Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2015-05-26 00:00:00 Published on May 26, 2015
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been energetically pushing the Indian view. If he is able to transform the Indian economy and put it on a fast growth track in the coming years, he will sharply enhance India's weight in the international system.
How the PM put India on an even keel
Most of the comments on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first year in office have given him full marks in the area of foreign policy. With as many as 19 foreign visits, of which 16 were state visits, Modi has probably set a record of sorts. The visits can be looked at through the prism of geopolitics and geo-economics. However, there has also been an additional "geocultural" element in his outreach to the Indian community and in his efforts to burnish India's Buddhist credentials. His key achievement in this one year has been to right the Indian ship of state and place it on an even keel in the turbulent global waters of today. Numerous visits The numerous visits allow us to see a clearer pattern of his government's geopolitical thinking. This is visible in a distinct preference for aligning India with Western alliance through an outreach to the United States, Japan and Australia. On the other hand, he has sought to maintain a geo-economic balance in showcasing India's potential as the new manufacturing hub of the world. Pragmatically, he has aligned India with China in its effort to reset the global financial order. As part of this, India has become part of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and New Development (BRICS) Bank. He has actively courted and obtained Chinese investment into India, perhaps, not as much as he would have liked. Modi's geopolitical outreach reveals three concentric circles — the outer one including Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and the US around China's periphery. In addition, there are two inner ones comprising India's immediate neighbours who are members of SAARC, and another which took him to the island states of Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles in Indian Ocean in March. It does not take a genius to understand that a great deal of what Modi has been doing is to adjust India's position in the regional system in the context of the rise of China. The latter's spectacular economic growth has had an inevitable political fallout in India's periphery and has tilted the balance of power against us. China has not only become a major economic power, but is now in the process of becoming a military power. This has implications for India because of our difficult relations with Beijing. Our entire 3,500-km border with China is disputed. Further, since the mid-1960s, Beijing has sought to contain India in South Asia by using Pakistan's unrelenting hostility to India as its convenient instrument. Today, as China aspires for world power status, the simultaneous - though much slower - rise of India is a matter of discomfort for it. Chinese pressure The result is an intensification of Chinese pressure on India through aggressive patrolling on the Line of Actual Control, the accepted border between the two countries, as well as in Chinese activities in our immediate neighbourhood. While Pakistan has been a constant factor, Chinese actions in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives are of concern to New Delhi. Some of this is inevitable, given China's expanding economic profile, but the worry is that it is aimed at keeping India locked in South Asia. Modi's achievement is that he has pushed a vigorous Indian response. As a result, putative allies like the US and Japan, and presumed adversaries like China and Pakistan, have a clearer picture of the way India thinks. And this leaves no one in any doubt that the last thing New Delhi will do is kowtow to Beijing. Unique gesture Modi has been quite up-front in this. In an unprecedented gesture, he invited US President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day celebrations. Further, and more significantly, he agreed to sign up on a declaration on the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean. India and the US have been moving close to each other since the early 2000s. But somehow, New Delhi shied away from explicitly indicating the direction it desired of this relationship. The Joint Vision may be a declaration, but it is also an important first step. In a similar vein, Modi has been outspoken with the Chinese. Instead of trying to paper over differences, Modi bluntly told the Chinese during his state visit earlier this month that they should take a "strategic and long term view" of their relationship with India and "reconsider" their approach on "some of the issues that hold us back from realising full potential of our partnership". How this balancing will play out, only future can tell. But you cannot deny Modi has been uncommonly energetic in pushing the Indian view. At the end of the day, the issue will be decided by how things play out on the ground. If he is able to transform the Indian economy and put it on a fast growth track in the coming years, he will sharply enhance India's weight in the international system. (The writer is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation) Courtesy: (The Daily Mail) 25 May, 2015.
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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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