“Strategic Partnership”: India’s Foreign Policy Terminology

India aspires to become a regional power and claim its stand in the international arena. For that, it is gradually shaping its foreign policy objectives with economic and political interests in her mind. To achieve those goals necessary for the development of the nation and secure its national interests, it has forged “Strategic Partnership” with countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, China, US, Russia, Japan, Canada, UK etc. spanning across seven continents from Asia to Antarctica.

The term “Strategic Partnership” that we often found mentioned in most of our joint statements with the partner countries, may sound banal to a casual reader but for an academic, scholar and a student of international relations, it holds much significance.

Basically a bilateral relationship is classified as either as a “Partnership” or an” Alliance”, in which the former reflects a relationship restricted to a specific interest or a field, while the latter involves a treaty or an accord that holds two nations together and has some legal obligations attached to it.

When I read the term “Strategic Partnership”, it always sounds ambiguous in its scope and definition in the context of a bilateral relationship. It is very broad, vague and includes varied perceptions of the researchers who use it in their analysis. A Delhi based think tank, Foundation for National Security Research (FNSR) defines” Strategic Partnership” as a relationship that covers: — Political-Diplomatic ties, Military ties & Economic interests. The definition provides that every Strategic Partnership has its own regional & global relevance which is based on the premise of convergence of external Interests which are mutually beneficial to the two nations involved. For example, India’s strategic partnership with Iran and Afghanistan gives her access to their local markets, crude oil supplies and to the markets of Central Asia.

At the same time, India’s strategic partnership with the US, China, Russia will help her achieve economic goals, a permanent seat in the UNSC & in many other multilateral platforms like WTO. India’s economic relationship with Russia is not as matured as it is with the US or China, touching $100 billion trade benchmark but Russia holds a key place in defense cooperation and we import a majority of our defense equipment form her.

When comes to civil nuclear cooperation, Russia leads from the front with its two 1000 MW reactors already functional in India. Recently Canada agreed to supply us $250 MN worth of 3.22 million kilos of uranium concentrate for five years while the US & Japan are still dragging their feet on the possible sell of nuclear reactor to India. All the above countries are Strategic Partners of India, yet there is a visible variation in their ways they execute their relationship.

Since independence, India’s foreign policy has been independent & has enjoyed autonomy over the period of time including both pre and post-cold war era. Being a champion of the Non-Alignment Movement, she has earned both respect & wrath from the global powers. So continuing with the tradition of non-interference & respect for the sovereignty of the nations while guarding its national interests the term “Strategic Partnership” is appropriate

Originally published at http://safpo.org on April 16, 2015.

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