Since the end of the Cold War and even earlier, India’s caveated embrace of the liberal international order has sought to appeal to a broadly conceived liberal community of states as part of a wider quest for recognition, status and material dividends. Despite significant convergence with the dominant norms of the post-Cold War liberal international order, however, India’s commitment has nonetheless remained instrumental and partial. Indian leaders have contested key elements of the US-led liberal international order because India’s experiences of that order have not always been positive. For India, the liberal international order has functioned more as a normative and material resource than an article of faith, with elements selected and rejected as required.
This strategic approach persists, but India’s room for manoeuvre may be greater than before. India’s recent inclusion within and leverage of a liberal vision for the Indo-Pacific have delivered a recent and swift elevation of its status and agency. Yet India—through both the discourse and the policies of its leaders—understands several aspects of this vision differently. India is working to keep malleable established ideas about what constitutes legitimate liberal identity and behaviour. This allows New Delhi to pursue its often distinctive interests and avoid succumbing to the role of a ‘liberal socialisée’ in the shadow of the United States and its allies. What we see in the region—and what India supports—is a ‘low-resolution’ liberal order. This visual metaphor portrays an order whose detail is weakly defined: an order whose normative content is flexible rather than rigid – an order sometimes more superficial than deep.
This lecture is part of the 'The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies Lecture Series', taking place on Fridays from 2 February to 8 March 2024. You may either register for individual lectures or you may choose to register for the entire lecture series at a reduced price.
Please note: this lecture will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 30 January 2024.