In changing geopolitical situation, emerging opportunities and challenges, no foreign policy can remain time-wrapped. Modi Doctrine is not something that is rigid, static and cast in iron but it’s based on principle of “India First”
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale
The primary objective of foreign policy of any country is the protection and promotion of national interest. The content of
national interest may, and does, change and there can be two opinions as to what is national interest in a given situation. However, the main objective of foreign policy is to advance its own interest.
In this regard, it is important to state that there is some continuum in our foreign policy objectives. It is based on our rich culture, values and ethos. We have rich tradition of live and let live and we have always opposed all forms of imperialism, colonialism or discrimination on the basis of race or religion. India has always worked towards achieving these objectives in collaboration with global community. For us, “Vaasudhaiva Kutumbakam” is not merely a slogan but a core value. No wonder that even at the peak of sentiments after Uri attack, Prime Minister Modi appealed Pakistani people to jointly fight against poverty.
At the same time, it should be clear that our national interest is the sum total of our needs and aspirations. With changing geo political situation, emerging opportunities and challenges, no foreign policy can remain time-wrapped. The classic example is of non-aligned movement (NAM). During cold war, NAM has played an important role of third voice. But now its relevance is debatable.
Therefore, before discussing Modi Doctrine, it is important to note that Modi Doctrine is not something that is rigid, static and cast in iron but it’s based on principle of, as PM Modi aptly said, “India First”.
While releasing the book “The Modi Doctrine: New Paradigm in India’s Foreign Policy”, External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj said, “After coming to power in 2014, in looking out at the world, there was also a growing feeling that we could contribute more and shape its future. Consequently, our Government came in with more ambitious goals, bolder policies to achieve them, and a commitment to more effective delivery. Within two years, much progress has been made. In addressing the external aspects of this endeavour, it is important to stress the linkage between domestic and foreign policy. It is not just that
policy and priorities are articulated differently from the past. At the heart of the change is a vision of India’s place in the world, its relationship with the international community, and indeed, an understanding of a rapidly transforming world itself.”
The above quote summarises the basic tenet of emerging Modi Doctrine. To elaborate further, there are several salient features of this doctrine.
Tight integration of domestic and foreign policies: Under leadership of PM Modi, India has leveraged her
relations with international community to support internal development agenda. For example, several governments are now collaborating with India on our flagship programs like Make in India, Skill India, Digital India, Smart Cities, Railway Modernisation, to state the few. These efforts have also led to significant increase in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in India.
Overcoming hesitations of history: In past, Indian foreign policy was defensive most of the time. With notable exceptions like Bangladesh liberation in 1971, India was driven either by hesitations or by domestic politics. Modi government has overcome these hesitations and is setting up its own agenda by establishing good relationship with competing powers. For example, India has strengthened relationship with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran (who are in conflict with each others) and at the same time, the relations with Israel have reached new heights. In fact, PM Modi received the highest civilian award of Saudi Arabia and Iran in a short span of few weeks. Reaching the unreached: During last two years, India has reached out to
several countries where no important official visit or bilateral summit from Indian side took place in last several years. Surprisingly, it also includes several important countries like Canada, United Arab Emirates, Iran, etc that have significant commercial and business ties with India. PM Modi, External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj and other Cabinet Ministers have
collectively visited 140 countries. EAM Sushma Swaraj herself met senior dignitaries of more than 170 countries. Now it has been planned that 68 countries that have never been visited by any Indian minster will be covered by one cabinet minister by end of 2016. With this, all 192 countries on this planet will be visited by Indian dignitaries.
Leadership role: Overcoming our historical hesitations, India is playing leadership role on various issues of
interest of international community and humanity at large. India has convened the largest India-Africa summit in Delhi. India proposed “International Solar Alliance” in Paris which received instant response globally. India’s proposal of Yoga Day was accepted instantly by almost all the countries. India’s unambiguous stand against terrorism is now accepted worldwide. When PM Modi raised Baluchistan issue on 15th August, lot of people were sceptical about its utility. But it has brought Pakistan’s atrocities and human rights violation in Baluchistan on the forefront of international community.
