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India’s founding myth — that it won independence by non-violence — remains a millstone for Indian diplomacy. Worse still, India is still intrinsically diffident and reactive.
However, there are important shifts that are underway that raise expectations that Indian foreign policy will seize the new geopolitical opportunities to advance the country’s interests regionally and globally. India, in fact, is demonstrating that a country can forge close bonds with rival powers to push its own interests. Underscoring its newfound geopolitical pragmatism, India has shaped a nondoctrinaire foreign- policy vision. India, a founding leader of the nonaligned movement, now makes little mention of nonalignment.
Shorn of ideology, Indian foreign policy has sought to revitalize the country's economic and military security, while avoiding having to overtly choose one power over another as a dominant partner. In effect, India today is pursuing multi-alignment. However, in practice, closer collaboration with the United States, European powers and Asia’s major democracies has come to define Indian foreign policy.
The deepening relationships with other democratic powers could help generate progress toward a broader concert of democracies that helps realize the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. India, though, must shed its risk-averseness and pursue proactive diplomacy.