More and more like-minded countries are coming together to collaborate on specific issues on the global stage. For emerging countries like India, these “coalitions of the able and willing” appear to be favorable alternatives to sclerotic alliances, historically perceived as constrain maneuverability. These thematic and niche coalitions also complement India’s emphasis on multilateralism.
Coalitions of like-minded countries are the new game in town. These are loose groupings of countries tackling issues of common concern. These groupings are flexible in nature and are not based on absolute security guarantees. This article explores the various areas where India has demonstrated its intention to forge innovative combinations.
The common thread running through most new-age coalitions of “like-minded” partners is to reduce structural dependencies on China, enhance meaningful exchanges of technology through multi-stakeholder partnership, and build sound infrastructural alternatives for participating nations.
In recent times, India and the United States have felt the need to cooperate with like-minded partners to create a robust governance architecture for emerging and advanced technologies, a phenomenon rushed to counter the growing technological capabilities of the China. Other motivations for tech coalitions include the desire to cooperate with similar tech-democracies like the EU, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and Israel to build individual and mutual capabilities. Various ad hoc arrangements like D-10, T10, T12 have already been proposed. Artificial intelligence, telecommunications, quantum computing, financial technology, semiconductors, drones, autonomous weapons and biotechnology are potential areas that are gaining momentum. These are important because technological innovations are the foundation of a country’s economic and military power.
A concrete example that is taking shape is the Clean Network initiative, which calls for the adoption of rules on digital governance. These initiatives aim to reduce dependence on China for the acquisition and use of technology, particularly in light of the development of Chinese espionage and surveillance capabilities. The ostracism of Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei in many Western countries is a tangible result.
Such coalitions improve supply chain resilience, reform global standards, mitigate national security concerns, and boost the technological competitiveness of participating nations. Setting technology standards is also a crucial part of the QUAD partnership.
Various experts have called for coalition building around cybersecurity. This would help recognize and work on general data privacy standards while being nimble enough to accommodate national approaches to data privacy protection. The recognition of general standards could pave the way for the implementation of Internet regulations to combat malicious cyber activities, based on values of transparency and accountability. A feasible event could be an international cybercrime center to coordinate botnet takedowns.
A natural beneficiary of this process will be digital trade flows between countries based on mutual trust. It could also involve removing tariff and non-tariff barriers on digital goods; advancing digital flows.
In 2019, India took the initiative to establish the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) for sustainable development. CDRI aims to make infrastructure systems resilient to cope with climate risks and disasters. CDRI is a partnership of multiple stakeholders, including national governments, private sector organizations, knowledge institutions, UN agencies, multilateral development banks and financing mechanisms. Several countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America have expressed interest in joining this initiative.
India, Japan and Australia have also launched the Resilient Supply Chain Initiative (RSCI) to complement QUAD’s efforts to reduce vulnerabilities in global supply chains.
Experts have called on RSCI to promote integrated supply chain clusters of manufacturing bases that are backed by financial incentives such as favorable regulatory and tax policies. Recently, a new roadmap was defined by 18 countries, including the EU, the United States, Japan, Singapore and India, to build supply chains based on the values of transparency, sustainability, diversification and security.
India has also been eager to join niche new-age coalitions that seek to “bridge the gap between theory and practice of AI”. A concrete example is the Global Partnership for AI (GPAI) supported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), France and Canada.
The GPAI aims for multi-sector cooperation to promote cutting-edge research to support the responsible evolution of AI. This complements India’s own efforts to leverage AI through its National AI Strategy and National AI Portal. NITI Aayog has also launched its “AI for All” initiative which falls under the general rubric of GPAI.
In outer space, the US-led Artemis Accords are an agreement for lunar exploration and beyond. In March 2022, it had 18 signatories. It is against the backdrop of the decaying nature of the Outer Space Treaty (OST) regime that the Artemis Accords are taking shape. it aims to promote transparency, interoperability, emergency assistance and peaceful international cooperation. The interest of this system lies in its usefulness in getting the major powers to agree and comply with a common set of principles, guidelines and best practices to ensure better compliance with established governance treaties.
Senior diplomats have called on India to introduce a Coalition of Countries for Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature (GREEN) to step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, introduce clean technologies, climate adaptation and the development of renewable energy sources.
Underscoring India’s civilizational links with nature, India, together with France, took the initiative to establish the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in 2015 to promote solar energy and mobilize investment for the use of solar energy at affordable costs, increasing its access and reach. This coalition has already included 89 countries, many of which are developing countries in Africa and small island states.
The I2U2 grouping between India, UAE, US and Israel has publicly stated its objectives, including a focus on joint investments, private sector partnerships, start-up collaborations and new initiatives in the fields of water, energy, green technologies, transport and space. Some analysts have viewed the consolidation from a security perspective, calling it an attempt to integrate two distinct strategic contexts of the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East to counter Chinese influence in the region. However, imposing geostrategic models on a nascent idea might be too early. The grouping is exploratory in nature and focuses primarily on economic themes and opportunities for the future.
The QUAD is the most relevant and trumpeted example of global strategic convergence spanning many fields and domains.
Potential coalitions India should work with in the future
There are new evolving coalitions of which India is not yet a part. This is due to India’s lack of expertise or natural resource endowments in these exclusive areas. Building substantial skill and bandwidth in the long run will help India economically and also serve as a pass for these coalitions. Two relevant coalitions are Minerals Security Partnership and Chip 4 Alliance.
The Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) aims to explore and build alternatives to China, which has built crucial processing capacity and acquired mines in Africa for cobalt. MSP aims to strengthen mineral supply chains between countries linked by trust and shared interests.
The existing supply chains of rare earth elements, heavily dependent on China, such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, etc., have become vulnerable due to the worsening geopolitical environment. Securing these elements is necessary because they are crucial inputs for manufacturing batteries in electric vehicles, semiconductors, solar panels, wind turbines and high-end electronics.
The United States has taken the initiative to form a “Chip 4” ad hoc grouping alliance that seeks to create a semiconductor supply chain between the United States, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. The implicit message is to keep China out and cut off Beijing’s access to the intellectual property of companies in these four countries.
Severe semiconductor supply constraints encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the United States to begin cooperation with Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea on semiconductor chip design and production. drivers. However, South Korea is cautious as it does not wish to abandon the huge Chinese market; where South Korean firms have significantly established themselves.