FOREIGN POLICY OF MODI ERA
India an emerging economy, highest populated nation with 133.92 crores population, potential for huge market, emerging manufacturing hub, strategic location in Indian ocean, house of some of the brilliant and hardworking people, has potential to grow more than a size of 5 million economy as expected by current government by 2025 but along with capitalizing on our internal factors if we fail to have a comprehensive look at our external variables then the efforts will go in vain .This is where strategic, proactive, sensitive and comprehensive foreign policy holds greater importance.
We have come a long way in our foreign policy decisions. The evolution from Nehruvian policy, Panchasheel, Gujral doctrine, Manmohan mantra and finally to Modi doctrine. Before 2014 India’s foreign policy objectives were non-alignment neutrality. However, with changing times and country requirement the perspective of Indian foreign policy has changed considerably.
From non-alignment to inclination, survival to assertion in south Asia, from reliance on foreign powers for arms and ammunitions to being nuclear power, from marginal country to leading country in G-20, India is constantly evolving in this changing world on its foreign policy stand. India is becoming more proactive and vocal in its external arena. Having already proven its worth in national authority, the new government under the leadership of honourable Prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi now aspires to play and has been playing a superpower role in world forum.
The geopolitical scenario of the world is changing which has brought up new global issues for India to deal with.
Therefore, our foreign policy has also accommodated itself with these changes during the term of late former external affairs minister Mrs Sushma swaraj. From just ‘look east’ which failed to take detailed steps, India adopted ‘act east’ policy, with comprehensive steps taken to improve the ties with east Asian countries like Thailand ,Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos with honourable Prime minister making initial bilateral visits to Nepal,Bhutan,japan in first 100 days of his term followed by visits to Myanmar, Australia emphasizing a more proactive role for India in this region.
Although we share same culture, history, closer values India’s relationship with our neighbours have been far from satisfactory. After coming to power prime minister has hinted towards deeper relations with our neighbours adopting ‘neighbourhood’ first policy. Nepal is a close friend with India providing training to police and bureaucrats, help during natural disasters, hydroelectric projects and marriage alliances. India acts as a guardian to Bhutan, giving massive aid financial, military and strategic support to the Himalayan nation. In turn Bhutan also helped in wiping out insurgencies in north east India. India is the reason for existence of Bangladesh. Apart from certain immigrants’ issues both the nations share cordial regional leadership, amicable sharing of water etc.
Relation with Pakistan are all time low. China is emerging as a hostile neighbour. Afghanistan proves to be a strategic location considering Chahbahar port but rising terrorism is matter of concern.
India has now shifted towards harnessing relation between Indian ocean countries with china’s increasing influence in Indian ocean region. India is all set in regaining the trust and renewing partnership with island nations of sri-lanka, Maldives with honourable prime minister making first visit to Maldives during his second term. India is also keen is restoring and renewing its relationship with its extended neighbours like Japan, south Korea considering huge investment and importance of south china sea region as a future trade corridor.
In order to balance its act east policy India has also derived ‘link west’ policy. India’s relations with USA, Russia, France, Middle east are growing with honourable prime minister having various bilateral and trilateral meetings with world leaders.
India has emerged as nuclear power with many indigenously made weapons and combat vehicles. Here India has fulfilled the object of avoiding reliance on external powers with hostile neighbours like Pakistan, unwanted borders issues, interference by china, India has kept its defence policy intact and proactive. It is evident from dokhalam standoff to surgical strike. India has made it clear that ‘no first use’ policy is situational hinting towards apt nuclear operations if Pakistan makes first move. Also, India believes in solving border issues bilaterally refusing to pay heed to international statements made on abrogation of article 370, issues regarding PoK successfully upholding sovereignty of India on world forum.
