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Tag Archives | Geostrategy

Locating the paradiplomacy of Indian states

Currently, the space for Indian states to play a role in foreign policy is largely in the economic realm.

One of the growingly popular frameworks to analyse how sub state actors can play a role in foreign policy is paradiplomacy. According to Adam Grydehoj, paradiplomacy is a political entity’s extra-jurisdictional activity targeting foreign political entities.

Andre Lecours looks at how states participate in foreign policy in Europe and North America. He believes that they participate in three layers based on their geopolitical aims or behavior.

Political Issues of Paradiplomacy- Andrew Lecours

Political Issues of Paradiplomacy- Andrew Lecours

Lecours believes that paradiplomacy has been successful only because states have constitutionally granted powers to work in the foreign policy space. They have then proceeded to set up mechanisms by which states can play bigger roles in international relations. Belgium which is one of the best example of sub-state diplomacy provides all its regional actors with a veto on matters pertaining to international relations. Canada has set up communication and sectoral channels (so that the sub state authorities can approach relevant departments or ministries, share information and coordinate) apart from specific bodies devoted to bringing all domestic stakeholders on the table to discuss relevant international policies.

However, it will not be possible for all countries to follow this sort of paradiplomacy. Lecours acknowledges that in developing countries, sub nationalism may threaten sovereign identity or even result in the lack of national coherence. Therefore, paradiplomacy is viewed with suspicion by developing countries which generally have unitary governments.

Debates about participation of states in foreign policy eventually lead to debates on federalism. The Indian Constitution has placed foreign affairs (all matters which bring the Union into relation with any foreign country) in the Union List. The Central Government also has sole authority over diplomatic, consular and trade representation, war and peace, foreign jurisdiction, citizenship, extradition and so on. This has structurally left the states little space to intervene in policy issues.

Any discussion about states in foreign policy in India goes back to how regional parties have pressured the Centre- with Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as the primary examples. States with land or sea borders have interacted beyond the Indian subcontinent much before Independence. Therefore, they have a natural interest in foreign policy. Since liberalization, states have started looking beyond the Union Government for sources for revenue. An overwhelming number of states now organize a Global Investor’s Summit to woo foreign investors. As I have argued earlier, states are also stepping up their game on NRI affairs because the importance of remittances has grown.

If we try to look at Indian states in Lecours’ layers, then it becomes immediately evident that states fall under the first layer in some capacities. Some states have actively pursued foreign investment to boost the state economy. The most striking example, of course, is the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state under Chandrababu Naidu who actively courted investments in a bid to convert Hyderabad to the IT capital of the country. Telangana has recently come into the news for wooing large international companies like Amazon, Uber, Ikea and Apple to set up offices in the state.

Few states fall under the second layer. Tamil Nadu has held ‘World Tamil Conferences’ to reach out to Tamil Speakers and enthusiasts all over the world at regular intervals. While cultural associations emphasizing regional identity like the Kerala Sangam have been set up, these are non-profit initiatives set up by diaspora in various parts of the world.

The third layer is interesting because it is representative of why the Union Government would like to have authority over foreign policy. As India is an amalgamation of regional identities, the emphasis on political distinctness does not bode well for a coherent foreign policy. However, even this form of paradiplomacy has few takers simply because States see it as an infringement of their sovereignty.

India, states will increasingly pursue paradiplomacy for economic issues. While Lecours’ model may work well for developed countries, Indian states will find a way to maneuver foreign policy with the help of the centre. After all, the aim of foreign policy is to further India’s national interests which states also share.

This post is the part of a series of blogposts on ‘States in Foreign Policy’.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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India’s Stance on Export Control Regimes

An analysis of India’s positioning towards various Multilateral Export Control Regimes displays a trend of norm creation- norm adherence and agenda setting.

By Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

India has low reserves of uranium required for its civil nuclear energy programmes. While India has been attempting self reliance in the field by substituting thorium as the primary nuclear fuel in its three stage nuclear cycle, it still suffers from lack of uranium in its reactors. India would also benefit from nuclear technology that it did not have access to during the Cold War because of its isolated road to self sufficiency.

India did not sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and detonated a nuclear device, ‘Peaceful Nuclear Explosion’ outside the NPT norms in 1974. Restitution was quick as the London Club (which then became the Nuclear Suppliers Group) was formed in order to restrict nuclear supply only to countries that have signed the NPT. India relied on indigenously built nuclear facilities for the next three decades until it tested its nuclear device in 1998. India faced harsh criticism for the tests and countries like Japan and the United States even imposed sanctions on the country. However, the world’s opposition to India’s nuclear stance was to change. In 2005, the US-India Civil Nuclear Deal was a pathbreaking deal as it changed the US approach towards India’s nuclear programme. This was instrumental in providing India with an NSG waiver in 2008. India was to be considered a defacto nuclear power and allowed to trade with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In 2010, the Indo-US Joint Statement outlined India’s case for multilateral export control regimes (MECRs). Since then, India has taken intensive efforts to synchronise its export control mechanism with those of different regimes.

