PM Narendra Modi | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
PM Narendra Modi | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
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From reopening Chinese investments in India to re-engaging with Pakistan to reshaping its position on climate change, India is slowly turning its foreign policy ship around in the hope of finding more welcome harbours in a post-pandemic world.

Several of these measures are being taken with one eye on the new Joe Biden administration in the White House, but many are a response to the felt need that India must open up if it has to get its post-Covid economy back on track.

With the US struggling to gain control over the coronavirus and Europe continuing to stagnate, New Delhi realises the only country in the world with spare change is the one with whom it has been eyeball-to-eyeball for the last several months on the icy heights of Ladakh.


Also read: World is warming up to China for trade. But India is left with just a handful of minilaterals


An India-China thaw

While the economy has been showing green shoots, the Narendra Modi government is keenly aware that it needs FDI to shore up the bottom line. Sanjeev Sanyal, principal economic adviser, told journalists last week that if someone wants to set up a button factory in India, it doesn’t matter if that somebody is an American, Indonesian or Chinese. “Except for strategically sensitive sectors,” he added, “we have sped up clearances from China and we plan to clear them quite fast.”

One of those sensitive sectors, a second official who spoke on condition of anonymity, is Chinese entry into India’s 5G network. The government is not going to restore Chinese apps like TikTok that were banned last year, in the near future.

So India is planning to soon clear 45 investment proposals worth millions of dollars, including from auto companies like Great Wall Motors and SAIC Motor Corp, which were put on hold when the large-scale Chinese intrusion across the Line of Actual Control came to light last May.

The announcement to reopen the doors to Chinese investment came soon after troop disengagement began in the Pangong Tso region of Ladakh in mid-February, giving rise to speculation that the gradual return to economic normalcy is part of the elongated step-by-step restoration of peace and tranquillity on the LAC.

Meaning, as China withdraws troops and armour and India does likewise, New Delhi is encouraging Beijing to undertake the next phase of withdrawal by partially opening up its economy.

This also means that India has given in to the Chinese demand that the border troubles be segregated from the rest of the India-China relationship – notwithstanding demurrals by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi last week that it cannot be business as usual.


Also read: India should expect greater US scrutiny of domestic issues, if Biden’s speech was any clue


Climate change push

There are two reasons for this shift in strategy. The first is that China is bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic like no other country and is expected to overtake the US to become the world’s biggest economic power by 2028.

But the second is that the Biden administration is likely to cut its own deals with the Chinese on a variety of issues – from climate change to trade. Certainly, India doesn’t want to be caught napping by its most important foreign partner when it shifts gears.

Climate change is a key case in point. Biden’s special envoy on climate John Kerry has made it clear that the world must ramp up its efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. In February, former UK minister and COP26 president Alok Sharma met PM Modi to discuss what India can do further.

Anticipating the shift, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced last September that China will hit peak emissions by 2030 and will be carbon neutral by 2060.

Speculation is now rife that when Modi travels to Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), he will match China or go one up by announcing India’s further commitment to cut emissions and declare carbon neutrality by 2050.


Also read: Pakistan agreed to ceasefire because Gen Bajwa had a Musharraf moment


A Pakistan hotline

Discussions on the matter are still ongoing, as officials worry about the West unwilling to pay up for the transition as promised, but Modi’s intention to rejoin the post-pandemic world as a key player is amply clear. Vaccine Maitri, the government’s diplomatic initiative to donate Covid-19 vaccines to the world, has been widely lauded, including by The New York Times.

As for Pakistan, the no-talks-until-cross-border-terrorism-ends policy has clearly outlived its utility. Modi had made a bid to solve the India-Pakistan issue in December 2015 when he went to Lahore to attend Nawaz Sharif’s grand-daughter’s wedding, but didn’t reckon the double talk of the Pakistani establishment, which undermined its own government by masterminding the Pathankot attack exactly one week later.

This time around, none other than Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa is leading the charge. The economy, notwithstanding its Chinese patron next door, is reeling. Pakistan is awash with terrorism and guns and even Bajwa realises that the country he controls is shrinking within.

As Mushahid Hussain, head of Pakistan Senate foreign affairs committee, said in an interview, “there’s no point having peace in Kabul without peace in Delhi”. The Americans, who need to exit from Afghanistan sooner than later, would have sooner than later indicated to Islamabad and Delhi to put their heads together. PM Modi has pre-empted them by doing just that.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. “ Pakistan is awash with terrorism ”

    Terrorism is down 97% since 2008, and attacks are sparse. What sort of analysis is this?

    And as for the last sentence, the Prime Minister didn’t preempt the move, maybe he was instead pressured

    • @RK: Give credible sources when you & Islamo-leftists like you spew lies!! If Pakistan had seriously worked against Islamic terrorism then they won’t be on FATF grey list!! Also, most international experts agree that Pakistan still is 24/7 in Islamic terrorism business against India while it drowns Allah in Mosques made into toilets in China!!

  2. The title sums up the BJP’s (and India’s predicament due to them). The BJP is in the doldrums, and so is India. But they have a lot of supporters, who just can’t admit Modi is the Great Hope that failed.

