Indian Federalism and the Conduct of Foreign Policy in Border States: State Participation and Central Accommodation

The role of subnational units (states, provinces, cantons, Lander) in international affairs is a growing subject in the literature on federalist affairs. Scholars of political science have traditionally seen the conduct of foreign policy as the exclusive domain of the national government. This would seem an especially apt observation about India's federalist system. The Indian constitution has given the center particularly strong powers -- so strong, in fact, that some have described it as "quasi federal" because of the lack of autonomy it affords to the states. Yet, there is an increasing consensus that the states have not been shy of foreign policy advocacy. Some have argued that the era of coalition governance has increased such advocacy and, potentially, influence, especially in the context of globalization and economic reform and liberalization.

This paper considers the role of Indian border states in the conduct of foreign policy toward their transnational neighbors and asks whether coalition governance results in more power generally or to some state actors more than others. In particular, we explore whether the effectiveness of a state's foreign policy advocacy depends on that state's position in the coalition. Effectiveness may also be influenced by the type of advocacy -- on ethnic issues, for example, as opposed to economic ones -- and by constitutional limits.