The New Age Diplomacy: Regionalism and Para-diplomacy in India


Regionalism in India is considered to be an outcome of increasing cultural power in contemporary times further impacting the probity of the country. Regionalism as a concept is a political ideology that concentrates on the interests of a distinct group, region/regions etc. India, for centuries, has remained a diverse country with several cultures, religions, languages and communities that have been roused by the regional concentration of identity characteristics. So, regionalism will perform a significant role in nation building if the needs of the regions are acclimated by the political system of the country according to experts and scholars. Furthermore, in last decades regionalism has also influenced coalition politics due to alliances. Also, national politics are nowadays overpowered by regional demands.

Today, the world is experiencing increased interdependence and connectedness of global economies and culture due to globalization.  Globalization has led to regional entities of federal democracies to enhance and engage at International level to accomplish para-diplomacy. Para-diplomacy is the foreign policy ability of non-central governments and their participation, independent of the central government, in the global arena. The concept has been a contemporary type of diplomacy and a concept in India. However, John Kincaid, an American Scholar in the year 1990, presented “Para-diplomacy” first as a concept. Within a democratic federal system, he sketched a foreign policy part for governments at the regional level. Para-diplomacy is likewise known as ‘continent diplomacy’, ‘state diplomacy’, ‘subnational diplomacy’ and ‘regional diplomacy’. Professor Ivo Duchacek suggested distinct forms of para-diplomatic arrangements such as trans-regional diplomacy, global para-diplomacy, cross border and regional Para-diplomacy.

States in modern India are at a favorable position to institute diplomatic steps in various domains such as trade, foreign direct investment, foreign policy making, culture, economy and educational exchanges. In other countries including India, “Economic para-diplomacy” has likewise been visible in the last few decades. Similarly, para-diplomacy has brought the essence of diplomacy and bringing awareness about the sustainable development goals at the regional level further bolstering the federal structure of India. Para-diplomacy at the regional level is further beneficial in discussing global and pressing issues such as climate change, terrorism, public diplomacy, cyber security, protecting human rights, etc. Therefore, Politicians and government officials ought to understand the significance of para diplomacy that will require suitable knowledge to help them to make right decisions.

In the present times, Cities play a significant role in Para diplomacy at regional level are known to be economic powerhouses for growth and development and have come to engage in negotiations, reach agreements, and additionally create a huge impact in global politics. Indian cities such as Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad etc. have played a crucial role at the regional level due to collaboration of public private participation.  Likewise the North-East India, which had remained isolated from the rest of India, has been gradually picking up its pace in influencing the country in Para-diplomacy.

Post the economic reforms of the 1990s the states of India have vastly paved the way for the decision-making and foreign policy of India. Recently, a state division was established in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was also set up to attract foreign investment and compete with each other through “competitive federalism.”  However, there should be a creation of more organizations or state foreign relations offices to conduct Para diplomacy. This will thus help in advancing the track two/ backchannel diplomacy and good governance.

Regionalism on the contrary also becomes a hindrance in global diplomacy, due to undue decentralization. Some of the challenges in Para diplomacy at the regionalism include conflicting interests between the Centre and states due to religious, geographical, economic and cultural diversity; Indirect leverage of states in foreign policy decisions; minimal level of knowledge and understanding besides the little economic room for states and most importantly, presence of different political parties in several states which may or may not align with the policies of the Centre. Also, each of the states in India has its own strategic edges and possibilities.

Nevertheless, with explicit approaches and establishments, Para diplomacy has the prospects to rev the growth of India. The country should thus ameliorate its foreign policy to include Para diplomacy as its global stature has been rising. Furthermore, a balanced set of approaches and strategy is very much needed by the Central government for the enhancement of Para diplomacy. The Centre and States must perform jointly in sync and camaraderie and ensure that it is flourishing and aids in driving ahead the collective interests of the nation. There should also be more increase in the sister-city agreements. India could indeed take successful examples of Para-diplomacy from Brazil, the United States, and China etc. The nation-states should therefore act at a more strategic level to remain pertinent and effective in a globalized community through their cities.  India should likewise consider leveraging its role in “Maritime Para diplomacy” taking advantage of its vast coastline.

India’s “Unity in diversity” ethos ought to be maintained for the pluralistic nature of the country. Also, It is very important to include the academicians and civil society organizations that could push forward the goals of Para diplomacy. Lastly, the Indian government has been doing well in Para-diplomacy although it is still at its developing phases and is gradually advancing its pace over the years. Nonetheless, it needs more awareness among government officials, state and civil society organizations to prosper further, which could play a vital part in making India a trillion economy. On the whole, Para diplomacy could play a very crucial role in further enhancing the image of India and in the fourth industrial revolution if the Centre collaborates with the states with a balanced approach.

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