Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanging gifts with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mamallapuram. | PIB |
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Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton, in his yet to be released book, has revealed how the US President had asked China to help him in his re-election bid. This, and other such revelations, are worrying, but not surprising. Trump is known to be willing to use the United States’ foreign policy heft for his personal political standing.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is far subtler than Trump, he has essentially been doing the same: using foreign policy for personal political gains. Put simply, Modi’s foreign policy is Modi first, India second.


Also read: India’s Socialist leaders warned China was bigger enemy, but both BJP and Congress ignored


Modi on a trip of trips

When Modi first came to power in 2014, he surprised many by showing a keen interest in international relations. His frequent foreign trips were a source of political risk. But Modi had a narrative answer: the BJP, RSS and WhatsApp let everyone know that Modi was ‘raising India’s stature on the world stage’. We were told that the world had no respect for India before Modi arrived on the scene.

This narrative has been quite successful and is a key pillar of Brand Modi in winning elections. Recent events in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley tell us the cost India has to pay for Modi’s use of foreign policy for personal brand-building.

As soon as Modi became prime minister in 2014, we realised that we had chosen a marketing manager as our PM. He came up with slogans, acronyms, buzzwords, all the time. Everything was a campaign. Make in India, Swachh Bharat, Yoga Day, Digital India, Startup India, Standup India, Skill India and whatnot. Around 2015, a foreign diplomat in Delhi told me they were having an easy time dealing with the new government. “Whatever we want from India, we just have to find a way of fitting it into one of the Modi government’s campaigns. Put this in Digital India, put that in Startup India. And Indian diplomats and bureaucrats lap it up,” she said.


Also read: India learnt the wrong lesson from 1962 China war. Modi govt must be more open


Modi is easy for foreign powers

Foreign powers know what Modi wants the most: feeding his personality cult. Modi has presented this as a strength to his voters, but it is in fact a weakness. Like a vain person you could please with a few compliments, Modi is easy for foreign powers. China has just shown that.

China fed Modi’s ego by giving him the photo-ops he wanted: in Ahmedabad, in Wuhan, in Mamallapuram. Modi and Xi Jinping have met 18 times since 2014 and the PM has visited China on five occasions. China used Modi’s narcissism to lull him into complacence, and then stabbed us in the back when we were at our weakest–in the middle of a pandemic and an economic downturn. China made Modi give up the maxim ‘trust, but verify’.

Modi likes to boast of his ‘personal friendship’ with foreign leaders. The PM has often spoken of how the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang stayed in Modi’s village in Vadnagar as well as in Xi Jinping’s village in China. Modi says Xi Jinping told him this, and even took him to his village in China, where he showed him an inscription of the name of Modi’s village.

 

Diplomacy is a game of give and take. If Modi’s personal brand building is the prime ask by the Indian side, then India’s national interests are bound to come lower down in the list of priorities.

Modi has told us in the past that the personal bond of friendship, fraternity and brotherhood (he used three Hindi synonyms) went beyond the ‘traditional’ notions of foreign relations. This personal relationship was “plus one” over ‘traditional’ foreign policy. What Modi thought was plus one ‘turned out’ to be ‘minus one’.


Also read: Modi govt and military leaders have soldiers’ blood on hands. PM’s dilemma now same as Nehru


The dangerous inter-mingling

The inter-mingling of foreign policy and domestic politics has made the Modi government so tone-deaf to the intricacies of geo-politics that Home Minister Amit Shah stands up in Parliament to announce he intends to take Aksai Chin back from China. By contrast, Xi Jinping doesn’t announce he intends to capture the Galwan Valley.

Shah thought he was only addressing a domestic audience, and like Pakistan, China wouldn’t care beyond a statement. But we now know what happens when you make foreign relations a sub-sect of your domestic politics.

The Modi government’s cynical use of foreign policy and domestic politics has also resulted in India losing the South Asian influence to Chinese expansionism. The need to use Pakistan in BJP’s domestic politics has meant India gave up on any possibility of a nuanced engagement with Islamabad. The idea of ‘isolating’ Pakistan has resulted in India isolating itself as it gets encircled by Chinese allies. Nepal has fallen, how long will Bhutan last? And we’re anyway pushing Dhaka towards Beijing with Amit Shah’s need to win West Bengal by whipping up the fake narrative of ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’.

We have seen this story play out even more distastefully in India’s dealings with the US. Both Modi and Trump have addressed stadium rallies aimed at bolstering each other’s political standing and electoral prospects. Modi went to the extent of making it look like he was endorsing Trump for his re-election. If Joe Biden wins the election later this year, the price for Modi’s obsession with Modi will have to be paid by at least a temporary awkwardness in India-US relations.

