Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2015-07-20 00:00:00 Published on Jul 20, 2015
Continuity, rather than change, is the true hallmark of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy. True, he has been far more vigorous and muscular than his predecessor Manmohan Singh, but the difference is in tone and emphases, rather than substance.
Modi's foreign policy style is continuity, not change
Continuity, rather than change, is the true hallmark of Narendra Modi's foreign policy. True, he has been far more vigorous and muscular than his predecessor Manmohan Singh, but the difference is in tone and emphases, rather than substance. Nothing brings this out better than the recent developments with Pakistan. After a year of mixed signalling, the two countries have finally settled on the mode of dialogue through which they will seek to resolve all their outstanding issues - which, for those who are tone deaf - also includes Kashmir. Terror agenda Dealing with terrorism has a salience in the new India-Pakistan encounter. That is because in the last year, Pakistan has finally made up its mind and decided to fight terrorism, rather than to maintain a deliberate ambiguity because of its need to back groups that target India. However, its record remains messy because of its past and one of those issues - the Mumbai attack of 2008 - continues to roil the India-Pakistan efforts towards a détente. A second problem for Pakistan is to decide what it wants to do in Kashmir. In the 2004-2008 period, it slowly wound down its commitments there and explored ways of arriving at a modus vivendi with India. Subsequently, it sought to raise the heat again by infiltrating militants into the Valley. But it has realised that there is not much appetite for an armed militancy left in there. The recent incidents of firing, almost all of which are certainly linked to infiltrating militants across the LoC, indicate that it is continuing its policy of maintaining a low level of violence in the Valley. But this is a dead end and Islamabad knows it, and that is where the India-Pakistan dialogue between the National Security Advisers comes in. By selecting AK Doval to be the point man for his Pakistan policy, Prime Minister Modi has placed a heavy burden on his NSA who is known to be a hawk on issues relating to Pakistan. Essentially, Modi is telling Doval that he is depending on his, Doval's, expertise in resolving things with Pakistan. Whether the NSA chooses a policy which turns up the heat on Pakistan, or whether he chooses other options, at the end of the day, he must hold the can. Continuity, with a changed emphasis, also marks India's US policy. The tenth anniversary of the Indo-US nuclear deal is a good occasion to reflect on what it has achieved and what it hasn't and the direction to which our relations are headed. For India, the deal has been hugely beneficial since it has led to the removal of a raft of technology restrictions. The US has also made it clear during President Obama's visit in January that it is committed to removing the other restrictions that come through the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassennaar Arrangement. As for the disappointing reactor sales, that is something the US can live with. Most people simply don't realise that commerce has never really been a factor in America's foreign policy initiatives. All this have been on track since Manmohan Singh's time. The US knows very well that the former Prime Minister was deeply committed to closer ties with the US. Initially it had apprehensions about the ties with Modi because of the past visa issue, but they were pleasantly surprised when Modi took a pragmatic tack and pursued strong relations with the US. Their best manifestation of this has been the Joint Strategic Vision on the Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific that was agreed to in the Obama visit. Curious case of China In the case of China, the continuity manifested is of a different nature, in large measure because of the sheer dynamism of China's advance in the regions proximate to India. India has sought to meet this with a policy of engagement, along with moves to right the Asian power balance. So India is an enthusiastic member of the Chinese-sponsored Asian infrastructure bank, the BRICS bank and, more recently, the SCO. At the same time India has visibly strengthened its ties with the US, Japan and Vietnam. In trying to deal with the Sino-Indian border, too, little has changed in the parallel process where India is working to develop its border infrastructure to meet a more assertive China even as it works to settle the border dispute through the Special Representative's dialogue. However, if there is one factor that will change the sense of continuity, and what analysts say is a reactive world of Indian foreign policy, it is the Chinese surge in the Indian Ocean and Central Asia, along with a spill-over affect in our neighbourhood of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka. To cope with this, New Delhi will have to improve its game by several notches. Prime Minister Modi has brought uncommon energy and focus into the play, but India lacks resources and, more important, the institutional structures and personnel who can flesh out a framework of response and the subsequent policy to deal with the situation. (The writer is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and a Contributing Editor of Mail Today) Courtesy: Mail Today, July 19, 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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