Council for Strategic Affairs

Council for Strategic Affairs

The Doctrine of Indian Exceptionalism

Dr. A. Adityanjee: 09:53 AM, Jan 09, 2023


The modern Indian nation state has a long history that sometimes conveniently gets forgotten. India did not arise or start or was created in 1947 when the transfer of power from the colonial British government took place. India is a historic civilizational state with thousands of years of history, culture, civilization and philosophy.  No one can deny the unique cultural history of Indian nationhood from ancient times as there are enough pieces of evidence from various streams, including archeological, historical, literary, cultural, and geopolitical.

Our ancient Indian civilization proudly believed in the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam bringing a universalist dimension to humanity and statecraft. Such philosophical notions are not found in any other civilizational nation states. Indian kings were always governed by a code of conduct for the ruler called Raj Dharma which took care of the human rights of the subjects. Such advanced cognitive and humanistic notions from ancient times mark India apart from other nation states! Marxist historians and Western academics for narrow purposes have adroitly tried to deny the ancient nationhood of India.

During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, the boundaries of Indian nation included the modern-day transient states of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The influence of Indic civilization was so widespread to the west that the ancient Kingdom of Mittani in West Asia had Indo-Aryan rulers with Sanskrit-based names. In the East, Indic influences were present all over Southeast Asia up to the Philippines. On the North, Indic culture, artifacts and influences are still seen in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China and up to Korea, Japan and Siberia. That was the unique history of the Indian nation and Indic civilization when some of the modern day hyperpowers were not even born! Mother India has stood tall as a civilization for thousands of years despite barbaric invasions and onslaughts from marauding armies. The moderating and civilizing influence of India on the world in ancient and medieval times can not be denied despite intellectual gymnastics by colonialists and their minions.

Geopolitical History of India since 1947

As an emerging democracy post-colonially, India for various reasons tried to not get involved in military blocks. India has maintained her independent posture in international relations. The doctrine of Non-Alignment was enunciated and adhered to since 1955 onwards. India’s strategic choices since 1947 were very limited because of the hostile attitudes of the erstwhile colonial power the UK (Britain) and the newly emergent super-power of the USA. Both found a convenient ally in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and armed it to the teeth over many decades against India.

Over the years, the non-alignment doctrine got revised into the Doctrine of Genuine Non-Alignment followed by the Doctrine of Polyvalent Alignment. India is a founding member of the UN. India is also the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping forces but does not find a place in UNSC P5. Indian Government has taken a principled stand that India should not be part of any international treaty, convention, covenant, charter or agreement that tends to jeopardize her national interests.

India is the only country in the entire world where Jews were never persecuted. India gave shelter to Persians (Parsees) fleeing medieval Iran from the religious persecution and murderous onslaught of Islamic invaders. India, despite her history of giving shelter to various refugees for humanitarian reasons, has refused to be a signatory to the 1954 UN Convention provides the definition of a “stateless person” and the foundation of the international legal framework to address statelessness. Similarly, India has not signed or ratified the 1961 UN Convention, the international instrument that sets rules for the conferral and non-withdrawal of citizenship to prevent statelessness.

While India has signed various international human rights covenants, charters and treaties, India has scrupulously avoided getting trapped in the Western imperialist and Woke rhetoric that is inimical to India’s national interests. India as a member of the UN is a party to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.  However, India is neither a state party nor a signatory to the International Criminal Court because it impinges on India’s strategic autonomy. India can not allow persecution and prosecution of her leaders and officials by the ICC when the Indian judiciary is vibrant and over-reaching in its influence.

Though India was a signatory of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and ratified it the same year; India refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 owing to its discriminatory standards.  Similarly, India refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996 for the same reasons. India is a responsible nuclear weapons state that is not part of the Western orchestrated nuclear regimes that impinge on India’s strategic autonomy. India has never been accused of horizontal nuclear proliferation because of strong internal measures and controls. Similarly, India is not a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction of 1997, known informally as the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or often simply the Mine Ban Treaty, that aims at eliminating anti-personnel landmines around the world (International Landmines Treaty). India did not sign the International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) of 2013 because of strategic and security reasons despite pressure from the US.

