Ian Hall
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Seeking multipolarity, favouring multilateralism, pursuing multialignment
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This chapter argues that India has long sought a multipolar international order, and that the majority view within its foreign and security policymaking elite is that such an order would be more conducive to India’s interests and values than the orders that have prevailed since the country gained independence in 1947. The chapter makes the case for understanding Indian ideas about multipolarity as being intrinsically bound up with a particular foreign policy strategy of ‘multialignment’ – an approach aimed at mitigating the risks inherent in a disordered, multipolar world in which the US cannot or will not play a stabilising role and in which other rising or resurgent states are pursuing strategies that aim at regional hegemony. The chapter develops the argument that this understanding of multipolarity is relatively new, having emerged in India’s strategic elite only in the past decade, but it draws on key strands of thought that have evolved since Indian nationalists began to think, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, about possible foreign policies for a postcolonial India. It examines the responses of India’s foreign policymaking elite to the brief moment of post-Cold War unipolarity, and the anxieties that underlay them. The last section of the chapter explores the emergence of a more confident narrative about multipolarity in India since the early 2000s, and how this has shaped India’s approaches to securing and extending its interests and preferences in contemporary international relations.

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