    Create nafrath all over the country, and with neighbours, and when things don’t go as they wish, pretend the bad result is good, and is exactly as they wished, and make out they have cornered China and Pakistan with their pre-emptive thinker !

    They don’t know how to open their mouths without lying, and they want to have their cake and eat it too.

    • @avatar: Get your facts right!! The Only Nafrat creators were & are from Islam & leftists/congress which created Pakistan!! Those Pakistanis nevertheless were allowed to stay in India to have unlimited gaumutra & do Jihad!!

  3. As if it was within Modi’s powers to fructify this “strike”! All this bonhomie is happening on America’s directives

  4. These BJP ‘nationalists’ are a pile of contradictions. With Pakistan, the govt. says no talks, unless they curb attacks. With China, they attack, kill soldiers and take land, India says it will reduce trade and increase self reliance, and after some time, we find trade is increased, and it is passed off as Modiji’s pre-emptive genius !

    I agree with Mahua Moitra these ‘nationalist’ posers are nothing but shameless cowards. They will attack Indians, but will surrender before a richer or a higher foreign power.

    • @Tog: Rs. 1 trolls like you can spew BS!! Indian Push back of the Chinese was highly successful according to all non leftist/non Muslim experts around the world!!

      • Can you cite the non leftist/non Muslim experts around the world who say Indian Push back of the Chinese was highly successful ?

        The Indian newspapers say that China has overtaken US as India’ s largest trading partner. With respect to US, the balance of trade was in India’s favour, but with China, it is the reverse. Modi helped that. What is the pushback ? It is a failure even by your standards ! They have taken land AND have control of the Indian economy.

  5. The very first hyperlink in your article, the link leading to Reuters article claiming that unnamed government sources are saying that Chinese investment might get cleared in coming weeks, is FALSE. Government of India has publicly denied the veracity of these reports and stated categorically that it is not yet looking at clearing any Chinese investments in India. This Reuters article is, therefore, fake news. Yet you persist in quoting a known fake news article? Kindly retract this piece. I have high respect for this newspaper. Please curb these antics of yours lest you lose trust in the eyes of my circle.

    • @DParade: Even if BJP had allowed some Chinese investments, it still makes sense as it would be unwise to refuse investments which don’t harm national security!! Till India becomes another China, pragmatic decisions are the need of the hour!! One can’t also ignore Biden, the new American president who white washed Chinese human rights crimes calling it a cultural issue!!

  6. This article is one of the reasons I prefer ThePrint. Its an article which has and idea, that is backed by analysis(by way of links from several publications) and a hint of cynicism. This is exactly how the article should be written and which i expect.

    In summary the article is well thought, substantiated and pushes a subtle idea of a possibility that all these might not be due to the benevolence of the ruling but due to the compulsion to make something happen.

  7. Even so called “tough ” Govts need arm twisting from super powers , and Biden knows how to do that quietly.

    • Ha!! Ha!! Biden has supported raping of Muslim women & complete genocide of Islamic people while supporting communist China and calling it a cultural issue!!

      US & UK have a track record of attacking nationalists in other countries while supporting Islamic dictators & bigots!!

      If Biden or these American/western had any values, Australia, Canada, USA.. etc. wouldn’t have killed all natives from their lands!!

  8. Yes. It is all about the economy. (e.g. the USA is spending a lot in Afghanistan without any tangible returns). With a strong economy everything else will fall in place. If countries like the USA and China believe / realise that business with India is good for their respective economies, we should indulge and exploit.

    All else will automatically fall in place.

  9. Sad to read such a one- sided view. No, India has not won, and has not done anything pre- emptive.
    China has achieved its goal to reach its 1959 claim line in Ladakh after 60 years. And if you want now give 5G contracts to Huawei as a gift, good night India.

    • I agree with you. I am shocked at the U turn and even more shocked at the explanations given. It is win-win for China. They got land, and economic control.

      Modi is a consummate failure, but his bhakths always invent fanciful reasoning to absolve him – whether it is demonetisation, or mess up from Article 370 (leading to loss of land).

      And only a few weeks back, the same nationalist people were talking proudly about atmanirbahar, and joining Quad to nullify China !

      The Chinese must know India’s rulers are weak and are under their control.

  10. The author says Modi is doing a U turn on China and Pakistan – not out of necessity but springing from the genius of Modi !

    The U turn on China and Pakistan is necessitated due to the threat of the two front war that Shekhar Gupta wrote about. To counter this, India cannot afford huge military expenditure with a shrinking economy. This scenario was created by Modi with repeal of Article 370. Now to get out of this situation, India has to agree to let China expand economically and territorially inside India ! Is this pre-emptive genius or a sign of stupidity and incompetence ?

    Malhotra says that India needs FDI – which only China has. Modi said FDI is Foreign Dangerous Ideology. Greta is the threat, not China !

    She also says Modi has sensed the wind has changed due to Biden. She says Biden is apparently cutting deals with China, and India does not want to be left out. Then what were all this bravado in The Print about India joining Quad to take on China ? Biden may also put pressure on India more than on China over human rights violations. India is no alternative to China if its model is also based on internal violence.