The dream of $ 5 trillion economy can be fulfilled with huge investments pouring in. India is now portraying
itself as investments destination with ‘make in India’, manufacturing hub, ease of doing business. As of April 2015 FDI inflows to India increased by 48 percent since the launch of make India. India has also attracted investments from japan in advanced technology while south Korea assisting in infrastructure and electronic manufacturing units set up in India.
The modi government has redefined strategic autonomy as an objective that is attainable through strengthened partnership rather than avoidance and non-alignment. When India is engaged in ‘quad’ it enhances its strategic autonomy with Russia and china. In middle east, India has asserted like never before even garnering an invite to the inaugural address of OIC, highest civilian awards and honours from Saudi Arabia and UAE. India also gain a lot from gulf nations as two third of India’s oil import comes from there and nearly $65.3 billion remittances from Indian citizens living there. India has preserved this strategic partnership by not becoming pawn in the US-Iran trade tensions and keeping its national interest ahead of any trade war. India is also maintaining a safer distance in on going US-china trade war and capitalising on the gap created by imposition of trade tariffs.
Maintaining good foreign relations with countries, their allies and adversaries is like walking on the rope. There are lot of challenges India will need to face in this global unstable scenario filled with trade wars, nuclear wars and technological wars. China is a major challenge that India has to contend with. It is luring small countries with its economic might. Deepening India- US ties will also prove to be fatal if the balance of power shifts in the east Asia. To deal with the trade war situations which will have repercussions on India, it should develop a flexible foreign policy but to the extent possible India should not become party to any trade war and conflicts.
India is asserting itself on global forums by active and constructive participation in various organisations. India’s efforts in Indian ocean region through BIMSTEC is a welcome move. Prime minister has maintained a frenetic pace by renewing partnerships with world leaders soon after regaining second term. At BRICS he called for strenthing of WTO and global conference on terrorism. In japan India-US trilateral meet he spoke about rule-based order in Indo-pacific region. His increasing interest in south Asia is evident when he invited all SAARC leaders for his oath taking ceremony. On the other hand, his stand on RCEP and BRI is apt considering china’s growing influence and India’s sovereignty. Leadership of Syed Akbaruddin, India’s permanent representative to UN is portraying India as nation firm on its commitments on terrorism and internal security. Appointment of a diplomat as an external affairs minister by Modi government itself shows that India is all set to take a leading position on world diaspora.
India is also initiating various developmental and infrastructural projects like dedicated SAARC satellite, integrated solar alliance, recent announcement of giving scholarships to 1000 students of ASEAN, financial institute of BRICS nations to rival west dominated IMF and world bank. Considering these initiatives, terming the foreign policy of modi era as successful will be turning a blind eye towards what went wrong. The first big mistake was demanding changes to Nepal’s constitution which backfired as Nepal building closer ties with china. India is still not able to encash on not so good- not so bad ties between china and Pakistan. India’s two hostile neighbours joining hands will be huge bulwark for India. China is nearly five times the size of our economy, the only
parameter of comparison is the number of people we have. What stands out is a well thought strategy fantastically executed which we lack on our part. we can see lot of trade and infrastructural deals being inked but nowhere can we see them been executed. E.g. India-South Korea partnerships. Infrastructural developments like bullet-trains, huge statues remain a way of showing the world our strength irrespective of being useful for people.
In this backdrop, India also need to rework on many of its policies in coming five years. Its foreign policy should aim at gaining India a permanent seat in UNSC, resolving border issues with negotiations, say and importance at world organisations like G-20, strong investment opportunities, FTA with Asian and African nations to benefit India’s agriculture and manufacturing hubs. India has emerged as a force to swift the international platform. Third largest economy, massive military strength, $ 5 trillion economy, assertion on global platforms and presence across the planet will require India’s foreign policy to be robust, sustainable and effective. Current government also needs vibrant community of aid, bureaucrats and researchers free of ideological commitments to think of new threats like disruptive technologies, cyberspace. Etc.
The challenge hence is to bring state of art policies, build strong economic foundation, capitalising on India’s
strength and possessing the best liberal credentials.