Managing logically and rationally International relations and politics are a complicated process. The power game and exploitation of natural resources and consumer markets in developing and underdeveloped countries by a few developed countries complicates matters. Prior to 2014, India was on the receiving end, forced to purchase weaponry and other obsolete machinery at exorbitant prices. Our opinions on various important topics were not taken seriously, and unnecessary controversies and statements were issued in India’s internal affairs.
When the BJP named Narendra Modi as its PM face in 2013, many intellectuals, media outlets, and opposition parties expressed concerns and questioned his credibility in handling foreign policy if he becomes Prime Minister in 2014.
Even the harshest critic admits today that the Modi government manages foreign relations, global policies, and issues in the best way that any previous government has ever managed. PM Modi, late Sushma Swaraj ji, and current EAM S. Jaishankar are receiving applause from around the world for their policies, well-balanced actions, and intentions for the global good, sustainable development, and environmental protection.
The policy was not only to develop and maintain relations with superpowers and developed countries, but also to give equal importance to developing and underdeveloped countries, as PM Modi demonstrated when he visited Nepal after being elected in 2014. Except for Pakistan, the neighbours have been given priority and assistance in developing socially and economically. He also redoubled efforts to strengthen ties with India’s neighbours, under the banner of ‘Neighbourhood First.’ He ratified the Land Border Agreement with Bangladesh, putting an end to the long-standing issue of adverse enclaves.
PM Modi’s concept of ‘effective multilateralism,’ which captures the reality of many nations’ rise and accepts that many voices, not a few, should shape the global agenda. This also undermines any power’s hegemony. Based on this premise, India began to cultivate relations with countries that were receiving less attention, owing to policy paralysis. In 2015, he became the first Prime Minister to visit Mongolia, and the comprehensive partnership was upgraded to Strategic Partnership. Modi elevated the relationship with Vietnam to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership status in 2016. Modi made the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel in 2017, during which the relationship was elevated to the strategic level. He was the first Prime Minister to visit Canada and the UAE since 1986.
India today is accused of many things, but not of “strategic innocence.” It seeks great power relationships, each on its own merit. It is unwilling to give up any control over its relations with its rivals. Delhi will not allow Moscow to define India’s relations with the US, and will not allow Washington to limit the nature of India’s engagement with Russia. This was not always the case. Previously, Delhi was frequently tempted to limit its relationship with the US and Europe for fear of offending Moscow and Beijing’s sensibilities. This was done either for ideological reasons or out of fear of negative consequences in relations with Russia and China. The Modi government has risen above its defensive and deferential posture. Putting national interests ahead of political correctness has yielded significant strategic dividends for Delhi.
Investment and Security
The diverse diplomatic outreach in recent years was not about pomp and pageantry, but was part of a well-planned strategy to integrate foreign policy with national development and resurgence. Apart from raising India’s global profile, this comprehensive diplomatic engagement resulted in foreign collaborations and financial support for flagship national renaissance initiatives such as Make in India, Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Skill India, Digital India, Namami Gange, and Start-up India. Increased engagement with India’s external partners has resulted in tangible benefits for people through foreign investment and technology partnerships, which have resulted in the establishment of factories and the creation of jobs. The formation of green energy partnerships with countries such as the United States, France, and Denmark has laid the groundwork for Indian citizens to live clean, low-carbon lives.
Modi’s foreign policy success is evident in how it has handled the country’s archrivals, China and Pakistan. With surgical strikes, the Modi government ended Pakistan’s nuclear threat and restored the country’s security interests to their previous position.
Be it combating the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan or rescuing its diaspora caught in a conflict zone, resisting Chinese aggression, or navigating a complex global crisis in the aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Modi government’s foreign policy has served as an instrument of India’s national security.
Act East Policy
PM Modi has also turned India’s “Look East” policy into a more aggressive “Act East” policy, with the goal of connecting India to East Asia through improved infrastructure, trade, and regional institutions. Unlike other diplomatic efforts, the Act East policy prioritises both economic and security interests. As a result, India has become more vocal in support of free maritime navigation and a rules-based maritime security order, particularly in the South China Sea.
Shaping Global Agenda
Looking ahead, with India’s growing global stature and the world’s growing expectations of a resurgent India, Prime Minister Modi has advocated for reformed multilateralism to create a new world order that reflects the ongoing shift of power and realities of the twenty-first century. India has also taken the lead in combating climate change by fulfilling its Paris Accord commitments and launching a series of initiatives to promote a low-carbon economy. More countries are joining the International Solar Alliance, which seeks to usher in a white revolution for a clean and green world, in recognition of New Delhi’s leadership role in this area. India has launched a new international initiative known as the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, which is gaining traction around the world.
Cultural diplomacy and civilisational values will be given greater prominence in Bharat’s foreign policy in the future. The idea of Bharat as a vibrant pluralistic society, home to all major religions and diverse cultures, has struck a chord, making the world more receptive to Bharat’s aspirations. This cultural connection is reflected in a variety of ways, including worldwide celebrations of International Day of Yoga and UNESCO’s designation of the Kumbh Mela as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The 25-million-strong Bharatiya diaspora, spread across different countries and continents, will play an important role in constructing a new Bharat.