PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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The new assertiveness in Indian foreign policy where risk-taking, according to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, is an inherent part, has taken a curious direction. This is now risking alienating India’s friends or at least a section of people with whom India enjoys all-round support, especially in the United States.

It seems like the arrogance with which the Narendra Modi government, egged by its core support base, dismisses critical views on its policies at home is now being carried into its foreign policy as well. This domestic political strategy of aggressively taking on critics has now been taken to other nations – global politicians and scholars who criticise Modi’s Kashmir policy or citizenship law are attacked on social media; overseas Indian communities are enlisted to protest against Modi’s detractors on foreign shores, including in front of foreign newspaper offices, or actively campaigning for conservative political parties, like in the case of the UK recently.


Also read: Why Modi and Jaishankar are safe from global censure on NRC & CAA, for now


Jaishankar’s folly

The snubbing of Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a vocal critic of India’s policy on Kashmir, by Foreign Minister Jaishankar is not likely to go down well in the US and has in fact already been condemned by Democrat presidential aspirants Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as an effort to “silence” or “shut out” US lawmakers standing up for human rights. Jaishankar reasoned that the Kashmir resolution that Jayapal authored did not reflect a balanced view or fairly characterised what the Indian government was doing in Kashmir. “I have no interest in meeting her,” he had said.

The ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event, which was attended by both Republicans and Democrats, was seen as an endorsement of US President Donald Trump by PM Modi in front of thousands of Indian Americans at the NRG stadium in Houston, Texas, and the millions watching it on TV. With foreign influence in domestic political process in the US being a raging issue since Trump’s election, this Modi-Trump bonhomie will also be watched by the Democrats.

Concerns were also raised in the UK about BJP-affiliated groups backing the Conservatives in the recent prime ministerial elections, which created an impression that the BJP was backing Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party against Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party. Corbyn has been critical of India’s Kashmir policy.


Also read: Modi govt’s adamant stand on citizenship will push India’s neighbours into China’s arms


Undoing its own hard work

Both Jayapal and Corbyn are wrong in their views on India’s position on Kashmir, with the latter driven by his need to keep his Pakistani vote bank happy. But it does not make sense for India to alienate an entire party because it will come to power some day and India will have to deal with it. It would certainly be prudent for the Modi government to engage with Labour Party leaders to bring them around to India’s point of view.

While India has the right to not allow interference in its domestic affairs by foreign powers, it will be unwise to snub critical voices. Surprisingly, this is reserved for a friend of India and not India’s primary adversary — China. The country that occupies the far eastern region of union territory of Ladakh (Aksai Chin) has repeatedly passed anti-India statements. It has been critical of the dilution of Article 370, which stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

For the first time in decades, Kashmir was discussed at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council at the behest of China. President Xi Jinping backing Pakistan, just two days before his informal summit with PM Modi in Mamallapuram on 11 October, said “The rights and wrongs of the situation in Kashmir are clear. China supports Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and hopes that the parties concerned can resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.”

India, however, still went ahead with the informal summit instead of calling it off. And as expected, the summit failed to make much headway in India and China’s relationship. In fact, on his way back, Xi made a brief stopover in Kathmandu to announce China as a guarantor of Nepal’s security. This decision clearly targeted India, which enjoys historical relations with the Himalayan country.

The Modi government is undoing the hard work on the foreign policy front put in during its first term and by his predecessors. Shared values of freedom, justice, human rights and commitment to the rule of law are critical elements of India’s convergence with its friends in the western world, with which it has forged critical strategic partnerships.

But now, there are voices that are questioning India’s commitment to those shared values. India’s soft power has taken a beating.


Also read: Russia getting close to China one joint military exercise at a time. India must worry


Misusing mandate

Countries friendly to India haven’t so far said anything adverse against Modi government’s recent policies.

This has made the Modi government conclude that the country’s stature, its importance in the global security architecture, and the rebalancing that is underway due to China’s rise have given India the heft to disregard opinions of friendly countries and make enemies out of political parties not currently in power. This is a huge risk the Modi government is taking.

