India’s Foreign Dream During Four years of Modi Sarkar

The BJP-led NDA government, often states that the country has achieved unprecedented outreach at the global stage in the last four years of Modi’s governance. It is also important to recall that Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the leaders of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to his swearing-in ceremony in May 2014. This gesture promised the incoming of a government that would formulate foreign policies reflecting India’s aspirations and would bolster the country’s relations with its neighbours. Having completed four years in office, let’s take a look at how far we have come.

Reality Check

The NDA government’s foreign policy has brought in a threat to the security of the country on a worldwide scale. The root cause of this is India’s endangered relations with the ‘Big Powers’ – USA, China, Russia, European Union and the ASEAN members. The inclination of a majority of South Asian countries towards India’s historic neighbour, China, has raised tensions in the government. Further, India seemed to dig its own grave by abandoning its prominent positions in organizations like NAM (Non-alignment treaty movement) and other post-colonial world order institutions. With Prime Minister Modi failing to attend the NAM meeting in 2016, India’s position as a neutral leader, which it had maintained since the early 1950’s came crashing down.

The ship has sailed for India as it continues to remain obtuse. The Obama regime was the most conducive time for India to develop impetus policies that would drive our economy forward. But India failed to nurture its relations with the strongest power balancer – U.S. Now the current president of the U.S, Donald Trump seems least interested in developing a strategic partnership with India. This is evident through the repeated postponement of the ‘2+2 dialogue’. Apart from this tattered relationship between India and U.S, the BJP government has antagonized China and Russia as well. By boycotting the ‘Belt and Road’ (BRI) initiative and observing the Doklam standoff, India became a victim of China’s wrath and estranged itself from the other countries that have joined BRI.

Dwindling Neighbors

Maintaining an amicable relationship with its neighbours is paramount to all countries. Conversely, the Modi government has fractured India’s status and threatened its security by creating a hostile relation with its neighbours. In the past four years, the Indo-Pak ties have gone from bad to worse. The surgical strikes, Kulbhushan Jadav case, Modi’s independence day speech on Balochistan and POK and the CPEC have added fuel to the fire. Though Modi’s relation with Nepal started out on a good note, it gradually began to deteriorate as our leader hailing from the Hindutva party began to indulge in religious politics and opposed Nepal’s secular constitution. The economic blockade further weakened the neighbourliness between the two countries. India’s relation with Sri Lanka had been gradually healing in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war. But its recent closeness and increased confidence towards China is perilous for India as Sri Lanka is within India’s geopolitical orbit. Adding to this catastrophe, India’s diplomatic ties with Maldives, Seychelles, Latin and South America have also fallen apart.

On attaining power, Modi articulated the “Neighbourhood First” approach. In doing so, he adopted a ‘Big Brother’ attitude and displayed chauvinistic gestures towards Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh. However, this approach was not well received by these South Asian countries. Thus, India tense relationship with its neighbours is destabilizing its bulwark against Chinese aggression. The government continues to object the BRI, despite many Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European countries joining the initiative. What it fails to realize is that India doesn’t have the economic or military power to counter such an ambitious project. India’s only way to combat BRI till now was Quad – Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with US, Japan and Australia. But recently India discussed its vision for the Indo-Pacific region with China during their maritime dialogue, which in turn has created doubt in the future of Quad.

Russia, India’s largest defence partner is now in pally with China. It is also supplying military helicopters to Pakistan. Pakistan and U.S have collaborated in their efforts against Afghanistan. However, India watches as a silent observer in this matter because of its diplomatic relations with Afghanistan.

The Brighter Side and Weak Spots

In the past four years, the government spent a considerable amount of time in the waning hope of gaining membership to the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Though this attempt was futile, its ceaseless efforts did bear some fruits. In 2017, the U.N National Security Strategy document included India as a leading global power and a strong strategic and defence partner. Adding to the positives of Modi’s foreign policy, the U.S recognized India’s aid towards the development of war-torn Afghanistan. Acknowledging the country’s growth, Europe initiated economic opportunity based partnership with India, and Israel emerged as India’s major defence and technology partner.

On the other hand, gulf nations such as UAE and Saudi Arabia have made investments worth around $50 billion. However, this renewed thrust has failed to resolve the Maldives crisis. India has successfully maintained cordial relations with Japan and other ASEAN countries. But despite Modi’s visits to Malaysia, the extradition of Zakir Naik still remains problematic. This shows that despite the Modi government being prosperous in bringing economic benefits to the country, many other crippling issues remain unresolved.

Developing the foreign policy of a country in accordance with the challenges of an evolving world is an arduous task. Assessing the four years of the government, we can say that the Modi regime has attained both, victory and defeat. And now with just one year left in office, Modi seems to be aiming at far-fetched decisions. Will his foreign policies threaten to become a blip in India’s lifetime?

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