It is time for Modi to de-link his WhatsApp image factory from India’s foreign policy. There’s always Photoshop for the BJP WhatsApp groups.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. The Print is a mouth piece of Congress Party. It doesn’t bother for Facts and Truth but gather shits to throw at Modi.

  2. The fact of the matter is Xi has out smarted Modi by miles while our government, army, intelligence agencies were sleeping. We have lost our territory and Poor families lost their sole bread winner. It cannot be the coincidence that Bihar Regiment lost people while Bihar election is due in few months time. There is more than what the government is saying and doing.

  3. This is quite an insightful peek into Modi’s motives for his actions on the international stage. Kudos to Shivam Vij for bringing it out. Modi desperately wants to replace Nehru as India’s greatest PM ever – in the process he is in danger of being labelled as India’s worst PM ever in the company of VP Singh. Nehru atleast had a long history of personal sacrifice – sacrifice of his freedom, his family wealth, his family life at the altar of politics. The only sacrifice Modi has made is of Jashodaben’s life. Greatness demands personal sacrifice, sir.

  4. This article is totally misleading us like showing false as truth like in Drushyam movie.This paper totally misusing freedom of speech.Does editor have proper international relations knowledge??
    If he did he won’t publish this rubbish and foolish article.

    • What is the proper international relations knowledge?? Is it to use international relations to boost your prospects over the country ? Which other country does that ?

    • Dr Venkanna: I work in the realm of International Relations and I don’t see anything flawed in this article. On the contrary, the article is an insightful, factual analysis highlighting the author’s adherence (largely) to the “Political Realism School of International Relations”.

      Adherents of the Realist school of thought regard the principal actors in the international arena to be states, which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their own national interests, and struggle for power. This approach also assumes that ethics and other humanitarian considerations take a back seat when states compete. States are often Machiavellian when they deal with each other.That framework neatly explains the current jockeying for power between China and India.

      There are other schools of thought when it comes to explaining state behaviour in the international arena but that is beyond the scope of my comment here.

      So Dr Venkanna, reading your remarks and Mr Shivam Vij’s article here, I must conclude that it is not Mr Vij who is the fool.

  5. Quote of the Day
    “PM Modiji is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.” ~ Hindutva Bhakta

  6. Another biased article from a left wing media news outlet, the world is burning because of this left wing politics..wake up before it is too late

  7. Nehtu uses foreign policies for his personal image. Even though his personal image was bad. Every one knows at that time his weakness for women. Unlike Modi he build India’s image in the foreign soil. I guess author of this article doesn’t know anything or paid by Congress.
    China is no more threat to India from outside Modi has covered & secured all aspects of defence. That’s why China is worried. For Modi Threat is from internal enemies, Traitors like Congress & communist party and some intellectuals. Like who believes in this article and some stupid Indians who doesn’t know these all consequences of Congress parties 72 year ruling.

      • Pithy, yet tremendously hard-hitting comment Ms Anamika !

        Chancellor Mohan Bhagwat of the Nagpur University of Nonsense (NUNs) must be informed that his lathi wielding, shakha going, itchy-groined alumni need to brush up their English skills before being let loose in non-Akhand Bharath ! Additionally, graduates of the Bachelor of Hindutva (Hons) programme such as Mr U.Kumar above ought to be taught the rudiments of fact checking, concepts such as cause and effect, civics, the functioning of a democracy, press freedoms, basic history – to name a few areas.

        Sadly, NUNs graduates like Mt U.Kumar only learn the following:

        – If anything goes bad today, blame it on Nehru since Modi always has a perpetual alibi
        – If anything goes well, give credit to Modi
        – If in doubt, blame Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi

        Welcome* to India !!

        *Only if you are not Chinese !

    • Mr U.Kumar: Like the average blinkered, blind, bigoted Modi bhakth, when you run out of arguments, you resort to regurgitating the only thing they taught you at your local shakha – besides groin scratching :

      “It is the fault of Nehru and 70 years of Congress rule”

      Well, that doesn’t solve the current issue of Modi’s incompetence that the Chinese have exploited to the hilt, does it Mr Kumar? Indeed, in every meeting with Xi Jinping, Modi has been subservient, eager to please the man who he knows holds the bigger stick and in turn has been roundly – and predictably – duped. Indeed, Xi has stuck to his script and thoroughly exploited Modi’s vanity and his Delhi University education to the fullest. Fact is, India has lost territory and there is little that your Messiah can do about it. About time you and your ilk swallow that bitter pill along your daily dose of gomutra.

