A New Role for India: Developing World’s Partner for Security

Here’s what India can do to actively project itself as a global power that wants international peace and security.

4 min read
BrahMos Missiles. This image is for representational purposes. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://twitter.com/SputnikMundo/status/736589130197405697">Twitter/@SputnikMundo</a>)

While the international community has established effective export-control measures, none have addressed the issue of non-state actors and Weapons of Mass Destruction as effectively and comprehensively as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004).

Despite initially voicing concerns with regard to the resolution, India – a recurrent victim of terrorism – abandoned its objections. Since then, India has enthusiastically fulfilled its obligations under UNSCR 1540 through the adoption of critical legislation, such as the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act (2005).

Although compliance with UNSCR 1540 consolidates India’s image as a responsible power, it doesn’t necessarily bolster or expand its image as an influential power that actively seeks to promote international peace and security.

Opportunity for India to Project Itself as Responsible Global Power

As India begins to emerge from its exclusion from the global nonproliferation regime, it has a long way to go before it can join all relevant export control regimes. Political and technical obstacles continue to prevent India’s admission to some export control regimes.

The objectives of UNSCR 1540, however, align effectively with India’s nonproliferation objectives and international security interests. This provides India with an opportunity to utilise the mechanisms of UNSCR 1540 to solidify its image as an influential and responsible global power.

To further this image, India must seek a leadership role in nonproliferation activities through the provision of its technical expertise and know-how. India, as a leading developing country, must also seek to bridge the so-called technical ‘divide’ between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. By straddling this fine line, India can prove to be immensely valuable in furthering the objectives of UNSCR 1540 and the global nonproliferation regime.


For India to Become the Developing World’s Partner for Security

  • Objectives of UNSCR 1540 aligns effectively with India’s nonproliferation and international security interests
  • India should focus on outreach activities and regional cooperation mechanisms in South Asia
  • India should prioritise assistance to African states
  • In addition, the country should incorporate assistance through bilateral programs like ITEC or SCAAP

Focus on the Neighbourhood

In this respect, India should begin with its immediate neighbourhood: South Asia. India has repeatedly been targeted by terrorists, with many of them allegedly finding safe haven across the border in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Ensuring the continued denial of WMDs to non-state actors, thus, is especially critical to India’s national security.

India should look to engage with the 1540 Committee and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) with regard to conducting outreach activities and establishing regional cooperation mechanisms regarding UNSCR 1540 implementation in South Asia.

In this context, SAARC — despite its many flaws — could be used as an appropriately neutral setting for further cooperation, as it has been previously. The likelihood of this happening immediately, however, is considerably low considering the current geopolitical climate in South Asia.

To see more pronounced success, however, India would have to look elsewhere. Considering the increasing requests for assistance from African states, and given India’s close relations with the region, India should prioritise providing assistance to African states.

In this context, India could include WMD security in the agenda at the next India-Africa Forum Summit in 2020, and discuss institutionalising a framework for cooperation between India and the African Union in this regard. Until then, an effective ad-hoc framework for assistance could be the incorporation of the provision of WMD-related technical expertise into India’s assistance programs.

SAARC — despite its many flaws — could be used as an appropriately neutral setting for further cooperation, as it has been previously. (Photo: Reuters)
SAARC — despite its many flaws — could be used as an appropriately neutral setting for further cooperation, as it has been previously. (Photo: Reuters)

Bilateral Programs

In addition to providing assistance to member states through the 1540 Committee, India should incorporate 1540-related assistance through bilateral programs, such as the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program (ITEC) or the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Program (SCAAP).

This could be extremely effective considering that most states that have requested the 1540 committee for assistance since 2010 are also ITEC or SCAAP partner countries.

India has already offered Cabo Verde (an ITEC Partner) assistance through the 1540 Committee and could operationalise its offer of assistance within the context of ITEC. In addition to technical assistance, India should look to make information and knowledge accessible to partner countries through the programs and centres at the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP). To make these widely available, the GCNEP should consider making its programs available through Massive Open Online Courses.

It is in India’s interest to promote nonproliferation activities globally and to become a proactive stakeholder in the security of these regions. A comprehensive program of assistance designed for capacity building and empowerment would be welcomed by partner countries and would enable India to leverage its relative expertise to bolster political goodwill in the context of India’s bilateral and multilateral relations.

In addition to enhancing India’s efforts to join export control regimes, it could have the added benefit of augmenting India’s bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council. By making the most of this opportunity, India could become the developing world’s partner for security.

(Pranay Ahluwalia is an analyst based in Doha. You can follow him on Twitter @PranAhl. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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