While the MECRs all focus on curtailing the supply of sensitive technology, India has focused on improving its own proliferation record, by streamlining its export controls with those of various international regimes. The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act No. 22 of 1992 or FTDR is the principal legal basis for India’s strategic trade control system. The Indian government uses its own export control list known as the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies (SCOMET) list. It has also identified some groups as being more important than others: Currently, the diplomatic efforts are geared towards the NSG and the MTCR because entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group both hold entry into the former groups as a precursor.

The following is an analysis of various export groups and India’s relationship with them:

Name of Export Control Regime Nuclear Suppliers Group
Stated Aim of the Regime “Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of restrictions on nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.”
India’s Position Applied to NSG on May 10, 2016.

India has been keenest on NSG membership because the 48 member group contains supply of nuclear fuel. The NSG was formed in the aftermath of the Indian Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974, and was one of the instruments used to isolate India in the nuclear domain. In 2008, it did provide India a clean waiver to allow it to engage in nuclear commerce. However in 2011, the NSG went back on its 2008 India- specific waiver by instituting new guidelines. The implications of the new guidelines are that it has made the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) even stronger and wants India to join the Treaty.

India’s membership to the NSG is thus important because it allows India to be a part of future norm making in the nuclear domain. As geopolitics always trumps international law, it is possible that the rules of the group can be changed in the future. By being within the rulemaking mechanism, India can ensure that the norms are aligned with its national interests.


Name of Export Control Regime Missile Technology Control Regime
Stated Aim of the Regime “Voluntary partnership to curb the spread of delivery systems, particularly proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload for at least 300 km.”
India’s Position Acceded to MTCR in 2016

The main benefit of the MTCR is that it controls missile technology, particularly drone technology that India could potentially gain access to. India’s Brahmos missile, made in conjunction with Russia has a range of 290 km, just under the limit of the MTCR. In the 1990s, the MTCR had protested against the sale of Russian cryogenic engines to India as it supposedly flouted group norms (Russia was a part of the MTCR) and put political pressure until the sale was dropped. Joining the MTCR could prevent similar political pressure against technology transfer. However, an important caveat is that missile technology transfer does not depend on the MTCR alone. Member Countries have traded despite flouting MTCR norms as they are voluntary and non-conforming. Therefore, India does not necessarily need to be part of it to conduct trade but it does add to its political capital.


Name of Export Control Regime Wassenaar Arrangement
Stated Aim of the Regime “Promotes transparency of national export control regimes on conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.”
India’s Position India has been streamlining its SCOMET list with the Wasenaar Arrangement

Members of the Wassenaar Arrangement have to maintain rigorous national export control systems and have to be members of or be acting in accordance with the NPT, MTCR, CWC, and the UN Register of Conventional Arms. While the group is said to be easier to gain membership than some of the other export control regimes, India is looking to gain membership only after it gains entry into the NSG and the MTCR. India has been streamlining its SCOMET list, its FTDR and also passed the WMD Act in 2005. Membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement presents one less political hurdle in getting access to sensitive technology. It is important for India’s soft power to be seen as a responsible exporter of technology.

Name of Export Control Regime Australia Group
Stated Aim of the Regime “Through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons”
India’s Position India became a dialogue partner in 2015

The Australia Group looks at harmonization of international export controls on chemical weapons precursor chemicals. As India’s chemical and biotechnology industries grow in size and stature, being a member of the Australia Group would provide India’s commercial ventures with political legitimacy as well. However, it has few other benefits.


Name of Export Control Regime Arms Trade Treaty
Stated Aim of the Regime “To prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, or for unauthorized end useand end users, including in the commission of terrorist acts.”
India’s Position India abstained from signing the Treaty in 2013

While India was an integral part of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, it did not sign the treaty because India’s sovereign right to trade in arms could be impinged by the regime. It also wanted stronger action on illegal arms trade. It also contends that the ATT limits itself to arms sales rather than transfers which creates an inherent loophole for countries to take advantage of. India is the largest importer of arms in the world and is thus, any treaty on arms trade need to take the country into consideration. Illicit arms trade, particularly in the neighbourhood is a worrying factor and the Arms Trade treaty is an important step in regulating it. However, unless the Treaty is made stronger in essence, it will not be in India’s national interest to sign it.


