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Modi’s Foreign Policy Chutzpah OUT OF THE BOX PRAGMATISM By Amrita Banerjee, 26 Nay, 2015 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 26 May 2015

Modi’s Foreign Policy Chutzpah


By Amrita Banerjee

Research Scholar, JNU, New Delhi


In this globalised age fostering and maintaining good relations with other nations is an imperative for sustaining a country’s security interests which entails robust defence preparedness and a strong economy. Evidently, Prime Minister Modi seems to have understood this dynamics and is following a muscular foreign policy in an effort to foster and promote ‘Brand India’.

The Modi Doctrine nee fast track diplomacy rests on three facets: proactive, strong and sensitive which set Modi travelling. Since he assumed office last year, the Prime Minister has visited 18 strategic countries with a combined GDP of $46 trillion and population of 3.5 billion, selling India’s potential and putting it back on the global stage.

Modi’s agenda for the visits was clear: One, attract investments which would result in more jobs. Given, foreign institutional and direct investment reduced from $36 billion to $20.6 billion during 2004-2014. Moreover, GDP growth of 4.5% wasn’t creating the requisite jobs and the country’s international credit rating was near junk.

Thus, to woo foreign investment again, Modi promised some calibrated steps like providing a single-window welcome and assuring of a stable regulatory regime. Happily, his courting has elicited promises of nearly $100 billion in foreign investment and earned him considerable political capital. 

Two, he addressed the key issue of national security as India is encircled in a hazardous security zone thanks to China. Plainly, Beijing is using economic, military and diplomatic tools to gain influence over coastal nations and small islands in the Indian Ocean Region, enticing these with investments and aid to consolidate its strategic positions.

Just how intense the competition is became evident when both New Delhi and Beijing rushed to help Maldives when its main water desalination plant collapsed. Also, the alacrity with which both countries reacted to Nepal’s massive earthquake again underscores how the two Asian giants continue to vie for influence in the region.

Pertinently, Modi is countering the Chinese ‘string of pearls’ strategy along vital sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean through his ‘necklace of diamonds’ strategy whereby India is busy fostering ties with China’s neighbours like Japan, South Korea, Mongolia etc.

This plan would get a further boost with Modi’s forthcoming visit to Russia and Central Asia. Additionally, the Prime Minister’s invitation to US President Obama for Republic Day celebrations shows that he was sanguine enough to realise the importance of Washington as a counter-weight to Beijing.   

Indeed, through his high-profile diplomacy, Modi has pulled India out of the security shadows, clearly emphasising that threats will be countered. The active humanitarian missions in Yemen and Nepal supports this ‘man-of-action’ position and gives India yet another legitimate claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Asserted Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh, Modi has ‘tweaked’ the country's foreign policy for the better whereby the entire world is looking towards India with renewed faith and respect.

Three, the Prime Minister’s global visits also stressed the need to increase India’s global presence and connect with the Indian Diasporas. The weight of 1.3 billion NRIs’ has till date not been brought to bear in international affairs as the world battled a quagmire of issues; terrorism, global financial crisis, concurrent receding of Western dominance, social media phenomena and the ascendant Chinese economic juggernaut. Importantly, Modi wanted to convince the world that India too can make a difference.

Towards that end he connected with the Indian Diaspora to link them to India’s growth story. The massive response he got from the NRI constituency in New York, Sydney and Shanghai, is a canny reminder to the host countries that the Indian-origin citizens are a powerful vote bank --- with Indian interests at heart.

Besides, the Prime Minister also met financiers, students and the Indian Diaspora who have been disillusioned by India apart from meeting the Heads of States to further India’s business interests. From the nearly 9 million-strong Diaspora in the 18 countries he visited, Modi sought investment of their skills and capital in return for cultural pride. 

Lastly, his urbane representation of India at the world’s multilateral forums also stands out. By his trips to the G-20, BRICS and East Asia summits, Modi showed how much India values multilateral frameworks, a significant discontinuity from the past.

Further, his ability to break the deadlock on the food stockpiling issue at the WTO is testament to his pragmatism and how he wishes the world to see India as constructive, not rebarbative.

Another innovative idea of Modi’s Government is the introduction of elements of “Para” diplomacy in India’s foreign policy whereby States and cities are encouraged to forge special relation with countries or Federal States of another country or even cities of their interest.

This was implicitly seen when town-twinning agreement were signed between Mumbai and Shanghai, Ahmedabad and Guangzhou, Varanasi and Kyoto and Kanauj and Grasse. Undoubtedly, this policy gives the concept of ‘cooperative federalism’ a boost besides attracting FDI’s, akin to his success as Gujarat’s Chief Minister.

Certainly, Modi is a man of great pragmatic vision who exhibits assertiveness and flexibility when necessary rather than remaining a prisoner of history. A recent example, when Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatists in August 2014 (a policy tolerated by erstwhile Congress Governments) India called off the scheduled Foreign Secretary talks slated a week later. Thereby, Modi drew his first red line on Pakistan.

Another example, the NDA Government launched a new foreign policy initiative ‘Project Mausam’ stretching from East Africa to Indonesia, proffering India robust control over the Indian Ocean by deepening links with littoral nations.

However, another vacuum that Modi needs to fill up is drawing upon a policy of linking India to West Asia. Given the greater geo-political implications of the rise of the Islamic State, and the failure of democratic transformations after the Arab Spring, India will have to make more pronounced moves in the region by lucidly articulating its policies on Syria, Libya or Iraq.

Unfortunately, the last ten years of India’s foreign policy under the Congress-led UPA Government lacked the courage and conviction to influence the international order and critically shape relationships, be in India’s immediate neighbourhood or with key powers like US and China.

Happily, Modi's moves on the international chessboard have begun to redefine Indian strategy and thinking but his success as a statesman can be confirmed only if his structural reforms succeed in future. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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