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India Rapidly Expanding Diplomatic Network In More Multipolar World, Says Report

According to the latest Global Diplomacy Index, which was released on Sunday by the Lowy Institute in Sydney, India's diplomatic network has been expanding at a faster rate than any other country. Since 2021, the country has added 11 posts worldwide.

With diplomatic missions in every Asian, Eastern African, and Indian Ocean region countries, India's influence is felt most strongly in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The foreign policy of India

India has prioritized the 'Neighbourhood First Policy,' the 'Act East Policy,' and SAGAR to safeguard its global interests, among its many foreign policies aimed at expanding its global influence.

Indian foreign policy is shaped by its "Neighbourhood First policy," which governs how the country handles its relations with neighboring nations, including those in its immediate vicinity, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Increasing regional trade and commerce is one of the policy's stated goals, along with better physical, digital, and people-to-people connectivity.

The 'Act East policy' stresses a proactive and realistic approach to the Indo-Pacific region's wider geography. The goal is to foster cultural exchange, economic cooperation, and the formation of strategic alliances with Indo-Pacific nations while closely monitoring China's aspirations.

The foundation of India's "Act East Policy" is the country's connection with ASEAN. Indian participation in regional multilateral and plurilateral organizations has grown in recent years, complementing the country's efforts to forge closer ties with its neighbours. These include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting plus, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the Indian Ocean Commission, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, QUAD, and many more.

It was in Mauritius in 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi initially outlined the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) agenda.

An Indo-Pacific area based on a rules-based international order, with unfettered freedom of navigation and overflight and reciprocal respect for sovereignty is what India envisions under this notion. It should also be free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous.

With just two posts among the Pacific Islands Forum members (not including Australia and New Zealand), India's diplomatic presence in the Pacific is low, according to the 2024 Global Diplomacy Index.

Superpowers shoulder-to-shoulder

At the same time, the survey said that when it comes to the scale of diplomatic networks, the US and China are far and away the leaders.

The Index ranks Beijing first with 274 global network posts, closely followed by Washington with 271.

China's ascent to the top position was lightning fast. By 2011, Beijing had 23 fewer diplomatic missions than Washington. The United States' diplomatic network was surpassed by China's by 2019.

By 2021, China had pushed ahead of the US by eight points; however, by 2023, the distance had shrunk to just three points, with China once again in the lead.

Both nations have mostly leveled off since China took the lead; China has dropped two spots from 2019 (276) and the US has fluctuated marginally to get back to 2016 levels (271).

China's strategic priorities in the Pacific, East Asia, and Africa

Such a leveling off was anticipated in the report. Reports indicate that after diplomatic networks reach a certain size, opportunities for new openings are limited to secondary or tertiary cities, or to nations that are perceived as peripheral and frequently have riskier operating environments.

That is why it's instructive to compare and contrast the regional priorities of the United States and China in their diplomacy thus far. Following America's withdrawal from Afghanistan, China's diplomatic footprint surpassed that of the US in Africa(60:56), East Asia(44:27), the countries of the Pacific Islands (9:8), and Central Asia (7:6).

Within Europe (78:73), North and Central America (40:24), and South Asia (12:10), the United States remains China's diplomatic ally. The number of diplomatic missions from both nations in South America (15) and the Middle East (17) is equal.

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