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“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.
09/06/2023 1:55 PM

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library

Multilateralism and India’s Diplomacy

What is multilateralism?

  • Multilateralism is an approach in which multiple countries or parties come together to address and solve common problems, through negotiations and cooperation, while respecting each other’s sovereignty and interests.
  • In international relations, multilateralism can take different forms, such as multilateral agreements, treaties, and organizations.
  • The United Nations (UN) is an example of a multilateral organization, which brings together almost all countries in the world to promote peace, development, and cooperation.

Multilateralism and Major Powers: From Cooperation to Conflict

  1. The Cold War and Multilateralism:
  • Lack of cooperation during the Cold War, except in a few areas such as nuclear arms control
  • The formation of the UN after the Second World War with the expectation of great power cooperation.
  • Allies turning into adversaries and sharp division of the world into competing economic and military blocs.
  1. Post-Cold War Multilateralism:
  • Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to an expansive phase of multilateralism
  • Great power cooperation at the UN and creation of the WTO
  • The financial crisis of 2008 and the rallying of the top 20 economies to stabilise the global economy.
  1. Current State of Multilateralism
  • World of shared interests among top nations no longer exists
  • Simmering political conflict between Russia and the West, possibility of military conflict between the US and China.
  • Consensus on key issues eludes the G20 today
  • Rising geopolitical conflict mirrored in the economic domain
  • Efforts by the US and China to reduce their massive economic exposure to each other
  • Economic conflict enveloping emerging technologies, especially in the digital domain.

India’s Multilateral Diplomacy amidst the Great Power Conflict

  • Multilateralism and G20: As the current chair of the G20 in 2023, India has to steer the group amidst the renewed rivalry between the major powers. Reducing the impact of the political conflicts on the G20 would be a diplomatic achievement for India.
  • Delhi’s Troubled Relationship with Beijing: India is part of the great power rivalry with China. The conflict is not just about military assertiveness but also deep differences on multilateral issues
  • Need to Balance China: India cannot stand apart from the great power conflict while representing the Global South at the G20. India has to balance its cooperation and contestation with China in various multilateral forums.
  • India’s Participation in Multiple Multilateral Institutions: India’s approach to multilateralism has evolved from a focus on the UN and NAM to participation in multiple institutions including the Quad and the G7. It is also working to strengthen its coalition with the Global South.


  • The diversity of India’s multilateralism reflects the structural imperatives of global politics. Delhi must cooperate with adversaries for regional and global problem-solving while wrestling with rivals and collaborating with like-minded countries. Cooperation and contestation balance depend on the issue and context.

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