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Atul Mishra, The world Delhi wants: official Indian conceptions of international order, c. 1998–2023, International Affairs, Volume 99, Issue 4, July 2023, Pages 1401–1419


Examining India’s official thinking on international order over the past quarter-century, this article maps the shift in the country’s preference from liberal internationalism to the rules-based international order (RIO). It argues that despite Delhi’s current narrative of a ‘New India’, the country’s order conception shows continuity in being essentially reformist and mostly consistent with the pillars of the 1945 order. While its marked unease with liberalism is a consequence of the changes afoot in India’s domestic politics, this development is consistent with, and contributes to, the decline of liberalism as a global force. The current Indian preference for economic protectionism also reflects the larger trend of economic deglobalization. The description of India as a resurgent civilizational state rather than a liberal democracy, while discursively arresting, does not indicate a divergence with the West on the grand strategic question of order-building. Upon reconstructing the Indian iteration of the RIO, the article finds it to be geographical—focused on Asia and the Indo-Pacific—rather than universal. Finally, it posits that India’s persisting problem of inadequate power and its risk-averse responses to great power revisionism are likely to undermine its efforts to effectively partner with democracies to shape the emergent RIO.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.