After winning India, Modi woos the world
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s honeymoon with the public continues even as he completes 100 days in office. There are mixed reports about his performance, as the Opposition is looking for loopholes, but his supporters remain jubilant. If one has to sum up his 100 days in office, it can be described as ‘so far so good’. Mr Modi has not committed any big blunder, he has kept some promises and some are yet to be fulfilled.
While there can be criticism in other areas, Modi’s foreign policy has gained the most momentum. He proved to those who considered him to be a green horn in foreign policy that is pragmatic and innovative. The two basic aims of Modi’s foreign policy are to strengthen India’s position in the neighbourhood and to have more engagement in multilateral diplomacy. He also sought to dispel both the ‘big brother image’ in the neighbourhood and the belief that India promises but does not deliver.
Modi stunned everyone by inviting the South Asian heads of state for his swearing-in ceremony. He deputed his External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Bangladesh and Nepal to take the South Asia focus further. Although not much movement has happened in the Teesta water sharing and immigration issues with Dhaka, the Bangladesh trip was certainly a good beginning. With Sri Lanka, he is moving cautiously because of opposition from Tamil Nadu. Things are likely to firm up before he meets the leaders from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation later this year.
Modi has send a strong message that India can’t be bullied. One guest who stood apart at his swearing-in ceremony was Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The brief meeting with him resulted in both the leaders agreeing to resuming Foreign Secretary level talks. But irritants, like the constant firing on the Line of Control and the Pakistani envoy meeting with separatist leaders while ignoring Indian protests, made the Modi Government call off the talks at the last minute. Of late, the Government and Army officials have been threatening against Pakistan’s ceasefire violations. On a trip to Kashmir, BJP president Amit Shah stated that India would give Pakistan a “befitting reply” if cross-border firing did not cease.
India said that it will stand by its all weather friends. Modi chose Bhutan for his first foreign trip. This was to send a signal to the neighbourhood that his priority is for good relations with the neighbours and that Bhutan has remained a friend.
Modi maintained the age-old relationship with Nepal. His trip, the visit by an Indian Prime Minister after 17 years, was significant, although he could not clinch the two issues – the extradition treaty and hydropower projects.
Modi believes in summit-level meetings. He has already held three such meetings with Bhutan, Nepal and Japan, and more are in the offing.
The Prime Minister made his first international foray when he visited Brazil for the BRICS summit and rubbed shoulders with the heads of Russia, China, South Africa and the host country for a get-to-know effort.
Modi’s balancing act with China, Japan and the United States deserves attention. He has made three trips to China as Gujarat Chief Minister and has developed good relations with the new Chinese leadership. The Chinese Foreign Minister was the first to visit New Delhi after Modi took over, and now Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit India this month.
With Japan, Modi had already made a mark while he was a Chief Minister, which has been cemented further with his visit to that country recently. Japan has promised to invest $35 billion in the next five years and also help with the bullet train project.
Modi came in for criticism on his stand on the Gaza crisis and his method of dealing with Pakistan. India’s veto of the trade facilitation agreement at the World Trade Organisation, after it failed to receive assurances that India could expand its food-subsidy programme, also was criticised.
September is an important month for Modi as he will be attending the UN General Assembly in Washington, DC, and holding his first bilateral meeting with US President Barack Obama. In short, if one expected Modi to get more marks on governance and economy, he surprised everyone by outdoing on the foreign policy, which was a new area for him. The coming months will show how far he can implement all that he has