India, which had worked hard during the negotiations, had expressed its deep concerns about the final draft. At the commencement of this Conference India had made clear that the ATT should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use, especially by terrorists and other unauthorized and unlawful non-state actors. The provisions in the final draft on terrorism and non-state actors were weak and diffused and found no mention in the specific prohibitions of the Treaty.

While India has negotiated in good faith and in an open and transparent manner with respect to our essential interests, the final draft had the tell-tale marks of behind-the-scenes carve outs of exclusive interests of a select few countries, such as egregiously excluding non-state actors or arms transfers as gifts or loans, thus seriously diminishing the value of a multilateral Treaty negotiated in the UN. India had stressed consistently that the treaty should ensure a balance of obligations between exporting and importing states. India emphasized that the treaty could be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states parties without consequences.

Sanction Regime Galore

During this post-1947 era, the imperial West has persistently continued to indulge in India-bashing and attempted to diminish her role by a regime of multi-layered sanctions. Though most of the sanctions were triggered by the 1974 Pokhran-I “Smiling Buddha” Nuclear explosion, the refusal to sign the 1968 NPT had already resulted in a regime of tough dual use export controls and sanctions on India. There were sanctions on India’s space program and missile development program. India could not buy jet engines for her prototype fighter aircraft because of these multilateral sanctions. Despite all these sanctions, targeted killings of Indian nuclear scientists, and contrived entrapment of Indian Space scientists into a legal blackhole, India has survived. Regimes of sanctions were calibrated and finetuned multilaterally to bend Mother India.

Strategic Autonomy

For any Indian government irrespective of party affiliation, India’s strategic autonomy is paramount.  If a government deviates from that path, it will lose power in the national elections. There is a strong reaction among the Western policy circles about India’s continued refusal to kowtow to the Western policy position and prescription regarding Europe’s latest tribal war that ostensibly started on February 24th, 2022. However, this slow-walking war started much earlier. The seeds of this war were sown after the break-up of the Soviet Union when NATO started aggressive eastward expansion despite the fact that Warsaw Pact had dissolved.

India took a principled stand in the UN while trying to work with all the parties involved instead of selectively condemning one party only. Every war is unfortunate but there are antecedents to each war. This mindless eastward expansion of NATO from 12 countries to now 30 countries has resulted in another European white tribal war. For the Western policymakers and their acolytes to condemn India for refusing to play Western geopolitical games is the height of hypocrisy. While Europe keeps buying Russian gas and hydrocarbons, why India should restrict her imports from Russia? India is not at war with Russia and cannot and should not sanction Russia. India will jealously guard her own geopolitical and commercial interests despite all the pressures and will not join any bandwagon like a sheep. India shall not be a camp follower of either US, Russia or China, or Europe.

US-India Tango

The US considers itself an exceptional country not subject to any international law. There is a doctrine of American Exceptionalism. Proponents of American exceptionalism argue that the United States of America is exceptional in that it was founded on a set of republican ideals rather than on a common heritage, ethnicity, or ruling elite. The idea that the United States of America is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans but it’s not true. For a young country born yesterday to try to dictate terms to a civilizational nation state is the height of geopolitical and moral stupidity. These strong-arm tactics have not worked in the past and will not work in future. India is too big to be dictated by the US.

In the process, the US will lose the goodwill of the Indian people and the Indian government. As the US declines in its comprehensive national strength and faces the eight-hundred-pound Gorilla, Communist China, the US needs more friends rather than enemies. A friendly India is in long-term US geopolitical interests. Perhaps, it is true that the US needs India more currently than India needs the US.

