India - Politics & International Relations overview
- Global Firepower’s Military Strength Ranking 2021 measures the relative military power of countries, ranking India as 4th in the world, with the same ranking amongst Asia-Pacific powers and as having the 2nd most powerful military in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Brand Directory’s Global Soft Power Index 2021 ranks India 36th in the world. India’s foreign assistance to other developing countries, India’s role in humanitarian and disaster relief operations, and the attraction of India as a higher education hub for developing countries in Asia and Africa, are the emerging new soft power resources.
- Lowy Institute’s Global Diplomacy Index 2019 analyses countries’ diplomatic networks and reach and ranks India 12th in the world, commensurate with its rising global stature.
- One of the foundations of Indian Foreign Policy is the idea of “Strategic Autonomy” and “Multi-Alignment”, whereby India does not enter into express alliances but upholds a rules-based order suited to a multipolar world.
Policies and initiatives
- India’s federal structure underwent a significant change with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2016. It replaced the earlier system of dividing taxes on goods and services between the States and the Union, which provided a division of income sources between the two. The tax replaced a number of taxes with uniform slabs and abrogated the power of States to levy taxes on goods and services covered under GST.
- The Planning Commission was abolished and replaced by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog in 2015, an in-house collaboration forum, resource centre, and think tank. It enables expert analysis of issues and legislations while suggesting reforms.
- The Digital India Programme is a flagship programme of the Government of India with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy launched in 2015. It focuses on key verticals like e-governance, digital infrastructure, and citizen access.
- The Know India Program is an outreach program for young People of Indian Origin (PIO) to promote awareness on different facets of life in India and the progress made in the country. The Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana (PTDY) is a similar program for PIOs aged 45-65.
- India has signed a number of Free Trade Agreements or Preferential Trade Agreements with a number of countries and organisations.
- India’s environmental commitments are reflected in its voluntary commitments in the Paris Agreement, as well as its founding of important organisations such as the International Solar Alliance, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
- India has engaged in what commentators call “Vaccine Diplomacy”, where India has leveraged its massive pharmaceutical complex to provide doses of vaccines to countries in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
- India is a member of the Quad grouping of countries (India, United States, Japan and Australia), the Indian Ocean Rim Association, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) grouping. Recent inclusions have been in the Missile Transfer Control Regime in 2018, and the Wassenaar Arrangement in 2017.
- India is a founding member of multiple Multilateral Organisations, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and Mekong Ganga Cooperation.
India is a vibrant Republic, with a multiparty parliamentary democracy. It has a Quasi-federal structure, where the Union, States, and Local Bodies have their independent roles and responsibilities guaranteed by the Constitution. India’s Election Commission is also a Constitutional Body charged with wide-ranging powers to ensure free and fair elections. All three of the aforementioned tiers of Government are elected. At the Union level, India has a bicameral Parliament comprised of a lower house which is directly elected (Lok Sabha - the People’s House), and a permanent upper house which is indirectly elected (Rajya Sabha- the States’ House). The Finance Commission, another Constitutional Body, decides upon the division of taxes in the divisible pool between the three tiers of Government; successive Commissions have decentralised finances steadily, with the share of funds going to the States increasing. India’s nodal agency for its international relations is the Ministry of External Affairs, which houses India’s diplomatic corps. There also exist government-funded Specialised Councils - the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, and the Indian Council of World Affairs. The Indian Council of Social Science Research is the country’s premier body for funding and promoting research in the field of Social Sciences. In addition, there are a number of independent think tanks in the country that undertake research in international relations.