In the past, India was predominantly perceived as a developing nation. However, its recent trajectory over the last decade indicates that India is charting a new course for itself in the regional and global economic and political landscape. As a leader of the Global South, India has strategically positioned itself as a trailblazer and frontrunner, with diverse achievements attributed to itself across varied spheres. To elaborate, India’s foreign policy strategies are guided by its interests to advance its potential to influence the international order.
India, at present, has several opportunities to engage in a new multilateral world order and contribute to the development and stability of third world countries. As one of the largest democracies in the world, India has always provided global leadership in the Global South. India’s foreign policy, since it’s Independence has been characterised by its commitment to the betterment and support of “Third Worldism” and the sovereignty of the developing countries. Unlike the other Asian leader, China, India did not join any bloc during the Cold War and played a critical role in the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It emphasized the importance of the United Nations as the leading institution and advocated for its supremacy over specialized organizations like the World Bank and the IMF. Moreover, New Delhi became a member of GATT, the IMF and World Bank at an early stage, while Beijing joined the WTO later, signifying differing approaches to integration with the global economy.
India has always had active engagement with regional and global forums, such as the United Nations and BRICS and has been a major force for the establishment and within the UNCTAD and the G-77, working actively for the economic development of the Global South of which New Delhi seeks to represent the interests and concerns. Its leadership and initiatives, like the “Act East Policy”, helps shape the agenda on various global issues, including development, climate change, and trade. India’s growing economy and market potential make it an imperative partner for countries in the Global South. It endorses economic cooperation through enterprises like the India-Africa Forum Summit, the India- ASEAN relationship, and the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program. It also provides lines of credit and grants to support infrastructure development projects in other Global South countries especially African countries, contributing to their economic growth.
India regularly participates in South-South cooperation projects, fostering collaboration and the exchange of best practices among nations in the Global South. It offers its knowledge and experiences in a variety of industries, including agriculture, healthcare, and renewable energy. Through forums such as the South-South Cooperation Fund, India assists other nations in the Global South in overcoming common issues and achieving sustainable development. Through initiatives such as the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi provides development aid to other nations in the Global South. These efforts are aimed at increasing capacity, exchanging knowledge, and developing skills with India’s development assistance empowering other countries and promoting self-sufficiency.
Furthermore, India’s vaccine diplomacy, popularly known as the ‘Vaccine Maitri’, expanded its focus beyond South Asia and targeted developing and least developed nations in the Global South. This approach aims to bolster investments while also countering the hegemonic Chinese influence by establishing stronger relationships with nations in the global South through donations and commercial exports. By employing vaccine diplomacy as a tool of soft power, India sought to legitimize its geopolitical influence and justify its dominance in the region, utilizing the Global South as its leverage. Moreover, India’s cultural diplomacy plays a crucial role in connecting with countries in the Global South. Through initiatives like the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and cultural festivals, India promotes cultural exchanges, fostering understanding and cooperation. These efforts help build stronger people-to-people connections and enhance India’s soft power in the Global South.
To further elaborate on India’s major role as leader of the Global south, it is pertinent to mention India’s commitment to addressing climate change and promoting sustainable development. The country has taken significant steps to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. India actively participates in global climate negotiations and initiatives, advocating for the concerns and interests of developing nations in the Global South. Besides, India’s advancements in technology and digital infrastructure have positioned it as a leader in the digital domain. The country actively promotes digital diplomacy and e-governance models, sharing its experiences and solutions with other nations in the Global South. India’s expertise in areas such as e-governance, digital connectivity, and cyber-security helps strengthen the digital capabilities of other countries in the Global South.
Additionally, India has also strengthened ties with Africa and Latin America through groups such as BASIC, IBSA, and BRICS. With a focus on South-South cooperation, India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in African and least developed countries has expanded rapidly. India’s participation in programs such as NEPAD, technology-based know-how sharing, and African development cooperation represents a break from the traditional donor-recipient model of North-South interactions. Its involvement includes increasing trade and investment, diplomatic engagement, support for debt relief measures, and providing technical, military support, and capacity building. As part of its multi-alignment strategy, India today participates in a number of international organizations, and maintains economic links with countries with potentially competing interests, such as the United States and Iran, Israel and Arab countries, and North and South countries. India’s expanding middle class, professionals, democratic governance, and open political atmosphere create prospects for increased engagement between the Global South and North.
Furthermore, India’s Presidency of the G-20 comes at a crucial juncture, characterised by on- going challenges like the Russia-Ukraine Conflict, energy and food crises, environmental issues, economic slowdown and recession and a horde of issues plaguing the world, at large.
In response, India, as the leader of the Global South, has initiated an extensive year-round series of G20 discussions and meetings under the theme “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth-One Family-One Future” and this holds enormous implication for the Global South. With a specific emphasis on the Global South, this topic highlights India’s universalistic vision and commitment to ensuring just and equitable progress for all people worldwide. In addition to encouraging a lifestyle for the environment (LiFE), empowering women, and utilizing digital public infrastructure for technology-enabled development in important sectors like health and education, India’s Presidency places a high priority on inclusive, equitable, and sustainable growth. Additionally, India is actively promoting the circular economy and climate financing, two issues that are crucial for the Global South. Under India’s direction, there is a focus on solving the unique problems that the Global South faces. Significant emphasis is given to industries like agriculture, skill mapping, culture and tourism, global food security, energy security, disaster risk reduction, and development cooperation. In addition, to promote fair and transparent global governance, India is advocating for multilateral reforms and actively combating economic crime. The G20 Presidency of India provides a critical venue for the Global South to address major global issues and develop collaboration among member countries. With a strong commitment to inclusion, environmental responsibility, socio-economic growth and sustainable development, India is seeking to contribute to a more affluent and sustainable future for all nations through its leadership, with a special focus on the needs and concerns of the Global South.
Thus, to recapitulate, India’s role in Global South governance consists of political leadership, economic cooperation, development assistance, South-South collaboration, digital diplomacy, climate leadership, and cultural exchanges. India’s active engagement and actions contribute to the collective success and development of the Global South, and its many policies and stratagems that encompass its advancement in the Global South are evidence of this.