Instead of focusing on economic development and undertaking reforms to attract manufacturing in India with the opportunity that the US-China trade war has presented, the Modi government has picked up multiple firefights both at home and abroad.

While India is yet to sign a trade agreement with the US, China and the US have already announced ‘phase one’ of their trade deal.

Modi’s huge mandate was expected to give him political elbow room to undertake transformational reforms to boost the flagging Indian economy. But he has used it to push the BJP’s political agenda, attracting protests in India and negative international reactions.


Also read: Just 48 hours into 2020, and PM Modi has already obsessed over Pakistan twice


The Modi government will do well to rethink the current course in foreign policy and focus on the economy. Without a booming economy, both development and strategic goals are being compromised — especially at a time when China is steadily expanding its footprints, including in the Indian Ocean.

The author is editor of Defence Forum India. He is a commentator on defence and strategic affairs. He tweets @YusufDFI. Views are personal.

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34 Comments Share Your Views

34 COMMENTS

  1. MEGALOMANIAC THINKS OF NOTHING BUT HIS OWN POWER UNMINDFUL OF HIS VULNERABILITIES . MODI-SHAH WILL TAKE INDIA DOWN A PRECIPICE UNLESS THEY CHANGE THEIR TACK . MODI-SHAH MUST ALSO UNDERSTAND THE LIMITATIONS TO THE RELIGION POLARIZATION THAT ARE SO BLATANTLY AND UNABASHEDLY INDULGING IN . THOUGH BOTH VAJPAYEE AND ADVANI WERE NO LESS COMMUNAL THAN MODI-SHAH THEY PRESENTED THEIR COMMUNAL COLOURS IN A NUANCED WAY . ONLY IF INDIAN ECONOMY SINKS FURTHER , AS IT IS THREATENING TO RIGHT NOW, THEN THE MODI-SHAH JUGGERNAUT CAN BE HALTED FOR EVEN NOW MODI-SHAH ARE ,WITH THEIR ENORMOUS RESOURCES , ABLE TO SPREAD A SENSE OF INSECURITY , FEAR AND BEING WRONGED AMONG THE IGNORAMUS MAJORITY OF THE HINDUS. IT WILL REQUIRE AN ABSOLUTE UNITY AMONG CONGRESSMEN IF THEY NURSE ANY AMBITION OF RETURNING TO POWER AND CERTAINLY WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE IF THE INTERNAL BICKERING AND BACK STABBING -LOOK AT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN KARNATAKA- CONTINUES UNABATED . PEOPLE LIKE SIDDARAMAIAH, DK SHIVAKUMAR AND MALLIKARJUN KHARGE MUST BE TOLD THAT THE PARTY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN INDIVIDUALS

  2. The author is probably right and probably wrong. Do es India interfere in the domestic affairs of another country? Britain and America feel the need to rap everyone else on the knuckles whenever they feel like. No other country does this moralising. Someone mentioned that the persons writing against India in the left liberal media are of Indian origin. Every Indian knows the antecedents of these disgruntled journalists who have lost all the privileges they enjoyed.

    Britain is a has been country. America needs India more than we need them. One can elaborate on this, but for lack of space.

  3. Undoubtedly domestic policy reflects in foreign policy. It is only critical situation decides who comes to rescue.

  4. Does China get worried what the western countries would say about its camps for its uighur people? It does not give a damn. Wonder why India should be so worried what the west would think.

    • I fully agree with Gopal. India has to see its best interest, and duly elected government of the day , i.e. BJP can not and should not be afraid to implement their agenda, in the best interests of the nation. This article is full of a lot of bullshit , and has malice in intentions.

  5. One need not blindly go buying arms, good missile and normal military equipment ok. Now they accept and worried as earlier India soft target tag was doing more damage

  6. “alienate an entire party because it will come to power some day and India will have to deal with it. ” will Modi be in power upto that time otherwise RSS, BJP DO NOT THINK OF AND CARE FOR indiaAS A COUNTRY

  7. Column by Professor Happymon Jacob in the Hindu. Scoring a foreign policy self – goal. The government’s political expediency over the Citizenship Act has landed India in an unenviable diplomatic spot today. The column begins as : The frightening fall of a great nation has begun.

