Modi: Foreign Policy With A Difference – Analysis ( Source- Eurasia review / Author- Sridhar Krishnaswami)

Image source / Credits- Narendra Modi official
Source- Eurasia Review

Author- Dr. Sridhar Krishnaswami

There has been a lot of praise and heartburn over the fashion in which Narendra Modi has charted India’s foreign policy in the last one year in office. It is natural for supporters and detractors to look at New Delhi’s track record but to argue there are serious lapses in which the current prime minister has gone about in India’s external relation could be a little disingenuous — a country’s foreign policy cannot be abruptly shifted or turned around in one year. Just ask President Barack Obama what he said on American foreign policy during his presidential campaigning in 2007-08 and what has come about some eight years down the line!

It is not as if Indian foreign policy was in tatters when Modi came to office. What happened to Indian foreign policy some ten years before Modi was elected was indeed a different ball game — a then prime minister unable to steer a steady course as he was consistently bogged down by coalition partners. Even within the realm of South Asia, Manmohan Singh could not chart a definitive and assertive foreign policy because of political compulsions, be it with respect to Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka. Today the ballpark essentially remains the same, but the ballgame has changed. And all of this has to do with the fact that the prime minister sitting in his office in New Delhi is not pinned down by the peculiarities of coalition politics or in any desperate attempt to hang on to power.

The ‘Look East’ policy is not the exclusive preserve of the Modi government. It actually started during the time of then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. But where Modi is different is in his style of approaching the East — an intention to be more decisive in spelling out exactly what New Delhi wants to do and what it expects from others. In fact within a span of one year, both Japan and China have come to understand as to where India is coming from. Even during the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime India had moved away from a regional to a global player; but the fine tunings of a global player is now being put in place.

To say that India under Modi is veering into an “alliance” that includes the United States, Japan and Australia is as wrong as it is naïve. What India has done is to project its legitimate interests in the Asia Pacific, even if it is going to irk a country like China that sees New Delhi needling it in the South China Seas. It is not just a question of navigational rights but one of securing security and strategic interests. The impending visit of Modi to Vietnam will further make Beijing uneasy.

Crying hoarse about Modi visiting 18 countries in one year is something hard to fathom for the simple reason that the Indian prime minister was not “running away” unable to stand the political heat in New Delhi. From South Asia to East Asia, the Asia Pacific and the West, the one message has come out loud and clear: that India is keen to do any business and is finally ready to do so. The invitation to “Make in India” comes with a clear message as well —the transparency of doing business with India and in India. Indian economic growth is not totally dependent on foreign direct investment but political stability, and economic/business transparency goes the distance in putting India back on the global economic map.

The Modi foreign policy has had some glitches as well especially as it pertains to China and Pakistan. The recent visit of the prime minister to China has been predominantly on atmospherics with all the accompanying hoopla on the cultural, business and e-visas. How Beijing measures up to Indian political and strategic expectations remains to be seen, something that was not talked about in the media either during the visit or after.

In all that bonhomie that took place for the days Modi was in China, his hosts — through official media mouthpieces — were under the impression that India was seeking to involve “third parties” in the settlement of differences with China! And there was no word if the prime minister and his delegation sought to impress upon their hosts on Beijing cozying up to Islamabad as a way of getting even with India or the United States. It is not as if China is unaware of Pakistan’s terrorism credentials but in the extent to which the latter could harm Chinese interests within its borders as well is something that should be highlighted.

Pakistan has been a totally different act altogether for Modi in the last one year and this will be the biggest challenge. To expect Pakistan to handover Dawood Ibrahim or any of the other terrorist thugs enjoying lives in that country is pretty illusory. The question then is what New Delhi’s game plan is in dealing with Islamabad’s brazenly promoting and instigating terror against and in India.

If there is one striking feature in all of Modi’s overseas visits, it was in this refreshing feeling that India was not directly or even indirectly soliciting the West, the East or those in the Asia Pacific for a Permanent Seat in the United Nations Security Council. By paying homage to the thousands of Indian soldiers who had died in the Two World Wars, Modi indirectly reminded one and all that India was a global player before its Independence or even before the Security Council became an entity.

About the author- Dr. Sridhar Krishnaswami is Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication and International Relations at SRM University, Chennai. He can be reached at sridhar54k@gmail.com

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