ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Foreign Policy Fizzles Out

Prime Minister Modi is traversing the globe but his foreign policy is travelling nowhere.

Over the past two years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given single-minded attention to foreign policy. Often attacked by his critics for his many visits to capitals across the world and the well-curated meetings with people of Indian origin, his supporters and government spokespersons have stressed the fact that the Prime Minister is infusing new energy and giving a new direction to India’s relations with the world. There has been the predictable strengthening of relations with the United States (US) to the extent that India is now almost an ally of the world’s most powerful country; if not in words but surely in its self-projection. In some areas, like the outreach to African countries, Iran and Afghanistan, India’s foreign policy has only reinforced the trends which were already in place for some time now. The Prime Minister also personally pushed for outreach to both Pakistan and China, surprising both his critics and his admirers.

Whatever one’s opinions of Modi’s foreign policy, he can justifiably claim that he is “the first Prime Minister in independent India” to have pursued foreign policy in such an intensely mediatised and personalised manner and has expended so much of his political capital on it. However, outside the echo chambers of social media and government publicists, there has been little to talk about in concrete terms. After the recent rebuff to India’s membership at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at its meeting in Seoul, the echo chambers too have fallen silent. On Pakistan and China—the two of the most difficult yet crucial foreign policy challenges for the Indian state—Modi’s outreach has been shown to have neither “vision” nor any “grand strategy” behind it. Between living up to his chauvinist and war-mongering bluster of the election campaign, visiting wedding receptions, enjoying swing rides on the banks of the Sabarmati, dealing with terrorist attacks and military and diplomatic rebuffs, relations have fluctuated precariously with both countries. The Prime Minister has tried to use personal charm and public relation stunts as diplomatic weapons to break the wall of hostility and suspicion with both these neighbours but relations with both are worse off today than they were in May 2014.

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