    • “Meanwhile, the world is watching as we make a spectacle of ourselves.” – These are the words that were blurted by journalists, business leaders and scholars in Britain about Britain’s BREXIT faux pas just prior to the general elections. “We are a laughing stock.” were the exact words, day in and day out. However, the parliamentary process and sound institutional mechanisms took care of the ship that was rocking. Now the voices are mute. Large democracies take their time in course correction. The government may be working at course correction as Jacob took this opportunity to pen his article. No need to pronounce the verdict so soon.

    • These communists writers ekk out their living by selling their “mothers” in the market with twistsed news.Today readers are more educated than being fooled by your twisted news of the present govt.Today India is shining under Modi.The world looks up to him.

  8. ofcorse world is not zero sum game , check on PR agencies hired by Pakistan in USA. This money gets diverted to multiple PR Agencies like Washington Post,CNN whereby heros and sheros are created.If world could not do anthing of Pak (instead supports ) it inspite of hiding Osama we are just Nationalist bunch.Ofcourse India needs to be more useful to world then these commentators are just noise..

  9. I don’t agree with hypothesis , UK US all had banned modi from traveling respective countries despite him being elected CM and also very important member of India’s second largest party (that time ) . International relations are both long term and short term where posturing plays as important role as possible .Writer would do good for himself reading India Us and India UK realtions .

    • I live in the UK and follow its politics and international relations on a daily basis. I also have discussions with many British colleagues. It has been interesting to see the reaction of certain sections in the Indian Press about the role and importance of the West. It is truly amusing and shows that Indian think tank and intellectual class has to grow up, and behave like a boy in a man’s world.

      It is only the naive who will think that this Western reaction is more than the usual pressure tactics employed by the West as and when it pleases them. I can assure you that Corbyn not only lost native votes because of his extreme leftist agenda but also the votes of British Indians because of his blatant hypocrisy. Boris is a hugely practical man who is not easily swayed by soft issues such as human rights. Yes, this is an important issue, and a tinder box internally in India. Also Boris may be compelled to sound politically correct, but that doesn’t mean that he would compromise trade relations because of some 370 or CAA. Similarly, the US has its own agenda and it has currently put all its allies in a fix after this Iran episode. These countries will be engaged in managing the imminent mess for some months to come. In such a situation, India should focus on reigniting the economic potential, just as it should have after the 2008 financial crisis that hit the Western world really hard. There is also a need to be subtly unambiguous about which side India is on. India must realise that placating China more than it is required China, and pampering Pakistan with diplomatic sweet talk will require effort that might not offer great returns. There is an opportunity cost to it. That said, there is certainly a need for course correction and taking a U-turn from extreme right ideology. The Indian establishment can work on its border control in a more rules-based manner. After all what stops any government to deny citizenship to a Muslim refugee if the government thinks the asylum seeker has NO case? Why create so much noise and waste the political and bureaucratic energy?

    • Also liberals who see red in people of Indian origin canvassing for the Conservatives and feel that it has created a bad precedent need to realise that every action has a reaction. If Corbyn had won, his vitriolic, unrealistic, hypocrisy driven ideology would have caused a massive dent in India-UK relations. This is in some mild way similar to the case of Justin Trudeau and his relationship with the current Indian establishment.

  10. If you think you can buy journalists abroad just as you do in India, that is your problem. Ignorance is hard to pass on something else.

    • Oh yes, you can buy journalists and Influence anywhere in world including most western democracies. Rather naive or mostly likely ignorance on how the journalist/News trade works.

        • You have to prove that a journalist is agenda driven. What agenda do you think all the foreign journalists have against India? Look at any foreign publication, i. e. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, BBC, Guardian, The Economist, Financial Express, Telegraph (UK), and even the French Le Monde. All carry articles and columns critical of India, Kashmir, and now CAA, NPR, NRC! Not one writing in these publications applauding India! Why? Are all the writers in these publications agenda driven? Do you think all these writers are involved in a conspiracy against India?

