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India’s international relations at odds with domestic public discourse

India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.

Oct 15, 2017
By Sudhanshu Tripathi
 
 India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
Evaluating the country’s foreign policy after more than three years of Modi’s tenure, it is apparent that Modi has demonstrated his firm political will for India’s global engagements through continuous, frequent and sustained interactions with almost all countries of the world.
 
While delivering the Shangri-La Lecture in Singapore on 23 November 2015, captioned ‘India’s Singapore Story,’ Modi remarked: “The wheels of change are moving; confidence is growing; resolve is stronger; and the direction is clearer.”
 
This is manifest in a shift in broader ideas and approach to India’s external affairs, and may be substantiated by some recent events: The surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied territory; the bold and firm stand on the Doklam issue; effective dealings with China and Pakistan at the recent BRICS summit in Xiamen or, earlier, at the United Nations General Assembly and over the South China Sea all indicate this more assertive stance.
 
Against this backdrop, a broader overview of the Indian government’s recent foreign policy clearly shows not just the prime minister’s strategic vision but growth and progress towards every one of India’s major objectives to stand tall amid the comity of nations and to establish global peace and security.
 
It also reveals some of the failures and structural challenges that confront the Indian government, and are likely to continue in the near future. These include jingoistic nationalism; Pakistan supported cross-border terrorism and religious fundamentalism and political resistance to engagement with Pakistan; Beijing’s fast rising inroads into India’s neighbourhood, insufficient commercial integration with Southeast and East Asia (like evolving common currency system or such common regional security); mounting gaps between diplomatic efforts and agents of domestic implementation; and relative inexperience in managing and leading in matters of global relations and governance.
 
India needs to adopt a proactive approach towards its own neighbourhood, managing or sincerely addressing the domestic political fallout of its Pakistan policy, and better coordinating external outcomes with internal developments, while raising its ambitions and its ability to follow through in a sustained manner. The broad direction of India’s international relations and its implementation is often at odds with the prevailing public discourse, which views a development in complete isolation and glosses over facts to fit preconceived notions.
 
Pakistan bashing, for example, in particular, has become a full-time preoccupation in India over different television media channels. Similarly, the unnecessary polarisation of much of the foreign policy discourse within the country has led to distraction from the core areas of projected national concerns. Unfortunately, the last decade in India has witnessed more fractious and self-serving discourse in areas in which there earlier has been remarkable continuity. This is perhaps due to inconsistent and rapid changing media environment and due to the behaviour of the opposition parties in the country, both past and present.
 
Obviously any evaluation of India’s advancement of its national and international interests will require a clearer assessment of its objectives, the available capacity to meet them and the consequent progress made, besides taking into account the continuing limitations of the country.
 
Modi has demonstrated himself to be a very energetic and active leader moving towards acquiring a consolidated domestic political support for an effective pursuit of India’s external relations through his courage and profound communication skills, allowing him to connect with the people of India.
 
 
(The writer is Professor, Political Science at Rajarshi Tandon Open University, Allahabad (UP). He can be contacted at sudhanshu.tripathi07@gmail.com)

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