How India’s democracy shapes its relations with the West

Experts discuss how New Delhi’s democratic credentials impact India’s engagement with the West.

Research event Recording
18 April 2024 — 1:00PM TO 2:00PM

Event recording

Experts discuss areas of convergence between India and the West regarding democracy promotion, in the context of India being promoted as a voice of the Global South.

As India goes to the polls in April, in the world’s largest democratic exercise, this event discusses the opportunities and challenges facing Western governments in their engagement with New Delhi based on India’s democratic credentials.

The West has long held up India’s democracy as one of the pillars of its engagement with the country. India has also touted its status as the world’s largest democracy as part of its claim to global leadership. While this may seem rhetorical, it alludes to the fact that the West’s relations with India are seen to be underpinned by not just shared interests, but also shared values.

However, Indian foreign policy often appears out of sync with Western democracies and New Delhi rarely employs democracy promotion as an explicit tool of its foreign policy.

India is not unique among democratic states in placing pragmatism above principle in the conduct of its foreign policy. 

However, New Delhi’s firm adherence to principles of non-interference and sovereignty mean that its democracy promotion activities are often pursued more subtly by being subsumed under broader development initiatives. 

Moreover, while India’s democratic foundations remain more robust than is commonly perceived, an erosion of these foundations would have implications for how the country is viewed globally and may complicate a deepening relationship with the West.

Experts discuss:

  • What are the areas of convergence between India and the West regarding democracy promotion in the context of India being promoted as a voice of the Global South and a potential bulwark against the rise of China?
  • With technology cooperation being a key area of engagement between India and the West, do India’s efforts to promote the ‘democratisation of technology’ through Digital Public Infrastructure offer an area of potential convergence?
  • What does the illiberal turn in India’s democracy and its more muscular deployment of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) mean for the country’s foreign policy and relations with the West?

This event launched the publication of the Chatham House research paper How India’s democracy shapes its global role and relations with the West by Chietigj Bajpaee.

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