Dr. Subramanyam Jaishankar
Dr. Subramanyam Jaishankar: An Overview of India's Foreign Policy Journey and the Current Assertive Phase

As the sun sets on the bustling city of New Delhi, the diplomatic corridors of power come to life. Amidst the murmurs of political maneuvering and strategic planning, one figure stands out, exuding an air of quiet confidence and authority. Dr. Subramanyam Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister, is a force to be reckoned with in the world of foreign policy.

With a decisive and assertive approach, Dr. Jaishankar has set his sights on elevating India’s stature on the global stage. His diplomatic finesse and negotiation skills have been put to the test time and again, and he has emerged victorious each time. His response to Western countries has been nothing short of brilliant, showcasing his ability to navigate complex geopolitical terrain with ease.

But it’s not just the West that he has dealt with. Dr. Jaishankar’s transactional diplomacy with West Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia has been equally impressive. His keen understanding of regional dynamics and his ability to forge strong partnerships has helped India establish a firm footing in these critical regions.

And then there is the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In the midst of a brewing crisis, Dr. Jaishankar’s calm and measured response was a masterclass in diplomacy. His unwavering commitment to India’s principles and his deft handling of the situation won him accolades from all quarters.

Dr. Subramanyam Jaishankar is a rare combination of intellect, strategic thinking, and diplomatic finesse. He is a shining example of India’s commitment to global cooperation and a true ambassador of the country’s aspirations. In a world that is increasingly complex and fraught with challenges, he is a beacon of hope, showing us that with skill and determination, we can overcome even the most daunting of obstacles.

In 2019, Dr. Jaishankar delivered the Ramnath Goenka Memorial speech in which he classified India’s foreign policy into six different phases, offering his vision and perspective on the country’s foreign policy. In the first phase (1947 to 1962), India chose to remain neutral and non-aligned, focusing on nation-building with the three Ds of democracy, development, and diversity.

The second phase (1962 to 1971) saw India shift towards realism and a focus on national security, following its fallout with China and the threat posed by Pakistan. This era saw India establish a short-lived security alliance with the USA before shifting its focus to the Soviet Union.

The third phase (1971 to 1991) was complex, with the US-China-Pakistan axis creating challenges for India. India’s involvement in the Liberation War of Bangladesh brought it into conflict with the western world, particularly the USA, due to Pakistan’s brokered alliance with China. May 18, 1974, was the true turning point in India’s geopolitical affairs when a nuclear device was detonated in the Rajasthan desert near Pokhran, India. This event came as a shock to the entire world. The underground test is often referred to as “Smiling Buddha” and was not a deliverable weapon. The Indian government referred to the test as a “peaceful” nuclear explosion geared toward exploring such things as enhanced mining techniques, the “stimulation of oil reservoirs to increase both the production rate and the ultimate recovery” of oil, and to conduct other feats of large-scale underground nuclear engineering.

The fourth phase (1991 to 1999) was a challenging time for India as it sought to retain its strategic autonomy in a unipolar world following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The country embraced economic reforms and a look east policy. Smiling Buddha tested in 1974 had led to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, along with the major world powers, to impose a technological embargo on India. As its nuclear program was dependent on imported technology, it suffered greatly from these sanctions and the program began to stagnate as a result. The Narasimha Rao government gave a new lease of life for the nuclear program in 1995 but preparation for the tests was detected by CIA spy satellites which invited criticism and threat of sanctions from the International community. This led to the program being put on a temporary pause. Only with the BJP government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee coming to power in 1998 was the decision taken to go ahead with a new round of nuclear tests dubbed as Pokhran II.

During the fifth phase (2000 to 2013), India became a balancing power and focused on high economic growth and development. This period saw India sign the civil nuclear deal with the USA, which required the country to sustain its position as a balancing power in Asian geopolitics.

The sixth phase (2014 onwards) is a period of energetic engagement and a major transition for India. The country is focused on increasing its national security consciousness and taking critical domestic political decisions with strategic and geopolitical repercussions. However, this phase has been controversial, with decisions such as the Article 370 Abrogation in Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act causing concerns internationally and creating a crisis for India.

Dr Jaishankar’s understanding and vision of India’s foreign policy is a reflection of his astute academic grounding, rich experience, and analytical skills. He rightly observes that India’s foreign policy in the contemporary age has shifted from being reactive to proactive, thereby transforming India from a rule-taker to a rule-maker. Dr Jaishankar’s six-phase classification of India’s foreign policy from 1947 to 2014 provides an excellent overview of India’s foreign policy journey and sets the context for India’s current assertive foreign policy.

In conclusion, Dr S Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, has been in the headlines for his bold, decisive, and assertive statements on India’s rise in the world. He has a robust academic grounding and effulgent intellectual capacity, which is reflected in his exemplary scholarship in International Relations and his long-standing experience as a career diplomat. His classification of India’s foreign policy into six phases provides an excellent overview of India’s foreign policy journey and sets the context for India’s current assertive foreign policy. Dr Jaishankar’s astute evolution, understanding, and vision of India’s foreign policy are an outcome of his rich experience and analytical skills, which have blossomed in fruition since he took over as India’s foreign minister.


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