    Jyoti Malhotra sounds very much like Skekhar Gupta – she knows Modi is a failure, but hopes for future success. She writes about the green shoots of recovery – which we have been hearing about since demonetisation !

    Losing land, capitulating meekly in Galwan, while showing off ultra ‘nationalism’ beating up JNU students, Shaheen Bagh women, and farmers, and now saying India realises only Chinese FDI can save India, and saying this is Modi showing a pre-emptive strike (like surgical strike) is pathetic !

    When will The Print pluck up the courage to say Modi is a repeated failure, he is incapable due to his shakha limitations and lack of education, and Indians need to look for alternatives, instead of hoping for miracles from failures ? Tacky ethno nationalism is not an alternative.

    • @Vaz: Your whatsapp university knowledge & communist style ignorance is appalling for people in the know!!
      You must see the mirror to see the real stupid!! BJP & Hindus know the game of camel mutra drinkers too!!

  11. Well if it’s all because of India’s pre-emptiveness due to the new administration – why China and Pakistan singing to Indian tunes!
    The commentariat will write any bunkum to fill oped space.

    India always was, is, and will remain strategically independent, and not make decisions based on what others say or think. Print this line and hang it on your study’s wall.

  12. This is a particular “innocent” analysis where no serious thinking is required.

    MODIJI ‘s government is well aware that the real enemy who has grown in strength is internal to be specific ultra left wing radicals and jihadist and rented journalists who are being controlled by ISI and chinese HANDLERS to foment intense trouble causing large scale chaos and bloodshed in INDIA.

    With judiciary unable to understand new techniques of low cost warfare with minimum or no cost to enemy countries they are still seeking old style proof of crime.

    THE MODI government is acutely aware of such warfare techniques employed and hence action against “climate activist” who are ultra left wing radicals trying to team up with khalistanis and jihadist to foment trouble by inciting people to attack HINDUS and INDIAN ECONOMY worldwide.

    • @Data!! Well said!! The internal enemies must be neutralized before taking on external enemies!! The leftists like @The Print don’t have the brains or honesty to do a real analysis!! They run to congress office to write nonsense & spew venom against Modi/BJP & indeed Hindus!!

  13. On climate change, India needs to do more. Speed up renewables, which requires putting the finances of the power sector / discoms on a sustainable footing. Start scaling back on coal usage, led by thermal power plants. Declare target years for peak emissions and carbon neutrality. Not as a favour to the West or John Kerry. Consider the air quality in our cities, especially in winter. How our monsoon system is being disrupted, the life giving glaciers beginning to melt. Our entire agenda / priorities for governance need to shift a million miles away from where the Monk with a Ferrari is leading them.

  14. Barring AEC and ISRO, nothing is “ strategic “. All these percentages in FDI policy are pointless. The policy itself, sector by sector, is dictated by local interests, including in the media. No one likes the icy winds of global competition. If we can import military hardware – the policy on offsets again has not worked out well – what is the harm in allowing FDI with 100% foreign ownership. Let the world’s top firms in, they will create an ecosystem here, as happened with Suzuki and Maruti. All this new gyaan, it is as old as the economics we studied in college.

  15. The author in this article says that India has given in to Chinese demand that border issues be separate from economic cooperation. However, I feel the opposite is true. By fast tracking some Chinese proposals after phase 1 of disengagement, India is telling China that as long as you keep peace at the border and respect our sentiments, we will happily work with you, rather than choose sides with US in the US-China rivalry.

    • Weak thinking ! The Chinese are not going to respect Indian sentiments and give back the land they took, but India is ready to increase one way business – that is deepen dependency on imports. At the same time talk about self reliance.

      • @Tog: Your take is as weak as Islamic resolve on China!! These communists have been raping Muslim women, doing real genocide and Muslims kept their mouths shut because now their god is China, not Allah!!

        • Irrelevant. Never mind Muslims, they did not say they are a superpower. The BJP thinks India is a super power and Modi says India is the vishwa guru. The results show the opposite. So why don’t you condemn Modi’s surrender of Indian land and economy to the Chinese ? You will be fighting with Muslims and the Chinese take over quietly. That is how the British also took over India. Indians preferred to fight between themselves and aid the British. I can see that in your weak mentality.

          • @Tog: Muslims do say that Islam is their faith & yet sell their faith & indeed their morals or human values for Dollar 1 to the highest bidder!!!! They then go on proclaiming Allah while drowning him in mosques converted into toilets in China!!

            The British & the pig lovers invaded because Hindus were disunited!! Later Congress, the Mulla party whose radical leftist cause you espouse, gave away Indian lands to Islamic terrorists & even kept those terrorists who voted for Pakistan in India!!

            BJP or Modi never said India is a superpower!! Give us a reference where they did!! As for Vishwaguru, India has already been Vishwaguru when they exported math & science to the world!! The Arab Muslims even claimed Hindu knowledge as their own and sold to Europe!!

            As for the Chinese or Pakistanis, they have run with tails between their legs; Pakistan in 1971 & now China!! Give reference of credible sources if you want someone to believe your & your ilk’s BS!!

            PS: I can also see that you have half brains & no personality!!

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