India’s Indo-Pacific Gambit: An Awkward Power Striving for Status

Emilian Kavalski


It seems that the Indo-Pacific label has been deployed by India to validate its great power aspirations. Such operationalization of strategic region-building acknowledges that the positioning of any international actor emerges as a power in context –it is not entirely an intrinsic property of an actor, but depends on the kind of interactions it has in specific (temporal and spatial) contexts. This condition is one of the key sources of the awkwardness of India’s great power. It reflects simultaneously (i) the contested nature of India’s standing –jostling between an aspiring great power, a regional South Asian hegemon, and a begrudging middle power; and (ii) the neglect of Indian aspirations (and self-perception) of great civilizational state. The paper examines these dynamics by, firstly, deploying a discursive study on foreign policy making, whose framework then provides the analytical backstop to the assessment of Indian foreign policy making in the Indo-Pacific region. As such, the concluding section of the paper suggests that the case of India confirms the assumption that it is the complex interactions between contestation and neglect that frames the awkward status of power on the world stage.


The author wishes to acknowledge the financial assistance of the NAWA Chair Professor Grant (PPN/PRO/2020/1/00003/DEC/1) from the Polish Academic Exchange Council and NCN grant (ZARZADZENIE NCN 94/2020) from the Polish National Science Council.

Słowa kluczowe: great power, civilizational state, Indian Foreign Policy, Indo-Pacific region, middle power, regional power

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