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Modi’s Foreign Policy Orientation:PARADIGM SHIFT TO ECONOMICS, By Prof. Arvind Kumar, 21 May, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 21 May 2014

Modi’s Foreign Policy Orientation


By Prof. Arvind Kumar

Dept. of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University

The mandate given to the BJP by the people has shown a high degree of maturity in the true democratic spirit. It is obvious from the mandate that the responsibility and accountability to run the country has been enshrined to Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi.

Undoubtedly, the final result of the election reflects the need to have a decisive Government. It was high time the country needed a strong Government with full majority. The UPA coalition Government had derailed the process of decision making at a time when there is a growing competition among nation States across the globe.

A country of India’s size cannot afford to remain distant from the decision making process on all issues impacting the country’s image across the globe. The onus now is completely on the Prime Minister-designate to deliver and fulfil the aspirations of India and its people.

There is a growing debate in the country and elsewhere in the world with regard to India’s foreign policy orientation in the foreseeable future. Some have argued that the new Government might like to take a hard line position in dealing with its neighbourhood. Others have opined that India would now be more cautious and pragmatic in taking any stance which would not only be pragmatic but also very moderate in its approach in dealing with both the neighbourhood and the world.

Such a policy response would be in tandem with India’s national interests. Moreover, the country would accommodate itself in a balanced manner but at the same time it might prefer to evolve an assertive diplomatic maneuvering for effective signaling and messaging.

Notably, foreign policy, by and large, never featured prominently during electioneering in the past. But, somehow, this election for the sixteenth Lok Sabha was slightly different. A number of inferences can be drawn from various statements made by Modi during the process of electioneering and campaign. From what has been articulated so far, it is obvious that economic development would be the main priority of the new Prime Minister which would largely underpin his foreign policy decision making.

The indications that the External Affairs Ministry would require to place a significant emphasis on trade negotiations and also promote India’s business overseas are clear reflections of its intent and fundamental goals. The other reflections especially in the context of the need to enhance the role of the State in the foreign policy decision making have also gained salience.

It may have featured because of the experience of the Prime Minister-designate in dealing with the rest of the world as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. The federalization of India’s foreign policy also seems to be a possibility in the foreseeable future in the new Government. That Gujarat has been able to attract the largest foreign direct investment in the country connotes that the role of the State is going to be dominant in foreign policy orientation.         

The new Government is likely to put greater emphasis on economic and commercial diplomacy. Such an approach will obviously see a major shift from the previous Government. Modi’s experience in establishing commercial linkages between Gujarat and other nations will find resonance in the evolution of national policies. There will be continued emphasis on building relations with India’s East and South-east Asian partners. 

It is most likely that Modi will make some serious efforts in roping international investors from countries such as Japan and South Korea with whom he has been able to develop a strong bilateral understanding. It is anticipated that ties with Singapore and Japan, in particular, will deepen under the Modi-led Government.

The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) will feature prominently in terms of India’s priorities in the coming months especially in initiating the stalled process of building connectivity such as the trilateral highway with Thailand and building road and rail network with Myanmar. It will be of great significance to India’s national and economic interests.

Unquestionably, Modi will also prioritise and give special attention to China and enhance economic partnership. The country will soon become investor-friendly through the creation of single-window clearances and initiating a number of largely relaxed policy measures. Such action will augment and intensify economic partnership.

It must be reiterated that Modi will be extra cautious in dealing with Beijing because of economic interests and China being the largest trading partner of India. However, the handling of China’s incursions across the Line of Actual Control into India’s part of J&K will have to be addressed without hurting the country’s larger economic interests. Modi would require to deal with Japan and China at a level where he can not afford to show his closeness with either of them. He would require to balance relationship with both the countries.

Besides, Modi had articulated China’s expansionist design during his campaign. This now needs to be moderated but at the same time, the demonstration of India’s intent and annoyance through its assertive diplomacy is likely to be signaled. Modi will not do anything which would jeopardise Sino-Indian economic relations.

Importantly, dealing with Pakistan will not be a challenge anymore for India. But, dealing with Islamabad’s sponsored terrorism will obviously remain a severe challenge. The symbolic messaging to Pakistan especially on India’s reactions to any Pak actions will dissuade Islamabad to provoke and prompt New Delhi.

The other countries in India’s neighbourhood will also receive attention especially in the context of building an amicable atmosphere where the development agenda of the country’s will be realized. It is most likely that Modi as a part of his first official visit as India's Prime Minister might like to go to Dhaka where he could sign the Teesta water sharing treaty with Bangladesh’s  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. However, this might require comprehensive assessment with regard to the probable and possible benefits. Modi has already received an invitation from Sheikh Hasina without swearing-in.

With regard to the evolving contours of Indo-US strategic partnership, Modi will show absolute maturity and evolve a robust relationship at every level. The Free Trade Agreement between India and the US may get priority. Modi might come up with lot of game changing idea in diplomacy. An attempt will certainly be made in deepening India’s cultural linkages with the world, which ultimately would help in harnessing India’s soft power vis-à-vis international diplomacy.

In sum, the primary task before Modi with regard to India’s foreign policy orientation will be to ensure an external environment that would be conducive to the country’s transformation and development. Alongside, how to attain a peaceful and prosperous periphery around India’s neighbourhood will remain not only a complex task but also a daunting challenge.

Certainly, the Modi-led Government will see a paradigm shift in India’s foreign policy approaches from politics to economics and mainly usher a new era of economic and commercial diplomacy. ---- INFA  


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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