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Modi’s Foreign Policy: Worth it?  

Author: G Mohana Krishna  Student,IIT-B

This is the pick of Modi government’s performance among various domains. In taking forward diplomatic and strategic ties with both friends and foes Modi’s government has been exemplary. The choice of Ajit Kumar Doval as National Security Advisor and Jai Shankar as Foreign Secretary who hold high reputation in their respective domains shows the government’s intent. Mr. Modi’s priority in peaceful and secure neighborhood is evident from day one when he invited the heads of SAARC nations for his swearing in ceremony. Modi’s visiting of 16 countries in his 11 month tenure, meeting all P5 country heads at least once and pitching strongly for India’s place in UN security council as its right showcases his ‘fast track diplomacy’. Perhaps no other Prime Minister of India could have made so many multilateral and bilateral visits during the first few months of office.

Policy towards SAARC:

From inviting SAARC leaders to his swearing in ceremony to proposing a SAARC satellite by ISRO as gift to SAARC countries and a SAARC disaster management team post Nepal’s horrifying earthquake shows his attached importance to safe and secure South Asia with India leading from front. The only country in SAARC with whom India’s current foreign policy seems confused is with Pakistan. But it has a lot to do with double standards being displayed by Pakistan government and taking signs of Modi government’s friendly initiatives as its weakness and it is not proper to portray it as Modi’s failure; after all he is about to complete one year in office!

Act East- Link West:

With his ‘Act East- Link West’ policy and a series of visits to nations in the East and the West which are strategically important for India’s interests Mr.Modi has displayed his diplomatic acumen. Learning the development parameters of Eastern countries such as Japan and Singapore has been attached much importance in India’s foreign policy for the past two decades. Shifting of policy from ‘looking to acting’ shows Modi government’s intent in making India proactive. Modi’s attached importance to Western (including Middle-East) countries that constitute major exporters of oil and defence equipment to India shows his realization of the fact that we can’t afford any ill/weak relations with the nations we are heavily dependent upon.

Dealing with China:

Mr.Modi has been innovative when it comes to dealing with China. His government chose to be a founding member of Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) led by China seen as counter to World Bank and IMF. He has successfully coordinated with China in clinching the coveted post of first president of BRICS bank for India. During President Xi Jinping’s visit to India Modi has conveyed strong protest to advancements of China’s army at disputed border and displayed interest in resolving the conflicts involving border. His inviting POTUS as chief guest to India’s Republic day celebrations and his joint statement with Obama has cornered China. He has sent his foreign minister immediately to China to smooth ruffled feathers. His visiting countries in Indian Ocean region to counter China’s advancements around India’s neighborhood and pitching for ‘Project Mausam’ seen as a counter for China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ project sent out a strong and clear message to China that India is not ready to bow before its power.

Modi has signaled to China that while India will extend its friendly hand for collective Asian development, it is equally ready to be tough on strategic issues. With his first visit to China scheduled this month there is a great interest among observers and critics of his foreign policy.

Diplomacy at display:

Modi government’s efforts in evacuating stranded Indians from conflict prone areas of Iraq, Libya and Yemen while coordinating with both state and non-state powers effectively speaks a lot about his diplomatic team. Modi known for surprising observers has done so once again by inviting Barack Obama as chief guest of India’s Republic Day celebrations. This initiative and an immediate announcement of breakthrough in Indo-US nuclear deal has taken the relationship between two countries to a whole new level. This could perhaps serve as counter to China’s efforts to be supreme Asian power and make Asia multipolar. Reaching breakthroughs in deals which are seen as blockades in any further advancements of bilateral ties with countries such as US, Canada etc. stand as testimonial for efficacy of Modi’s foreign policy team.

Pitching for ‘making in India’ at bilateral and multilateral forums and meeting business communities of the various countries during his bilateral visits and promising them ease of doing business at a time when India is projected as the country with highest growth rate is inducing a sense of confidence among potential investors. Attracting global partners for assistance in realizing projects such as smart cities and letting states partner with other countries or cities/states of other countries for development termed as ‘Para Diplomacy’ is hallmark of Modi’s foreign policy initiatives and his belief in decentralized role of state in development and federalism. Modi’s sending of Devendra Fadnavis, CM of Maharashtra to Davos summit as India’s representative and Chandra babu Naidu, CM of Andhra Pradesh to China a month before his visit to China are instances of ‘Para Diplomacy’.

Over and above there is a scope for more increased engagement with European Union a chance of which has been missed recently because of standoff regarding the case involving Italian marines.

Exerting Soft Power:

The government’s reaching out to Nepal through aid by all means and championing the relief and rescue efforts in Nepal aftermath the recent earthquake, helping in evacuation of people of different nations from Nepal and conflict prone Yemen has put India on global map with many countries recognizing and thanking India’s efforts. Leveraging the presence of Indians in various countries and by reaching out to them during his visits he chose to portray them as the face of India’s soft power.

His persuasive powers were at display when he succeeded in persuading the global powers and UN to dedicate a day to YOGA in order to showcase its importance in today’s highly stressful world and YOGA as gift of India to world.

Tough Stance:

The government’s firm stand at World Trade Organization(WTO) on food stockpiling issue which is important for a monsoon-dependent and drought-prone India and for its food security concerns and a fitting reply to Pakistan for unprovoked cross-border firing has made it clear that the government can and will take tough stand when it comes to India’s interests.

Hindrances for India’s supremacy:

India is one of the largest importers of defence equipment with China being on the opposite end. Further India cannot compete with China in financing economically weaker countries. These two issues are preventing India from establishing its supremacy. With Modi’s government focus on ‘Make in India’ with priority attached to defense sector followed by formulation of defense export policy, the government shows its intent to rectify one of the issues.


For Mr.Modi being a politician with no foreign policy experience virtually, to display such matured and impressive diplomatic acumen, to follow bold and innovative ideas to reclaim lost ground of India as an important global power, to persuade international communities to recognize India’s interests and to respond to provocation by foes strongly is no small achievement. Overall, Modi’s proactive, innovative and robust foreign policy seems all set to reinvent and reclaim India as competitive, confident and strong global power. Let me remind again that he is about to complete just a year in office!

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