Event ReportsPublished on Jul 18, 2015
Launching the new book of Dr. C. Raja Mohan, 'Modi's World' on Friday, Indian Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar explained the changes brought out by the foreign policy of the Modi government.
Foreign Secretary launches book on 'Modi's World: Expanding India's Sphere of Influence'

On the eve of July 17, 2015 the Observer Research Foundation along with the Indian Express hosted the launch of Dr. C. Raja Mohan’s latest book Modi’s World: Expanding India’s Sphere of Influence. In this book, India’s most prominent foreign policy expert Dr. Mohan traces the evolution of India’s foreign policy and examines the continuity and changes in the contours of foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The book is based on compilation of articles authored by Dr. Raja Mohan that featured in the Indian Express over the of PM Modi’s first year in office. The book co-published by the Indian Express and Harper Collins was released amid much enthusiasm and fanfare and was attended by most prominent faces of New Delhi’s strategic community.

To mark the launch of this timely book, the occasion was graced by the presence of India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar as the Chief Guest to the event. Discussing the contemporary relevance of the book and its significance - a distinguished panel composed of Ambassador Shyam Saran, Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Ashok Mallik was joined by Dr. Raja Mohan. The stage was set for the panelists to express their views on the topical book following the welcome remarks from Anant Geonka, Director, Indian Express and P. M. Sukumar, the CEO of Harper Collins. Mr. Sukumar remarked that the book’s release comes during the end of PM Modi’s first year in office which helps to provide an important indication of the changes in India’s foreign policy while laying the framework to understand the future course of action. Analysing PM Modi’s foreign policy initiatives, the book showcases Modi government’s substantial efforts with a blistering speed to bring India at the fore of global affairs in the most lucid manner.

Amb. Shyam Saran chairing the panel discussion on ’Modi’s World’ at the outset mentioned that the book provides a sharp analysis of India’s foreign policy which is continually evolving and thus, ought to be viewed as a work in progress. Amb. Saran noted that the book succinctly captures the important departures and continuity in foreign policy making under the leadership of Modi. The book was credited for a thematic categorical understanding of three distinct eras based on India’s foreign policy posturing coined by Dr. Mohan: ’The First Republic’ (1947 - 1989) largely defined political stability rooted in the Congress with the quest for economic autarchy and a foreign policy of non-alignment; ’The Second Republic’ (1989 - 2014) emerged with the collapse of the Congress and adaptation of India’s foreign policy to the new international circumstance post the Cold War; and ’The Third Republic’ (2014 - till present) the major electoral victory of Modi in 2014 dawned for several as the era wherein India would realize its full potential as a nation under the strong political leadership of Modi who didn’t carry the ideological burdens of the past and was unabashed about India’s great power aspirations.

Amb. Saran noted that the book embodies the importance Modi lays on India’s neighbourhood with a ’Neighbours First’ policy with a special emphasis on improving relations with the smaller neighbours. Modi pursued a vigorous regional diplomacy which was marked by his invitation to the leaders of the subcontinent and Mauritius to join in his inauguration ceremony. Modi showed pragmatism and repaired ties by injecting new energy in India’s important bilateral partnership with the United States and also treats evolution of India’s ties with China and Pakistan. Amb. Saran set the stage for further discussion on the book by the panelists by stating that Raja Mohan’s book offered important departures in India’s foreign policy which has acquired momentum under PM Modi and mentioned that the author delivered an excellent overview of India’s recent diplomatic history.

Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament, while stating that there have not been any significant departures from previous government’s foreign policy, acknowledged the positive initiatives undertaken by the Modi government in the realm of foreign policy. Tharoor pointed out that Modi within a of a year has already visited 24 countries and during his visits, he has successfully been able to leverage on soft power, given an impetus to yoga diplomacy and acquired international benefits for the country. Tharoor also pointed out that Modi government has been incongruous on its Pakistan policy and the Israel-Palestine issue.

Ashok Malik discussed the significance of the book as it traced PM Modi’s efforts in building blocs of India’s foreign policy in a rapidly changing security environment and international order. Mr. Malik pointed out that the book captures the departure of India’s China policy as the Modi government has attempted to engage China economically and accelerate India’s economic development whilst working on a host of new mechanisms promoting peace and tranquility along the borders. There is also an attempt, as reflected in the book, to claw back the strategic space occupied by China in the subcontinent lost during the UPA II years. Mr. Malik also mentioned Modi’s recent travel to the Central Asian Republics and how the new government is expanding the scope of its influence in the heartland of Asia. He also argued that foreign policies of countries don’t change with the change of government and the presence of bureaucracy helps maintain the continuity but each Prime Minister brings his own emphasis. And in this case, Modi-led government has done much more in terms of execution. He concluded by stating that without a robust economy, foreign policy cannot be sustainable and in the case of India under Modi government, both internal and external conditions are coming together to make India a major foreign policy player.

Dr. C. Raja Mohan mentioned that the new government has been able to achieve a host of diplomatic breakthroughs in the first year - the land-boundary agreement with Bangladesh, implementation of the civil nuclear initiative and making defence diplomacy an important part of India’s foreign policy toolkit. Dr. Mohan mentioned that there is an emerging domestic consensus on foreign policy issues and role of India in global affairs.

The panel discussion was followed by the release of the book by Foreign Secretary and other dignitaries present on the podium. In his address, Secretary Jaishankar congratulated Dr. Mohan’s endeavours and mentioned that he is the most prominent face of India’s foreign policy. Secretary mentioned that Dr. Mohan’s seminal body of work has focused on the examination of the broad changes and continuity of India’s foreign policy analyzing substance and optics. He stated that the diplomacy under Narendra Modi during last year has not been the diplomacy of the usual and there has been a marked change broadening the contours of India’s diplomatic relations.

There is a coherent ’Neighbourhood First’ policy, a strategic Indian Ocean policy complimented with ’Act East’ policy, bilateral relations with the US is burgeoning and a China policy which triangulates security, economics and cooperation. Secretary Jaishankar mentioned that India’s nuclear initiative has received an impetus and has moved into active terrain with the US and Australia and the conclusion of the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh has strengthened India’s position in the neighbourhood with a sense of greater activism. There has been a proactive diplomacy in reaching out for humanitarian assistance disaster relief (HADR) efforts as exampled by India’s presence in Yemen, Nepal and Maldives. He spoke of India’s story under Modi government which has assumed a new meaning bolstering India’s soft power as diplomacy is now playing an active role in national development, strengthened through new approaches to the Indian diaspora. These great strides in the last year made by India has led the country to gain confidence to lead greater initiatives and builds a strong case for India’s leadership and a permanent United Nations Security Council seat. Secretary Jaishankar concluded his address by inspiring the audience with his words stating that the world is beginning to believe that India means business and thus, India needs to be more active and nimble rather than risk-averse. The event concluded by Secretary’s words that Dr. Raja Mohan continues to be the predictor and the dissector of India’s foreign policy and he wished for more power to Dr. Mohan’s pen.

Remarks of Foreign Secretary Dr S. Jaishankar

(The report is prepared by Sylvia Mishra, Junior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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