‘New India’ also means an assertive foreign policy where the country’s prestige is held high. Several global players and powerful entities may differ with New Delhi, but they would respect the views and try to understand things in their entirety.
It is a unique coincidence. British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Deputy NSA Daleep Singh are all to be in India at the same time discussing the weather, bilateral ties and, of course, Ukraine.
To date, Narendra Modi is known as a shrewd politician who knows how to handle issues and elections. But one month of war on the global stage after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there may be many admirers of his who would hail Narendra Damodardas Modi’s skills as a smart and crafty diplomatic operative.
Of course, the Prime Minister has been well advised by suave foreign minister Dr S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval. History is rightly described as the most accommodating affair. Its pages are full of mortal men and women anointed with immortality. These spaces are not always given accolades. Our good old journalism describes these characters better – Newsmakers.
PM Modi has been a ‘newsmaker’ over the years – politically at home – in Gujarat or otherwise. But in 2022, he became a ‘newsmaker’ as someone whose foreign policy is well understood by the United States and friends like Australia and Japan.
It is time Americans understand that it is only Modi’s foreign policy that has changed the game for New Delhi. For some reason, it has always come as a surprise to Americans: according to Paul Bracken, people who prefer KFC and love MTV would not share an American perception of war and perhaps even the values on a different plane
The US tried damage control after the ‘shaky’ word was used. It later described India as an ‘essential partner’. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said: “…. we have invested in that relationship (with India) in terms of our defence and security. So historical relationships notwithstanding, we are a partner of choice for India now.”
To be Prime Minister of India and the ship captain of the foreign policy engine room during a war between the US and west on one side and Russia on the other is no joke.
But even the worst critic of Modi and his Government would admit privately perhaps that much to its credit, India has attained a ‘unique and quite an unprecedented diplomatic platform’ for itself.
In the process, both Russia and the US and its allies appreciate India’s balancing tightrope walk. All these have been achieved so far without really displeasing either side. Ukraine may be complaining, but as a tiny nation that was almost turned into a pawn, it can always wait for another day to get sympathy.
Between them, Prime Minister Modi and his handpicked diplomat-turned-External Affairs Minister Jaishankar have shared at least 25 high profile international telecalls with global leaders and astute foreign ministers, including mercurial Sergei Lavrov from Russia.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi made an unscheduled visit to Delhi within 48 hours of his statement on Kashmir in Islamabad. Imran Khan must have got a mild shocker.
Dr Jaishankar has had half-a-dozen meetings with counterparts visiting New Delhi, and PM Modi has had at least two major meetings with world leaders, including the Quad. NSA Ajit Doval met his German counterpart in Delhi.
Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his wife would also arrive in New Delhi. Ministers from Germany and the European Union would also visit New Delhi sooner than later.
So far, a tendency pushed and promoted was that the US and its western allies would decide for the world what is right. Modi has stalled that theory.
The Americans even pursued their ‘holier than thou’ policy that, from the attack on Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO expansion, it was all unilateral. In the process, western nations and analysts preferred to explain the world’s most complex issue into a binary choice. China thus could be a friend or a foe. India has to decide between guns from Russia or something else.
Bharat neo-neutral and equal distance stance vis-à-vis the Russia-Ukraine conflict has irked the US and has exposed the hollowness in ‘western smartness’. It may not be wrong to suggest that during the last month, Bharat has made the world realise that in the contemporary setting, simple binary choices of ‘black and white’ actually cannot come to grips with realities that are more complex.
Dr Jaishankar and his team have made it possible to appreciate globally that Delhi did not back the Russian line despite not approving NATO expansion.
However, India abstained from UNSC and UNGA voting and made it clear that Kremlin’s concerns ought to be understood and addressed. It has made a big difference globally, and many global players who underestimated New Delhi’s position.
Referring to the six principles on which India’s position on the situation in Ukraine is based, Dr Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha that these include “immediate cessation of violence and end to hostilities”, “a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy”, and the global order being anchored on international law. He said the UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states are also vital.
Dr Jaishankar said these principles further included the call for humanitarian access in a complex situation and being in touch with the leadership of both Russia and Ukraine.
PM Modi has spoken to Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin of Russia thrice since the war began.
The RIC axis is making sense to Putin as well. Between China and India, of course, Americans have more faith in democratic India.
It is time Americans understand that it is only Modi’s foreign policy that has changed the game for New Delhi. For some reason, it has always come as a surprise to Americans – according to Paul Bracken, people who prefer Kentucky Fried Chicken and love MTV would not share an American perception of war and perhaps even the values on a different plane.