Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to America has been garnering quite an attention. The event is significant because, after a gap of two years, Modi visited the USA to attend the UN General Assembly's session, which is happening amidst a changed geopolitical landscape when seen through the lenses of India. The newly developed concern with the Indo-Pacific region has made India an important partner for any country that seeks to expand its clout in this respective region. The reasons for which India stands up are rooted in the fact of it being a nuclear power and an impressive military structure. But the question that should be asked is whether India would just be confined to the role of a partner and not become a significant player in international politics?
In his address at the UNGA on Friday (25th Sept.), Narendra Modi spent quite a few minutes speaking about the oceans and their importance. He urged the implementation of rules-based order and the upholding of the law of the freedom of the seas. He took a quip at the United Nations, stating that the world body needs reforms to adapt itself better to the changing scenario of the world. While it may be considered another one of those pleas for securing a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, the statement has another angle, too.
As one knows that the Indo-Pacific region is slowly showing signs of becoming a place of contest. Though there isn't a sharp bifurcation, the Americans and the Chinese are contending to secure influence in the region. And this is where India enters the scene. The USA is being seen courting India to use the ancient land for its advantage and accomplish its scheme of isolating China. But one needs to reflect whether India, with all its developed might and prowess, would tolerate that the Indian Ocean, which it sees as its backyard, shall become a playing ground for the Americans and the Chinese? The answer is, of course, no.
The Galwan valley clash of June 2020 has registered itself as an episode that may record China's growing aggressiveness and assertiveness. India mourned the loss of 20 of its brave soldiers, and anti-China sentiment among the greater part of the Indian public has been on the rise since then. After this deadly event, one might expect that the Indian P.M. would initiate a silent tirade against his neighbour and take an active part in projects to counter the influence and power of the dragon. But it hasn't been that. The media is fueling the Chinese issue more than by the Indian government, which is adopting a persistent approach to peaceful resolutions and isn't showing any qualms to engage with the Chinese, with foreign minister S. Jaishankar tweeting the need for India and China to be at peace for maintaining 'Asian solidarity'.
The Indian Prime Minister has maintained the same approach as the QUAD, which he has shown in the BRICS or the SCO. It is also important to mention that though India is having a tilt towards the USA, there are no entangling alliances or solidified relationships. Be it the QUAD, BRICS, SCO or the RIC, India, represented by Narendra Modi, plays the same role by stressing on global problems and solving them through mutual solutions. This approach, in its consistency, doesn't reflect the intrigues and the tensions of a superpower. However, this pacifist approach has been fortified with a growing defence capability, and this might be the way where India's path to glory lies.
When taken in the above context, Modi's recent trip to America doesn't seem a game-changer but more part of a plan. The West isn't strongly united at present. A division is being seen in the Atlantic between the USA on one side and the European Union on the other, whose leading members are becoming increasingly sceptical about the United States' interests and capability.
This ensures that India's policy towards the West is also divided into the same lines. This divide is more suitable since a united West under America would pose as great a challenge to India's rising status as that posed by China. It is in multipolarity that India could rise, and this shall also explain why Prime Minister Modi has increased his exhortation for multilateralism. The growth of China and Russia is showing signs that it might not be sustainable. Modi's plan of neutralism could reap benefits that may make India the 'vishvaguru'.
(The writer is a student & blogger)