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India's Para-diplomacy


Para-diplomacy, as practised by sub-state governments, presents the concept of decentralisation of political power to make regional governments significant players in the international arena.

Paradiplomacy also referred to as "state diplomacy," "regional diplomacy," and "subnational diplomacy," focuses on the ability of subnational governments to conduct foreign policy. Paradiplomacy creates space for external relations of subnational or federal units that might engage in international activism to advance their own interests, in contrast to conventional diplomatic relations, which are the sole purview of sovereign nation-states exercised by central governments. A key trend in the world today is the idea of paradiplomacy in the context of foreign policy and international relations. The financial considerations and a considerable increase in cross-national people-to-people synergies at numerous levels, regardless of national borders, are what drive the sub-national governments to effectively undertake para-diplomacy.

The Decades

Following Partition, the Indian Constitution's framers inserted a strong unitary component to guarantee that the federating sub-units had manageable and limited autonomy. Only the Union ministry is responsible for enacting laws in the areas of import and export, trade and commerce with other nations, and international and diplomatic affairs. When the Indian National Congress party controlled both the federal government and the state governments in the early decades after Independence, this constitutional bias was effective. In such a situation, the Congress Party's dominance under the Indian polity kept tensions between the Centre and the states in check.

Since gaining its independence, India has advanced into an unprecedented era, transitioning from a regional power to an international one with a dynamic foreign policy to support prosperity. Due to its diversity, the nation can perform paradiplomacy by utilising its opportunities and tactics. Paradiplomacy can support the Indian government's federal fabrication and help local governments contribute to the fullest extent possible to the control of cross-border relations.

However, the establishment of coalition and minority governments in 1967 put a great deal of pressure on India's federal system, with the institution of the governor's office and the debate over state autonomy rising to the fore. The issue of paradiplomacy came to light as a result of regional party governments in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Orissa, and even the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. Even though a favourable climate for paradiplomacy began to develop, the 1970s saw only modest expansion.

Due to the economic reforms of 1991, the Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization (LPG) model played a significant part in advancing the paradiplomatic profession. Following the economic reforms of the 1990s, Indian states have significantly influenced India's foreign policy decisions in two crucial areas, namely economic diplomacy and determining India's foreign policy toward its neighbours. The regional states have occasionally been forced to go outside their borders for alternate patterns of investment, trade promotion, and development for their states due to the partisan tone of the central governments toward them.

Significant Developments

  • Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and later Kerala all established regional trade promotion centres when the India Trade Promotion Organization was founded in 1977.

  • The Central government urged states to set up WTO cells at the state level in order to efficiently coordinate the issues relating to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO cells were established between 2000 and 2004 in order to address the issue of a severe lack of information regarding various implications of WTO laws.

  • Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, was asked by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in early 2015 to lead a prominent delegation to China in April of that year, one month before Prime Minister Modi's state visit to China.

  • PM Modi included Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, in his official delegation for the Teesta Accord during his trip to Bangladesh in June 2015. The UPA administration of former PM Manmohan Singh saw the pact stall exactly due to Banerjee's adamant opposition. After forty years of waiting, the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement was eventually completed in 2015, and the two nations then began their successful exchange of 162 negatively held enclaves.

  • By attracting foreign capital, initiatives like Make-in-India, Make-in-India, the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, and Digital India have all contributed to the growth of para-diplomacy.

  • Over the past few years, India's subnational diplomatic efforts have suddenly increased. The Indian diaspora overseas can also assist in various ways for their own respective states through paradiplomacy. For instance, the Punjabi diaspora in Canada, the Tamil diaspora in Singapore, and the Telugu diaspora in the United States.

  • The state governments were likewise eager to take advantage of this chance to promote outreach and economic reforms. Some state administrations displayed their advantages to potential foreign investors remarkably successfully.

  • The 2003 launch of the "Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor's Summit" campaign, for instance, served as a prime example of aggressive paradiplomacy as the Gujarati government promoted its reputation for good governance to potential investors while showcasing its investor-friendly single-window clearance system and world-class infrastructure.

  • Karnataka and Telangana have marketed their capitals' status as international high-tech centres.

  • Kerala, a cosmopolitan state, has made a significant contribution to the growth of paradiplomacy with its diaspora and largest foreign remittances in India. Kerala stands to gain by coordinating diplomatic ties with Middle Eastern nations.


Offering a decentralised approach to international policy matters may be a successful diplomatic strategy India can use to get support. To see the results of pursuing paradiplomacy, the central government must collaborate in improved plan formulation and institute clarity. India can improve its paradiplomacy by creating consulates in nearby states and establishing federal foreign affairs offices run by the MEA. Regular conversations and interactions between bureaucrats within the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and local offices could help.

Indian states will continue to have a larger place in opportunities for foreign policy due to the nation's growing prominence on the global stage. The definition of agency in the international order can be fundamentally changed through the use of paradiplomacy. Paradiplomacy will continue to exist since, according to the UN, by 2050 most people would live in cities.

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