However, the US continues to play the game of sanctions. The Sword of Damocles in the form of CATSAA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions is brandished from time to time. The US domestic law can not change India’s international relations. The unilateral abrogation and cancellation of the Tarapore Atomic Power plant nuclear fuel deal by the US did not change the trajectory of India’s nuclear weapons program.  

The curmudgeonly US tactics towards India since 1947 have not changed India’s behavior or aspirations, merely slowed down the rise. India and US cannot be genuine allies but mere friends as India will not agree to be a junior partner. In this US-India dance, India will reserve all the possible dance moves without being intimidated by the hyper-power.

Indian Diplomacy

India has helped developing countries by contributing to their growth and development without trapping them in high-interest debts. Unlike China which practices debt-trap diplomacy, India has given soft loans, grants and aid to neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives, without any profit motive.

India’s vaccine diplomacy was appreciated during the Wuhan virus pandemic when far-off countries like Jamaica thanked India in the UN for vaccine help. This was at a time when US companies like Johnson & Johnson allegedly demanded military bases in Argentina for providing vaccines. There is increasing realization in African countries that China is trying to control their natural resources and the infrastructure built by China does not last long. African countries are now more receptive to developmental aid from India. The only country that was able to evacuate its own nationals and citizens of other countries also from war-torn Yemen was India.

Similarly, in the current war in Ukraine, India was able to convince both Russia and Ukraine to extend help in the evacuation of Indian students. India has provided food aid and other humanitarian and medical assistance to Ukraine without fanning the fire of the war. India will not provide military aid to Ukraine because it prolongs the unnecessary war. India has called all the parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table to seek a peaceful resolution to the European war.

India’s Strategic Independence

India is now moving from an era of strategic autonomy to an era of strategic independence. The world must take note of the change in India’s strategic posture as India’s comprehensive national strength gradually increases. As usual in Indian history, it is the traitors within the country that are putting obstacles in India’s rise. Paid journalists on foreign payroll are adroit at bowing to their masters and periodically write on dotted lines. Global leftist and liberal media networks have been reflexively critiquing India at every opportunity.

Taking the cue from their masters, a minuscule portion of the matricidal Indian diaspora have taken it upon themselves to humiliate and slander Mother India and her government. These buffoons try to discriminate between Mother India versus Government of India without realizing that in today’s geopolitical scenario, Mother India is represented by the Government of India. These Nattering Nabobs of Negativism represent foreign interests of deep states while camouflaging themselves as sons and daughters of Mother India. No amount of saber-rattling by a nexus of foreign agents will slow down the emergence of India as a rising power in the comity of nations.

Indian Exceptionalism

India is a democracy but not part of Western clubs like G-7. India is a secular nation, not part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. India is not part of NATO, nor it is part of the CSTO. India is not a signatory to the NPT and CTBT, yet she is a responsible nuclear-weapon state. India’s entry to the NSG has been blocked by China but she is a member of the voluntary export control regimes MTCR, Australia Club and the Wassenaar arrangement. India is an Asian country but not part of the ASEAN.

India stands alone during critical times like 1971 when only India took on the UN and US about the liberation of Bangladesh on humanitarian grounds. India is part of the BRICS, RIC and SCO while simultaneously being a member of the QUAD, I2U2 and the IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Forum). India has chosen to stay away from multi-lateral free-trading blocs like RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), and CPTTP (Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Transpacific Partnership). India cannot be categorized easily into a particular genre. India cannot be pigeonholed into any specific box or block or military alliance.

India will remain an independent, uniquely exceptional country, a pole by herself in the comity of nations, a rising and shining star, unparalleled and unmatched. India has defied the contrived and discriminatory “so-called global” norms always without compromising on principles. India has survived, flourished and advanced despite the nay-sayers. India belongs to a club called G-1. No one will be able to bend Mother India and its representative Government of India including the mighty superpowers! That is, indeed, the Doctrine of Indian Exceptionalism!

One thought on “The Doctrine of Indian Exceptionalism

Comments are closed.