described here as “traditional nationalist” and “pragmatist,” with the former representing the established and dominant perspective, and the latter as the emerging challenger. Actual Indian policy mostly splits the difference, mouthing traditional nationalist (hereafter referred to as simply nationalist) slogans while following pragmatist prescriptions. One major result has been the widening of political space for closer relations with the United States, even without a stable consensus.

    These taxonomies are ideal types: it is very unlikely that those characterized as either nationalist or pragmatist would agree with or accept every tenet of these categories. The categorizations are designed to provide an outline of the competing lines of argumentation about Indian foreign policy, rather than identify nationalists or pragmatists per se. It also is important to note that it is difficult right now in India to associate these perspectives with particular political parties, think tanks, or ministries. Thus, these perspectives are individualistic and do not correspond to particular organizations. They do, however, represent the views of important public intellectuals, policy analysts, academics, journalists, diplomats, and government officials.