ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Centre–State Cooperation in Handling Foreign Affairs

A Comparative Perspective

Indian states engage with foreign countries on the rigorous logic of our constitutional provision that foreign affairs is exclusively a “union” subject. This has conditioned state participation in external activities, especially in marketing abroad, or assisting with exports and foreign direct investment, and acting as foreign bridge-builders.

This article began as an email to a friend, Carl Jaison, who heads the Bridge Project, initiated by a group of students and young people.1 Later, on checking the 201920 Annual Report of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) it became clear that the pioneering work being done by MEAs states division (established in 2014) deserves better notice than it has received. Why do countries deploy sub-state entities in foreign affairs? It widens choices, deepens connections with foreign partners, extends the home countrys reach, and brings economic and other benefits. It also improves the countrys image. In diplomatic studies, these are called sub-state diplomacy or para-diplomacy.

In India, provinces are called states, and union territories. How should any country, especially a federal entity, mobilise its subunits, that is, its provinces, regions, and cities, as partners in foreign affairs? The world over, foreign relations are handled by the central, federal or union government. We look at the practices in several different countries, notably Canada, China, Germany, Mexico, and the United States (US), to see if their ideas might apply to the evolving Indian scene, naturally after adaptation. This also connects with the much larger question of evolution in our ways of managing what we call centrestate relations, and the new trends after 2014, when an activist chief minister Narendra Modi assumed national office as Prime Minister.

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Published On : 15th Feb, 2024

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