Breaking a taboo | The Indian Express

It is perhaps not too surprising that India’s first formal engagement with the Brussels-based North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as this newspaper reports, took so long to organise. NATO has existed since 1949 and has dominated European geopolitics ever since. After the end of the Cold War, it expanded into Europe and its engagement with Asia and its waters increased significantly. It is perhaps understandable that India, which rejected military alliances during the Cold War, deliberately stayed away from the US-led NATO and the EU-led Warsaw Pact. Soviet. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the great Cold War divide in Europe. As the Warsaw Pact disintegrated with the Soviet Union, NATO endured as the military alliance of the triumphant West. Although post-Soviet Russia has engaged NATO as part of building a new Europe, talking to the world’s most powerful military grouping has remained a political taboo in Delhi. Ingrained nostalgia for the Soviet Union in Indian political classes and deference to Russian political sensitivities in the foreign policy establishment, coupled with lingering suspicion from the West, have seen Delhi refuse repeated demands for talks with NATO.

As Delhi struggled to emerge from its defensive squat, the Western military alliance reached out to key Asian countries including China and Pakistan. Many smaller countries in Asia benefit from engagement with NATO in a range of areas, from training to capacity building. But Delhi remained indifferent. It was not that NATO was offering membership to India and that Delhi was not interested in such membership. The question related only to politico-military exchanges. Yet Delhi’s conservatives continued to veto consultations with NATO. The Modi government chose to break the ideological shackles and begin formal engagement in December 2019 after building a new national consensus. The first round of talks covered a range of issues, including Afghanistan, terrorism, China, Russia and maritime security. The Covid had apparently prevented the continuation of this dialogue in the following years.

The case for India’s resumption of dialogue with NATO has become even more important since the end of 2019. The American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the The resulting war in the heart of Europe, the rise of a China, the Sino-Russian alliance, and the emergence of the Indo-Pacific have radically altered the international security landscape. Meanwhile, as India grows as a major economy, its geopolitical importance as a pivotal state among major powers increases. At the same time, India’s vulnerabilities have also increased on the border with China, and the conflict with Pakistan shows no sign of abating. India has therefore adopted the strategy of multi-alignment – ​​deepening ties with the United States, building a partnership with Europe, maintaining the traditional partnership with Russia and dialogue with China to solve problems. bilateral. Sustained engagement with NATO must be an increasingly important element of this secure strategy of multiple alignment.