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Re-constructing identity and exceptionalism in India’s foreign policy: the advantages and challenges to India’s rise

Basu, P. (2020) Re-constructing identity and exceptionalism in India’s foreign policy: the advantages and challenges to India’s rise. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00096786


The research project looks at the discursive reproduction of Indian identity by the Indian ‘security elites’ in a rising India’s foreign policy discourse and aims to understand the idea of Indian difference or exceptionalism as both shaping India’s foreign policies and being reproduced through the same. It looks at India’s approach with three specific in depth case studies- nuclear energy and disarmament; the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy and relations with Pakistan; and India’s Ocean policy in the context of expanding Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Drawing on critical and radical constructivism literature, foreign policy is seen as a site for identity (re-)construction through Self/Other lenses. It explores the representational and performative practices through which multiple spatial-political/temporal and internal/external Others are (re-) constructed against which the Indian Self is continuously (re-)defined, re-produced and secured. The study identifies that Indian elites have always operated with a strong sense of exceptionalism or Indian-ness and continue to discursively reproduce the Indian difference. The study intends to explore the content of ‘Indian exceptionalism’ or difference as discursively reproduced in the first half of the thesis. It identifies certain themes of Indian-ness and employs them in the three policy areas which are examined in the latter half of the thesis. This helps to understand India’s interactions with the nuclear order that brought India from the periphery to the mainstream. The study explores the various Self-representational practices in relation to the temporal and spatial-political Others to reproduce India’s difference as ‘a responsible nuclear power’ despite being outside the non-proliferation regimes and to facilitate India’s domestic transformation. In the South Asian neighbourhood, India is re-produced as a force of stability and prosperity in the region and New Delhi has re-interpreted its policy of ‘strategic restraint’ with the use of surgical strikest to deal with Pakistan-terrorism nexus. India identifies the China Other as both a long term and short term challenge and this has effected in significant shifts in India’s Ocean diplomacy. Indian elites aim to reposition India as a normative actor in the Indo-Pacific region and express India’s willingness to shoulder greater responsibilities to emerge as a ‘security provider’ based on the Panchamrit doctrine under Narendra Modi’s leadership. There are both continuities and changes in India’s representational practices and the dissertation aims to explore and analyse these and establish the links between India’s foreign policy discourse and practices. It is an interpretative and qualitative study based on extensive documentary analysis and elite interviews which aims to understand India’s commitment to traditional principles, its re-interpretations and modifications to assist India’s rise on the global stage. The study concludes that identity matters in order to understand these continuities and changes in India’s foreign policy practices and ideas of ‘civilizational exceptionalism’ remain integral to India’s identity (re-)production.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Sloan, G.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Politics and International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:96786

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