Love thy neighbour might not be a possibility that India might be blessed with as yet but the strong emphasis on trying to fix the issues could be the foundation of foreign policy of the new government. The feelers were seen during the swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi which saw the attendance of heads of state and the Prime Ministers of the SAARC nations of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka although the presence of the Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif drew flak from the political parties of Jammu and Kashmir while the presence of the Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksa led to protests from politicians from Tamil Nadu due to the ongoing disputes of these states primarily with our international neighbours.
It went on to become a diplomatic conference under the umbrella of the swearing-in ceremony and the then new PM conducted bilateral talks with the most critical neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. PM Narendra Modi met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the day after the swearing in ceremony and the meetings included discussion regarding cross-border infiltrations, Kashmir issue among others. He also held a similar meeting with the Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksa where the talks covered the ongoing Sri Lankan Tamils issue. Modi chose to send a strong political message of Asia centricity and geo-political importance by making his first overseas visit as Indian PM to Bhutan.
Post his Bhutan visit, he attended the BRICS summit held at Fortaleza, Brazil. The groundwork for the formation of the USD 100 billion New Development Bank was laid down in the summit. Although, the Modi government did not win the bid to make New Delhi the headquarters for the same, the bank’s first president will be from India. The move is seen as a challenge to the highly western dominated IMF and World Bank. It also seeks to reduce the dependence of the emergent economies of the BRICS nations on the US dollar and the financial policies of US. The BRICS nations also held a summit with the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) leaders as well.
Going further, calling onto his old friend, his first major diplomatic visit was with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. In his trademark style, he addressed students at Taimei School, Tokyo which he followed with the establishment of the Special Strategic Global Partnership with Japan resulting in the signing of several key agreements and treaties and securing substantial investments in the Monorail project in terms of finance and technology, the pledging of $10 billion investment by SoftBank, the Japanese telecom giant, in Indian IT and telecom space.
Following the same, Modi’s much talked about visit to United States of America garnered world-wide attention than ever before. The timing of the visit coincided perfectly with the success of the Mars Orbiter Mangalaayan mission which literally put India on the global Science and Technology radar which is one of the key points of Indo-US relations. It was also a landmark event because of US’s continued policy of rejecting a visa for Modi in the past citing humanitarian reasons. Yet another example of how even superpowers are susceptible to go back on their stance as and when times change. With Brand and Team Modi working to promote Brand India as the manufacturing and business destination appealing to the sizeable Indian-American, Non-resident Indian population in US, the visit was a strategic success. It was also the first time he addressed the United Nations General Assembly creating a strong case for India and its efforts in combating terrorism and territorial disputes, inclusion of India in the permanent membership of the UN Security Council among other points. He met with several major political figures in the US and also interacted with various businesses as he addressed the U.S-India Business Council. The groundwork laid then paid off as US President Barack Obama has been confirmed as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day parade of 2015.
More recently, his visit to Australia was hailed all over as it is the first time an Indian Prime Minister had visited Australia in 28 years. He was also one of the leaders in attendance at the G-20 summit at Brisbane while he also signed important agreements on dealing with narcotics, trafficking in addition to MOUs for improving bilateral ties. He also addressed the Indian diaspora in Sydney much to the same effect as that at Madison Garden Square, New York City, although the content in itself was somewhat similar.
Overall, the current foreign policy looks to be spreading in all directions from New Delhi. It is about connecting with the non-traditional countries and a sincere attempt to fix and formulate a structured framework of foreign policy. Most of it is a strategic marketing campaign to promote India as a multifaceted destination in terms of trade, tourism, investment while foraying into fixing relationships with neighbours which have been a traditional drain on our resources and energies since the days of Independence. The doubled efforts to fix the relationship with our neighbours while trying to enhance India’s visibility as a global destination will pay off only with time as the trust and respect required will come only with time and space.
We would love to hear more from you about India’s foreign policy and what it holds for us in the future.