The efficacious manner in which Mr. Narendra Modi has conducted foreign relations in the first few months of his tenure, it is quite evident that much of his focus and energy have been directed towards molding a strong coherent foreign policy.There has been growing speculation about the way Indian Foreign Policy will be shaped by the emergence of Mr. Modi as the Indian Prime Minister.
After nearly five months the changes in the foreign policy are quite visible. It not only brought the much needed positivism but also the energy in the way India deals with the world. The areas of focus have changed with South Asia now gaining its prominence in the Indian Foreign policy thought. Economics or to be precise Geo-economics has become the chief area of co-operation and engagement with major countries. Democracy promotion in multilateral organizations as well as other countries can now become another new aspect of the Indian foreign policy.
Focus On South Asia
Ever since Mr. Modi has taken up office he has shown keen interest in developing relations with our immediate neighbors. The invitation to all the Head of State of the SAARC countries during the swearing in ceremony was a brilliant decision.
It shook all the apprehensions about Modi being a hardliner and have showed that the new leadership is serious and willing to discuss and improve relations as well as co-operation between the SAARC members.
The relation of India with its neighbors has been deteriorating in the past few years. Even the countries with whom we had traditionally friendly relations, like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives were distancing themselves from India’s sphere of Influence. The past coalition government at the centre were easily influenced or politically blackmailed by state governments into altering the foreign policy so that regional parties could score political points; as evident from the Sri Lankan issue, where the UPA Government had to follow a policy which was detrimental to India’s interests in Sri Lanka.
The overwhelming majority which BJP got in the Lok Sabha elections present a perfect opportunity for Modi to mend the worsening relations with India’s neighbors in the Indian subcontinent. India has moved in the right direction by gifting a satellite, made by ISRO, to the SAARC.
It will not only contribute to the development of the whole region but it has also earned goodwill and prestige for India in the region. Modi’s decision to make Bhutan his first Prime Ministerial foreign trip highlights the importance of the immediate neighborhood in the Indian Foreign Policy.
If India has any great power aspirations then it has to strengthen its position in the subcontinent first. The SAARC countries offer tremendous economic and developmental opportunities for India as well as the region. India share land as well as sea borders with all the SAARC countries except Afghanistan, and within SAARC leaving Afghanistan all other countries share borders only with India.
India should look for economically integrating the SAARC countries with Itself, as it will not only foster growth and development, but also bring people of the Indian subcontinent close and provide long lasting stability. A basic precondition for that to happen is a high level of Trust and goodwill between India and its neighbors. Such a precondition is certainly missing and it needs to be achieved if there has to be any significant co-operation between the SAARC countries. Only if there is co-operation and trust in SouthAsia will Indian be in a strong position and free to use its influence in other far off regions and can claim to be a global player.
Trade and Investment
Modi has always been a man of trade and investment. Modi was one of the first Chief Ministers in India to organize events like ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ to invite businessmen from all over the world to attract investments. So after becoming the Prime Minister he is assiduously trying to build the image of India as a hub for manufacturing and businesses with his ‘Make in India’ campaign.
He wants to follow up his success in Gujarat on a larger National scale. No efficient foreign policy can be followed without strong economic clout and he knows it better than many of our contemporary politicians. It is for this reason that trade and investments has been a major area of discussion when dealing with major countries like China, Japan and the U.S.
In Japan he has been extremely successful in bringing investments worth $35 billion, which Japan promised to invest with the time span of 5 years. Moreover Japan agreed to give financial, operational and technical help in introducing bullet trains in India. Similarly geo-economics played a major part when Chinese president Xi Jinping came to India. China and India signed 12 agreements out of which one will result in China investing $20 billions in India.
Moreover agreements regarding railways infrastructure development, industrial parks, better market access for Indian products were signed. When it comes to the U.S. , Modi has used trade and investment opportunities to improve relations between the two great democracies; which had declined in the past due to various reasons like intellectual property rights dispute, WTO negotiations, arrest of Indian diplomat among others; by opening India’s $250 billion defense industry to private investments.
Though differences still remains between India and U.S on many fronts but Modi was able to woo the American businessmen and returned to India with a promised sum of $41 billion investment to be invested in three years by American companies. Though The U.S trip was aimed mainly for building goodwill and geo-political agreements between India and U.S, who had been experiencing deterioting relations off late, but still business and trade was very much present in the talks.
Democracy Promotion Internationally
Modi with his ‘G-all’ term in the UN GAssembly Address and with many references to the power of democracy and people, has subtly highlighted his belief in democracy and equality. Promoting democracy in the Indian subcontinent, where except India all other countries are facing political deadlocks or instability, can be beneficial to the long term interest of India.
Furthermore promoting democratic principles in the multilateral organizations like WTO, IMF, World Bank, U.N.O can be advantageous to India in negotiating with the wealthy and industrialized countries.
The support for more equal right for all the nations in the U.N or more broad representations of countries in the selected and restrictive groupings of nations can indirectly help India in furthering its aspiration for a permanent member seat in the UNSC.
Democracy can also be a strength for India in the current world order where the rise of authoritarian China has made the countries of Asia-Pacific increasingly insecure regarding the true intentions of China. The democratic nations can converge on the need to check the rise of China and will give more acceptability to the Idea of a Rising India.
Pakistan And Cancellation Of Talks
Modi has taken the initiative by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing in ceremony. But unfortunately it didn’t result in thawing of the relations as the foreign secretary level talks were cancelled because the Pakistani High Commissioner met the Kashmiri separatist Leaders just few days before the talks were scheduled to take place. Though some analysts have pointed out that Modi has been impulsive and unpredictable by cancelling the talks, but I disagree.
With Pakistan one needs a carrot and stick policy. The US had been doing all these years while dealing with Pakistan. India today can afford to ignore Pakistan till it learns to act in a responsible manner and talk with a genuine wish for maintaining peaceful and friendly relation with India. I wonder what Pakistani reaction would have been if Indian high commissioner to Pakistan met Baluchistan separatists before any talks.
China And Border Incursions
Regarding the routine Chinese incursion into Indian areas, India should see it as a Chinese ploy to exert psychological pressure on India. India should not react in an immature way and heighten the tension along the Line of Actual Control. There is much that India and China can achieve through co-operation and trade .
Trade and investments will eventually make war or disputes a very unprofitable enterprise and in the long run the border dispute can be solved amicably just like China has solved its border dispute with Russia, which a few decades back was unthinkable.
Prime Minister Modi’s Foreign Policy is a unique blend of pragmatism and idealistic co-operation as well as gestures. It can be termed as neorealism without the dilemma of narrow relative gains.. Any foreign policy can be augmented with a popular and charismatic statesman and Indian foreign policy finds its statesman in Mr. Modi, a mass leader whose popular rhetoric, catchy phrases and overall charisma goes a long way in winning over the crowds in foreign lands and winning goodwill for the nation in the process.
By: Avinandan Choudhury
With Inputs from Published News
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