Friday, July 18, 2014

Narendra Modi's : First multi-nation visit: Success or Failure

Of all the things said by politicians and experts, some self-proclaimed and some genuine, in last two months, one statement that needs real dissection is Shashi Tharoor’s eloquent remarks. “An ambitious man, Narendra Modi appears to realize that ….. he wants to make a success of his government,” wrote Tharoor in his now famous blog for The Huffington Post. Undoubtedly this principle guides Indian Prime Minister both on home front and when he is overseas shaking hands with world leaders. A section of media in India has already hailed Modi’s latest diplomatic sojourn for BRICS summit and his one-on-one interactions with a few world leaders including the illustrious Vladimir Putin
It is simply too early to judge Narendra Modi vis-à-vis the canvas of the comity of nations. But it is also true, the real assessment of his engagements with these leaders would be worth a study in recent international studies.
Both the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself and his critics or admirers either way would do well to curb the impatience and leave the answer to that query to the womb of time.

But the fact that Narendra Modi, armed with a huge mandate in a fiercely contested most democratic elections in the world, was available at the world stage for the first time. Although, Modi had visited Bhutan last month, in all practical sense his trip to Brazil and stopover at Berlin in Germany was the first brush with hardcore diplomacy. Thus, there is nothing wrong in analyzing his performance as the Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy.

In lay man’s language, it went off well. But in depth scrutiny of Modi’s interactions, the developments in BRICS Summit and his meetings with a galaxy of leaders like Putin and a ‘missed’ dinner with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel reveal that Modi has left a distinct mark with his unique aplomb. 

One single most achievement was perhaps an attempt has been made by the ‘chief executive’ of world’s largest democracy to change a global perception that its foreign policy is generally non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas. Modi has able to punctuate the crucial tactical visions in Indian foreign policy. 
But those who expected giant leap from Modi’s maiden overseas travel are apt to be disappointed.
Well, one could sound a bit skeptical but cannot help remarking that if a country which does not look at its past and present to draw a foreign policy is actually on a flawed roadmap. Modi seems to have done his home work prior to all key meetings.
And as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had a humble origin of being a son of a tea vendor, wrapped up his first major multilateral visit having separately met China President Xi Jinping, Russia President Vladimir Putin, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff and South African President Jacob Zuma, there is a strong feeling that an opportune use of the occasion has been made. 

Feedback from intelligence agencies suggest even among the mandarins from other countries; the occasion was ‘exploited’ well as a good opportunity for India to assume a greater role for itself as a future global player. “We have the aspirations and when opportunities come, the new Prime Minister took two steps forward when the expectation was only one step,” says one insider in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Others say, his handshakes were ‘firm’ as if he had rehearsed the events pretty well and typical to his characteristic took note of minutest things like German Chancellor Merkel’s birthday and thus when he spoke to her over phone, he did extend the birthday greetings.
Modi talking to German Chancellor over phone

The aptitude to do proper homework about each leader and countries came in handy for Modi when the actually meetings took place. Thus, his carefully tailored oneliners with each leaders at every bilateral meetings went off well.

Modi apparently floored his foreign counterparts with his carefully tailored comments at every bilateral meeting. With a robust Putin, Modi mirrored an image of a confident man.

Similarly, with China, he did not seen to be bogged down by any bitterness of the past. Although Shanghai has been selected as the venue for BRICS Bank, the fact that first presidentship for the New Development Bank for India came with the backing of Brazil and South Africa is also significant.

However, insiders suggest Modi was particularly keen for having the Bank in India but apparently weak campaigning in last one year by the previous Manmohan Singh regime vis-à-vis Chinese campaign led to the set back that it went to Shanghai. 

The proposed bank is expected to cater for cross-border infrastructure delivery projects, says officials adding the bank would have a launching capital of US$50-billion. As per plans, resources are to be pooled from member partners to deliver on infrastructures, especially in Africa in initial stage.

However, insiders in the foreign policy making body in India also maintain that the BRICS should not be viewed merely in terms of concrete issues such as the development bank, but also as a collaboration on strategic political issues.
With an 
assertive Indian approach and body language of a time-tested ear-on-ground leader (Narendra Modi); there is broad feeling among other BRICS nations also about the growing failure of the west, especially on the economic front. 

Modi’s country-specific interaction with the world leaders also suggest that having claimed it well that SAARC is vital, at the next level, Modi left no ambiguity to underline that BRICS is equally vital if not more if the member nations have to make their presence felt. 

It was Indian side’s confident maneuver that the BRICS Declaration at Fortaleza clarified that China and Russia reiterated the importance they attach to Brazil, India and South Africa’s status and role everyone would play in international affairs and support their aspirations to play a greater role in the UN.
Many of Modi’s ideas, like the one on a BRICS University, found mention in the declaration. 
With Brazil President Dilma Rousseff 

In a strong endorsement of India's position, the five-nation Brics summit has come out with a strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that there can be no justification for any acts of terror based on ideological, political or religious issues.
Has India arrived?
Less than two months in office, is Modi being simply over ambitious?

Even if personally ambitious to be seen as someone who can deliver, Modi, however knows it well that India can close the gap with its chief competition in the region, China, only by sustaining high economic growth rates.  This calls for Modi to deliver especially on issues of governance in India. In the meantime, on international front, will Narendra Modi play the patience game and lead his country to follow the path taken by Japan – decades back - in becoming an honorary member of the West?
A genuine ‘global position’ for India would demand a fair analysis and ‘sharing’ the fruits of economic strengths, as BRIC was originally conceptualized; but also sharing of the powers and responsibilities – like formalizing BRICS policy towards Syria or even Iran.