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India and the Responsibility to Protect: A Tale of Ambiguity

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image of Global Responsibility to Protect

Military intervention to halt atrocities is one of the most contentious aspects of R2P and with which India has often expressed disagreement in the past. Since the 2005 World Summit, however, there has been an apparent softening in that opposition. This article takes a close-up look at the empirical record, revealing ambiguity in Indian attitudes from the outset that militates against categorizing them as either ‘for’ or ‘against’ humanitarian intervention. The portrait that emerges is of a reactive actor driven incrementally away from a default preference for sovereignty as autonomy, whilst harbouring deep concerns about armed intervention. This article suggests that cautious and reluctant accommodation offers the best description of India’s still unresolved stance on humanitarian intervention. That fits in with a broad preference for pragmatism in foreign policy, which has struggled to balance traditional concerns with a ‘new’ ambition to acquire and sustain greater power-political influence in a changing world.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), Cape Town, South Africa,


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