Intro: India’s foreign policy initiatives have hit a new and welcome high under the leadership of PM Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to shed away the ‘Old Mindsets’ and project India as a ‘Leader of Change’ in place of portraying as a mere ‘balancing force’, in our foreign policy initiatives has begun to bring results. ‘Robust bilateralism’ with requisite multialignment required to engage countries, otherwise opposed to each other, like the US and Russia backed by a covert intent to challenge from a position of strength, if required for asserting our new-found ‘India First’ approach, has helped portray us as an international power.
Recent success in countering the growing influence of China over Sri Lanka, to the extent that the new Sri Lanka President, Maithripala Sirisena has not only chosen India for his maiden foreign visit, but, also signed a series of agreements with us, including the one on civil nuclear cooperation pact, has proved the efficacy of our new strategic initiatives. Moreover, the consensus arrived at between India and Lanka for expanding defence and security cooperation boldly reflects the success of new initiatives in bringing a clear paradigm shift into a pro-India approach of the new regime in Sri Lanka. Whereas, during his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime since 2005, China could not only expand its economic foot-print in Lanka by building ports, highways and other infrastructural facilities, but, also begun to get access of its ‘nuclear attack submarines’ at Colombo port, inspite of India’s strong explicit opposition to it. Now, signing of this newly signed nuclear deal with Sri Lanka would facilitate transfer and exchange of knowledge and expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and training of personnel in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including use of radio isotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety and nuclear security. The agreement also provides to facilitate cooperation in radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection. The two countries have also signed three other pacts, including cooperation in the field of agriculture.
Our new-found assertiveness in the international relations as reflected inter alia by the Modi-Obama joint statement on Asia-Pacific with a mention of South China Sea and our firm stand on South China Sea, supported by the supply of warships to Vietnam and Philippines to enable them to guard their interests in South China Sea has more than softened the Chinese attitutde towards us. Our recent international dealings with a position of strength have even materialised a rare protocol-denting meeting of our foreign minister Sushma Swaraj with Xi Jinping, during her early February visit to China, in the ‘Great Hall of People’ where only foreign heads of state are welcomed. The Chinese President rarely meets with overseas foreign ministers, who are normally granted audience with the premier, who is second in rank after the President or with the elite 7-members of their politbureau.
Indeed, it was a major concern for all the statesmen and patriotic intellectuals in the country, that during the UPA regime, India’s ties with the Sri Lanka had taken the worst hit, never experienced in last more than six and half decades. It was all the more worrisome that the self defeatist statements of the then foreign minister, Salman Khurshid in the UPA regime to call China as our right hand in South Asia and the Indian ocean was painting towards the fact that the UPA regime in India is relinquishing its benign leadership in the region in favour of China. Such statements of Khurshid were quite uncalled for as the China was not at all waiting to be welcomed by us. It was already endeavouring to expand its clout in the region, since, much earlier, but, with such statements, the countries looking at India for regional leadership, got disenchanted considerably, who thereafter, begun to give greater access to China in their bilateral relations.
Therefore, the change in the direction and pace of the foreign policy of new government is visible in the three major respects is welcome. Firstly, India has begun to deal with a position of strength and courage to display even intent to challenge, wherever our interests are at stake. Secondly, we have brought down the self-imposed constraints hitherto visible in our actions, out of the unfounded apprehensions or fears of Sonia-Manmohan era, which other countries could construe as inimical to their interests. On top of all, the aggression along the border is now being countered, for the first time after Independence; Indian Government have decided to construct a 2,000 km long highway from (Tawang to Vijayanagar) along the McMohan Line in Arunachal Pradesh.
Dr Bhagwati Prakash Sharma (The writer is Pro Vice-Chancellor of the
Pacific Academy Higher Education and