Name of Export Control Regime Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
Stated Aim of the Regime “To exclude the possibility of the use of chemical weapons”
India’s Position Signed the CWC on 14 January 1993 and ratified it in 1996

India has been an active proponent of the CWC and in 2009, it became the third country to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons. While India has been accused by Pakistan of using chemical weapons, the accusations did not bear fruit. Indeed, India’s chemical industry is expansive and India has demonstrated its intent to be a part of counter proliferation of chemical weapons by aiding the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

An analysis of India’s participation at various multilateral export control regimes shows India’s proactive efforts in being perceived as a responsible nuclear player. India has been an integral part of the norm creation process by participating in negotiations. However, it does not enter into treaties or join organisations which do not comply with its core interests such as the Arms Trade Treaty. On the other hand, even if India lies outside the regimes, it has followed international norms either by passing domestic laws such as the WMD Act of 2005 or setting up its SCOMET. Now, India is using its position to be join regimes which will provide it a seat at the agenda setting table. In this way, it will make sure that the norm making mechanisms in the future will be in conjunction with India’s national interests.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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Three parameters for evaluating global governments

What are the parameters that can help us judge the effectiveness of supra-national political unions?

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

For about a decade now, geopolitical analysts have been discussing about the emergence of a new world order. The formation (and mere formulation) of new supra-state constructs such as G-20, BRICS, SCO are an evidence for these expectations that demand a shuffle in the world order.

The call for new international institutions is exacerbated by the ineffectiveness of the dominant international governments of the day — the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). The fundamental reason for their ineffectiveness is the divergence between the power distribution inside these institutions and the power distribution in the world at large.

Consequently, any new formation that tries to compete with the existing system will have to prove its relative superiority over the existing system. But how does one measure this? Are there any parameters that can help us evaluate the effectiveness of supra-national political unions?

Hans Morgenthau’s classic work on political realism ‘Politics of nations’ offers us some interesting answers to these questions:

With regard to each of the attempts at international governments, three questions must be asked:
1. Where is the authority to govern vested, or who is to govern?
2. By what principle of justice is the government to be guided, or what is the conception of the common good to be realised by the government, and
3. To what extent has the government been able to maintain order and peace.

World Order

Image courtesy: username: wiertz, flickr. Creative commons.

Taking these parameters as a reference point, we can observe the following about today’s world order:

Parameter 1. Authority to govern has traditionally been vested in victors of major wars. For example, victors of World War 1 took the lead in forming the League of Nations. Similarly, the current system with the UN at its apex is a direct outcome of the World War 2. The writ of the UN is effectively the writ of the UN Security Council which has the allied powers as its permanent members. The UN General Assembly on the other hand, by design has very limited role in geopolitics.

However, we are now in a world where nuclear deterrence has made wars of a global scale less likely. This means that any new organisation seeking to challenge the current system must derive its authority from a source other than war invincibility. Given that we have had several global economic depressions, and no world wars, this source of authority can well be the economic prowess of a supra state. Global governments of the new age must possess collective a economic might that can tide over the world’s tougher problems.

Moreover, authority is a function of both, power and legitimacy. While economic power is a result of several other factors, legitimacy can be enhanced by effective response in times of crisis.  For example, the initial promises made by the G-20 group following the 2008 recession made the world take notice of this organisation.

Parameter 2. The system of justice to be realised by an international government is a resultant of the justice systems of the constituent great powers. Previous experiences of international governments show that the system of justice has come to mean two things. One, to maintain the political status quo achieved as a result of the war and two, to deal a debilitating blow to the defeated.

Based on the assumption that the emerging world order will be determined primarily in the economic domain, the corresponding justice system will lay emphasis on areas such as trade and monetary flows, investments in infrastructure and so on. Seen from this perspective, it doesn’t come as a surprise that all international formations are trying to build an economic system of their own. Thus, we have China investing in Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and One Belt One Road (OBOR), while the BRICS are attempting a New Development Bank (NDB) of their own.

Parameter 3. While averting major wars, the UN system has been found wanting in countering terrorism and mass atrocity crimes. Norms such as Responsibility to Protect (R2P) have been applied selectively at best, taking up issues of direct concern to the great powers while ignoring issues which are out of their collective conscience. As a result, we see instances of human rights violations from Balochistan to Yemen, receiving nothing but wholesale ignorance.

In this regard, the new world order will have to perform better on countering terrorism and mass atrocities. Going ahead, maintaining order and peace will not be as much about preventing conventional wars but about responding to asymmetric violence.

Having observed the parameters from the contemporary perspective, one might ask, what should be the ideal size of an effective international government? Clearly, the current number (5) is too small, and having all countries (>200) on board will only slow down the response.

Morgenthau offers a solution for that question as well:

An international organisation cannot be so universal that all members are in it but it should be universal in that all nations likely to disturb the peace are under its jurisdiction.

Pranay Kotasthane is a Research Fellow at The Takshashila Institution. He is on twitter @pranaykotas

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