          There are also paid commentators. I can also write that you are a paid commentator, and say such paid commentators are everywhere! Would that be right? Of course not!

          • A comment should be worth something to be paid for. Ab hamein dekhiye na, not a packet of potato crisps from Print …

          • Shri Rohitji, who are the people who are writing in most of the foreign papers/magzines you mentioned? Indians!!!Mostly all the articles written in the foreign press are written by local Indian journalists either exclusively or along with the foreign correspondent! If you investigate the background of these Indian journalists they come from usual left wing ( and also anti BJP) Indian papers and channels like the Hindu, NDTV etc. Most of the reporting is not factual, but opinions and conjecture. Most of these journalists never move beyond Delhi and if they do then to another Metro. NYT, Washington Post,The Guardian and Le Monde, who are virulently anti BJP, are essentially platforms for the Loony Left. BBC has been severely criticised by successive Tory Govt of being infiltrated by the left and communists. BBCs own track record of discriminating against their women employees is well known ( they recently bought lost a case and had to pay huge damages to a lady journalist) and their reporting has always has been massively biased. Walk Street Journal and the Financial Times are factual and fair in their reporting.

            But the basic point, as a large mature democracy we don’t have to base our decisions on what the foreign press will say. We do and should do what is right for us. BJP has the mandate of the people and the laws have been passed by parliament. India despite various issues is a powerful force in the region and also an important economic power. Business captains and foreign governments base their decisions and policy considering our potential and influence and not by stupid biased leftist journalist writing in a newspaper.

          • Ever heard of Rebekah Brooks. And phone hacking scandal. Here’s a link: https://www.google.com/amp/s/theconversation.com/amp/phone-hacking-trial-laid-bare-the-dark-arts-of-unethical-journalism-27906

            Can also talk about Radia Tapes and much more. Also suggest the TV series ‘Mother Father Son’ starring Richard Gere. You can call some of us as paid commentators if it pleases you. The first thought was to ignore your comment, but then what’s the harm in talking to people and sharing perspectives.

  11. Every country, including the US has its own version of CAA, especially the US under Trump. When India belatedly makes such law, that too for limited number of eligible immigrants upto 31.12.2014, human rights are violated. Why do these US politicians think that they have a God-given right to sit in judgment over the internal affairs of all the other countries? US is now sending back 500 000 illegal immigrants to Mexico. Why don’t India’s politicians or liberals criticze it? India need not worry about how to deal with the Democrats if and when they come to power. There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, only permanent interests, especially so in international relations.

  12. No worry. Falling at the feet of other countries was the habit of Congress led govts. Now all other countries will fall in line with India.

  13. Modi govt has engaged with USA , EU and Middle East quite well .Only a few irritants here and their . One Corbyn here or one Sanders their or some self styled human right commandos . They don’t matter much.

  14. see bro barma removed some worth less minorities form their counter but what UN done to them, nothing , same with India too, nothing happens life will go on……………….

  15. Can’t comprehend what author wants Modi to do! You can’t run your foreign policy to please all; you have to be driven by your own core national interests, just like USA or China does. Who the hell is Pramila Jaipal or Corbyn! The only sensible sentence in this article refers to Modi doing something to improve performance of the economy! If economy turns around tomorrow, all these issues will be sidelined and forgotten. Modi knows this and so do the democrats in USA and liberals in UK!

    • True. But does the economy look like it is going to turn around with the conflict over the unnecessary CAA, surging oil prices, uncertainty of markets, dropping consumption, falling investment and above all the sheer economic incompetence of the Government.

    • This guy Yousuf Unjhawala who used to run India Defence forum, got his export/import business effected because of GST and from then started hating Modi. It has nothing to do on foreign policy.

    • The only motive is to criticise the government. The 24 hours news channels have done a yeoman service . They have ensured a complete distrust of the media and a violent allergy for the ‘ liberal’, ‘ secular’, ‘journalist’, ‘socialist’, ‘leftist,’etc. among the masses.

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