Intro: The foreign policy initiative started from Bhutan and ended to South Korea with the completion of Modi’s one year of government is not just a coincidence. Modi visits to these selected countries is a complete circle which was strategically designed.
Indian PM orchestrated his yet another well timed and calculated move in the Asian politics. Well timed because PM Modi referred to his insistence on building a special relationship to project India’s balanced ‘Act or engage east’ policy proposition, a step ahead of ‘look east’. While ‘act or engage east’ symbolises Modi’s intentions to actively engage in the Asian politics and make India’s policies more inclusive. On the other side, Chinese ever since Modi became India’s PM, longed for PM Modi’s visit to China and hoped to use it as a major political conduit to drive the bilateral ties towards new boundaries. In China, gravity of political incentivisation is phenomenal and out of this most of the Chinese scholars wished and expressed their anguish of Modi’s delayed China trip. In the initial period, Modi’s diplomatic initiatives within the South Asian region and in the surrounding countries were not well received by the Chinese. The Chinese bloggers are not simply ready to accept that if India comprehends that its boundary with China is sensitive then what stopped Prime Minister Modi to take so long to visit China? On the economic front as well, China would not attempt to increase its loads of investments to India unless India helps China to inflate its face value by diplomatic bandwagoning.
Just to zip through, Modi’s trip to these selected East Asian neighbours was strategically designed. To start with, during his first few months Modi showed special interest in setting up his priorities around India’s immediate neighbourhood. He chose to travel to Bhutan and Nepal. Earlier this year (2015), Modi also visited the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka three Indian Ocean island nations. He also visited Japan and the United States. Every visit of Modi to these countries were also analysed from the angle of ‘China factor’. The latest visit and its analysis carry superfluous potentials to put China at the centre of the whole Asian quantum diplomacy where the state relations are viewed from multi dimensions and they are super dynamic. For example, Chinese have strong belief that India and the United States intends to join forces to contain China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. During Obama’s visit to India, the United States and India signed a “joint US-India strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region”, which emphasise on ensuring freedom of navigation, maritime safety and aviation security in the South China Sea.
Visit to Mongolia was more than symbolic. The Indian Prime Minister Modi left China for Mongolia and year 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries and moreover, Modi became the first Prime Minister of India to visit Mongolia. Before Modi, only two Indian Presidents visited Mongolia. Although, primarily, the economics is the guiding principle of India-Mongolia relations, the natural resources (for example Uranium) in Mongolia have potential to enter in India. There seems to be growing understanding between India and Mongolia over the need to deepen cooperation on civilian nuclear energy, such as Mongolia radioactive mineral exploration and exploitation. Apart from this, if we see the timeline, after 2000, India and Mongolia have also maintained active but not so high degree of cooperation in the field of defence and military relations.Currently, India remains one of the suppliers for Mongolian Army’s offensive weapons and equipments. Both the countries have also agreed to strengthen the bilateral defence and security cooperation, decided to hold regular Defence Department and other relevant departments of the organisation’s high-level visits and dialogue, including between the National Security Council, military personnel exchanges between military capacity building, joint military exercises of military technical cooperation, military professional training, special forces and information security, cooperation in the United Nations and international peacekeeping operations. Going by the media analysis and the perception among Chinese, although PM Modi is widely regarded as the one with hard-line approach toward China, especially compared to the previous government but his economic priorities will soften his China opinion. But not all Chinese carry the same opinion, large sections of comments underlined that Modi’s visit to Ulan Bator is more political and nothing but an attempt to make inroads and increase India’s influence in ‘China's backyard’. China News Network carried out surveys and columns criticising India’s Mongolia policy. At the present stage, China may not protest aggressively on India’s interest in Mongolia.
The visit to South Korea can be seen largely from the perspective of industry and manufacturing. Korea is still a small investor in India, although India has a strong presence in Korean companies and its industrial drive, the same has not helped to translate its share in India’s world trade an FDI index is concerned. The Korean companies are still not exploiting the market conditions in India. Although, the two sides have signed 14 agreements for cooperation, prima facie it gives an impression that they is still a lot to be tapped.In addition, South Korea’s importance as a strategic ally for India remains unchanged. India is also South Korea’s one of Five Security dialogue partners.
To sum up this trip, Modi has scored well on the economic front as well as at the strategic level and his primary focus – corrective engagement – did not deviate.
Aravind Yelery (The Writer is Associate fellow, Institute of chinese studies, delhi)
While economic cooperation took upfront during Modi’s visit to China much of its success depends on follow up mechanisms and political statesmanship.
The weeklong visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China, Mongolia and North Korea has grabbed anticipated media attention and reflecting Indian foreign policy dynamism vis-a-vis ‘eastern neighbours’. While stay in China largely overshadowed the entire visit, Modi’s visit to Mongolia, first ever by Indian Prime Minister, holds strategic significance as it endeavours to raise the level of mutual tiers to be ‘spiritual friend’ based on reviving ‘old civilisational links’ of Buddhism and ancient religious heritage at large.