Long regarded as a centrist power, India's external policies under Prime Minister Narendra Modi are showing remarkable dexterity to capitalise on the nation's US$2.7 trillion (S$3.7 trillion) economy, its 1.5 billion-strong market and its appetite for arms, amid a fraught global geopolitical situation. Its "multi-aligned" approach to diplomacy and trade - one that is unsentimental and interest-focused - makes it a unique swing state in Asia and has seen a number of top diplomats beat a path to its door amid the crisis in Europe: the foreign ministers of China, Britain and Russia visited within a 10-day period; so too a United States deputy secretary of state and President Joe Biden's point man on sanctions against Russia.
The Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (Ecta) inked by India and Australia last Saturday aims to not only boost bilateral trade rapidly, but to also ease movement of people, goods and services across borders. It will reportedly enable tariff-free access to India for 85 per cent of Australian exports and for 96 per cent of Indian exports. It follows on the heels of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership (Cepa) that India signed with the United Arab Emirates in January - the first free trade deal signed in years by New Delhi, which disappointingly dropped out of talks for the Asean-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). India is now turning to do a similar deal with Israel. Trade agreement talks are also on with Britain.