Civilisational Connect: While trade and business are important aspects of foreign policy, India’s ancient
civilisational connections across the globe pose our unique strength. PM Modi’s visits to sites in Japan, China, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc, where ancient civilisational connections between two countries are still visible, is indeed noteworthy. He has also talked extensively on shared values, traditions and heritage, which could avoid
conflicts among humans and between humans and nature. He also emphasized on celebration of diversity and conflict avoidance on the basis of harmonizing the diversity. It is important to state that PM Modi has stressed on conflict
avoidance rather than conflict resolution and on climate justice rather than
climate change. According to him, climate change adversely affects poor and downtrodden the most and therefore there is need for “climate justice”. Engagement with Indian Disapora: Globally dispersed Indian Diaspora, which was considered as “brain drain” is actually turning out to be one of the biggest assets to us. It is not only because of their financial strength that brings valuable foreign currency back home, but also their commercial, intellectual and technological dominance in various parts of the world. Since BJP Government has come to power, both EAM Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Modi are
continuously engaging with Diaspora, trying to simplify rules, quickly responding to their grievances, and engaging them in overall development agenda of the government. These events have reenergised NRI community, strengthening their ties with their country of origin and enhanced their stature in their country of residence. At the same time, it is important that these people of Indian origin should receive immediate help at the hour of crisis. We have helped in the return of more than 1,000 Indian students from Ukraine; evacuated more than 7,000 Indian workers from Iraq including 46 nurses; ensured the return of more than 3,000 of our citizens from Libya and safe homecoming of nearly 4,000 of our nationals from Yemen.
Overcoming “Strategic Restraints”: Despite having reached out to Islamabad on more than one occassions, Pakistan
has not changed its policy of supporting
anti-India terrorist activities. Post Uri attacks, India has responded
to Pakistani mis-adventures with an unprecedented political, diplomatic and military coordination. Yet and
remarkably so the Prime Minister continues to reshape the public discourse on India-Pakistan relations and redefine the terms of victory. At the BJP national council meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala on May 2016, while addressing a public rally, Modi challenged Pakistan to compete with it in a “war on illiteracy, poverty and unemployment”.
The terrorists attack on the Army camp in Uri that killed 18 soldiers is the backdrop for the September 29
pre-emptive “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control”. It is as “rare” and different from the past as it was publicly acknowledged by both the army and the government. The diplomatic context which has been crafted by the Prime Minister over the last two years has made the strike impressive. Importantly, it was the ability and willingness to strike, as distinct from the strike itself, that had the world watching.
By choosing to work diplomatically towards ensuring Pakistan’s isolation and giving the Army the tactical and operational autonomy to bust the terror camps across the LoC, speaks of a leadership that is measured and in
control and has the courage to respond. Importantly and very clearly, past precedents are not binding on Modi’s government while responding to terror attacks from Pakistan.
In short, for the first time, India is using all the philosophical, civilisational, tactical and strategic tools available to us in a very concerted and coordinated manner to achieve our short term and long term objectives of foreign policy. Of course, the path ahead is not without challenges. Due to their own interests, few countries are still not willing to accept and publically acknowledge Pakistan as epicentre of terrorism. China’s opposition to India’s membership to NSG or its reluctance to endorse India’s just demand of permanent membership to United Nations Security Council stemmed out China’s “Principle of Power” (in words of C Raja Mohan). Even though geographical expansion of ISIS is contained to great extent, the
ideology of ISIS poses new challenges to combat newer and more sophisticated forms of terrorism. Needless to say that Modi doctrine will continue to add new dimensions to proactively address these challenges.
(The writer is In-Charge, Foreign Affairs Dept, Bharatiya Janata Party and Co-Editor of “The Modi Doctrine: New Paradigms in India’s Foreign Policy”)