Monday, December 29, 2014

Modi's Growing Clout - Signals India's arrival in comity of nations

                 THE YEAR 2014 - INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY

Narendra Modi could have been hyped as an economic moderniser or a catalyst of development; to his detractors in Indian politics he could be still a divisive figure; to the Hindutva hardliners, he could be a man not living up to their expectations; but Prime Minister Modi at the end of the year in the global scene has emerged with his clout.
Therefore, just as the year 2014 came close, one question among diplomats and for those involved in Foreign Policy handling, is: Has India arrived at the international stage? 


As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who offered a very ‘different’ image of himself even a month before the landslide victory in the general elections in world’s largest democracy, took charge and subsequently interacted with global leaders; there was a strong feeling that an opportune use of the occasion would be made. His interactions with the US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and South African President Jacob Zuma, perhaps were example of Modi’s ability to punctuate the crucial tactical visions in Indian foreign policy.

Bowing to PM Modi’s maiden address to the UN General Assembly on Sept 27, 2014, the United Nations declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day

In the history of the UN it was highest number of co-sponsors ever for any resolution of this nature, External Affairs Sushma Swaraj referring to unprecedented 177 of the 193 members of UN co-sponsoring the resolution.
The America visit by PM Modi in September was definitely a high point in India’s diplomatic calendar of the year. This marked a forward looking venture from the gory past when the US had denied Visa to Modi for 2002 mayhem in Gujarat. Both the nations took onto the road of mutual win-win situation.

During his visit, Modi’s Madison Square speech was a run away success.
“Although Modi remains a divisive figure, the event at Madison Square Garden, is a sign of his appeal not just at home but also the growing clout of the 2.8 million Indian-Americans. It's one of the wealthiest diaspora communities in the US, and can help Mr Modi spur trade and foreign investment,” wrote journalist Jessica Winch.

In parleys with Obama, Modi worked out an agreement to accelerate the US’s shift to renewable fuels, steps that officials say will reduce carbon emissions while helping India’s new government extend electricity to all of its 1.2 billion citizens. The package, announced after talks between President Obama and Modi also contained a modest step toward reducing global emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, industrial chemicals that act as a powerful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. India also formally agreed to engage in international discussions that the White House hopes will lead to a phaseout of the chemicals, known as HFCs.

The accord and the spirit of Obama-Modi parleys provided an important boost for U.S. relations with the Modi government. 

The External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, though often in media gaze stood overshadowed by the PMO and NSA Ajit Doval, traveled extensively in the region initiating number of friendly parleys.
Swaraj attended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum Meeting and East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting and took concrete bilateral steps. "Everybody was impressed by Modiji's vision. They feel that investment opportunities have increased in India," Sushma later said.

In Dhaka, describing illegal immigration from Bangladesh as a "sensitive issue", External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj underlined the need for consultations with all stakeholders to carefully handle the problem along India's nearly 4,000-km porous border with its eastern neighbour. 

She reiterated that the new Indian government wants to take Indo-Bangladesh relations to a new high. Prime Minister Modi during his election campaign had threatened to deport all "illegal migrants from Bangladesh", especially when he campaigned in West Bengal. 


PM Modi met Sheikh Hasina twice first in New York and then in Nepal and their meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and SAARC summit, Modi assured Hasina that the Land Boundary Agreement and the Teesta water sharing issues would soon be resolved.
Showing commitment to strengthening ties with Nepal, PM Modi handed over to Nepal Dhruv Mark 3 Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) which will be used for military operations. “This will add to Nepal’s shield of protection,” Modi said.

Even as the Modi government laid emphasis for peace and friendship initiatives in South Asia, the RSS this year advocated the cause of inclusion of eastern neighbour Myanmar into the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) family. "For India's regional interests to be safeguarded well, SAARC should become SAARC plus....inviting Myanmar also into it. It is just an observer now," tweeted RSS leader Ram Madhav, who later became BJP general secretary. The Myanmar initiatives could be also linked to Sangh Parivar and BJP's initiatives to establish greater presence of the saffron organisations in northeast India.
At the BRICS level, the Summit Modi attended in July or his one-on-one parleys with Putin, Obama or Chinese leadership, one single most achievement perhaps was that an attempt was being made by the ‘chief executive’ of world’s largest democracy to change a perception that India’s foreign policy is generally non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas.
These preludes Modi’s adventurous invite to all heads of nations of SAARC countries including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his swearing in ceremony on May 26, 2014.
Now not without good reason that the rumour mongering about paradigm shift in India’s foreign policy is much vocal. Insiders in the Ministry of External Affairs under country’s first woman Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj might complain of the growing PMO interference, but it cannot say, we are not moving. Thus, there is already a suggestion that in a significant move the Modi government could alter India’s supporting vote for the Palestinian cause at the United Nations. “India might not vote against Palestine, but it might abstain,” a source said.
This could be a gamechanger as it would unleash enhanced defence and diplomatic ties with Israel


Though new to diplomatic protocols and gameballs, with robust Putin, Modi mirrored an image of a confident man. He seemed to have stuck a good personal rapport with leaders like the US President Barack Obama, who would also grace the 2015 Republic Day parade on January 26. With others 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 during a stopover at Berlin, he did extend the birthday greetings.
In simpler words, diplomats say, the aptitude to do proper homework about each leader and governments 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.
With China, he did not seem to be bogged down by any bitterness of the past. However, during his Japan visit, Modi walked an extra mile when without naming Beijing he made a veiled attack on ‘expansionist” designs of the 18thcentury. The reference to “encroachment” and “entry into the seas” were largely interpreted as a reference to China’s spats with Japan over the Senkaku Islands.
Modi apparently floored his foreign counterparts with his carefully tailored comments at every bilateral meeting. 

Things moved positively with Russia too and both Russian Deputy Chairman Dmitry Rogozin visited India on 18–19 June 2014 to reach out to the new government led by Narendra Modi, while Putin visited India in December.

Russian President Putin pledged to supply India with oil, weapons and nuclear power reactors, buttressing a long-time friendship with Asia’s third-biggest economy. As a visibly desperate looking Putin isolated from the west over Ukraine, looked for friends in the east, Narendra Modi assured Putin his government would oppose sanctions against Russia.
He also said Russia remains India’s most important defense partner while Putin offered help to make advanced helicopters. “The character of global politics and international relations is changing,” Modi told reporters in New Delhi signaling his ambitious pro-active mood in a joint briefing with Putin. 
(Ends)


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