      For all his clumsy, comical and indeed downright embarrassing attempts at doing diplomacy through hugging with Xi, PM Modi has little to show. China consistently supports Pakistan, opposes India in the UN, has enhanced its influence in Nepal and has sent submarines to Sri Lanka. And poked India in the eye in Ladakh.

      Finally, Mr Kumar, why does criticism of PM Modi become an act of treason? Why do you label opposition parties such as the Congress, Communists etc. as traitors? Want India to become a one party state under Modi much like Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany ?

    • The least we expect from bhakts like kumar is the ability to count. 72 years of Congress rule? The nation has been independent for all of 73 years. Which means Kumar believes that the 11 years of his patty’s rule was actually Congress rule. How weak then is the administration to be remotely controlled?

  8. Not just foreign policy … for Modi, every policy is about him. Modi, Modi and Modi. India’s love affair is causing so much damage that we will truly realize only after Modi will suck everything we have and dump us on the side.

  9. Unfortunately, “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants” in West Bengal is 100% true. Was reading this article with interest until that part where he said it was fake.

    This is a dumb fake article.

    • Those illegal immigrants may number in the few thousands. The feku and his chaddis are implying 100’s of thousands, or millions. That is the fake part.

      You are the dumb idiot.

  10. Modi did Nehru bashing to gain political mileage. We as a nation also joined him in the berating that followed whole heartedly. We all forgot that in 1962 , we had been independent only for 15 years and India was really short of resources. Nehru must have chosen to buy peace to give himself the time to consolidate India. That one error in judgement destroyed him and was used by all to destroy his legacy. We all conveniently forgot that Nehru gave this country our most enduring institutions of education , science and research and business. Modi has only dismantled everything. Only the weak live in the past . Modi used history to promote himself but unfortunately never learnt a lesson from it ! You will never see American presidents talk of Vietnam ! Nor will we Putin curse Lenin ! The very fact that we all watched and continue to watch the bashing silently is also responsible for this chaos ! The social media has become so toxic … we need to control this negativity or the more gullible voters who don’t read as much, will be brain washed beyond repair and we as a nation will have to pay a very heavy price for it ! Time to wake up!

  11. We simply regret voting twice for BJP & Modi ji. They seems only interested in dividing the country on the Hindu- Muslim, Majority- Minority, Brahmin – Dalits line. One should always know that a divided nation is always an easy target for the enemy country. India certainly deserves better.

  12. This is a terribly biased write-up, full of hatred towards the P.M. Modi and the present dispensation. Assuming that the Foriegn Policy of the present regime is driven by personality make-over rather than India First, the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 and multiple clashes thereafter should not have taken place at all as, in terms of the author,s narrative, the policies and relations articulated by the Congress Govts. that ruled India over 60+ yrs. were the best in the world. The readers of The Print are not fools. They can readily discern the piper singing tune for the hate brigade.

    • So the author is a piper, is he? (how can a piper sing? he is playing the pipe! but ok, let us not split hair).
      And you, dear commentator, are one of the good citizens of Hamelin, are you? Remember what happened to them?

  13. This idiot Shivam Vij, a China lover, a closet Pakistani and Congress wh0re is back publishing thrash – this fellow should write for Filmfare- he is only worth tabloid journalism.

    • So says a 2 Rs a comment IT cell coolie who has dreamed upma minority name to sound more authentic.

  14. Foreign policy cannot be explained by a journalist who has pathological hatred towards Modi. See the interview given by Former president Pranab Mukerjee about Modi’s foreign policy and how Modi is a fast learner. Remember 4000 people evacuated from Yemen which Late Sushma Swaraj attributed to personal relationship of Modi with leaders of Saudi and Yemen. One betrayer back stabbed who is habitual backstabber you can’t whitewash and write what suits you. See the white paper and not a miniscule black dot in it

  15. I assume that everyone has got their own perception to see things as they are. Some people will do detailed analysis and may find something positive. If PM has met 18 times with Chinese leader then surely it would be more than photo op. If in 2014 we have chosen great marketing manager apart from being PM then i think it is great for India. I have seen in west how small events or products are hyped and have been successful whereas we have so much to give to west and all but we never marketed well. Yoga day worldwide is great example of that marketing blitz. His Marketing skills has drawn highest FDI till now. His marketing skills have given crores of women fresh air to breath in their kitchens. His marketing skills have let Indian people think about cleanliness. His marketing skills let enterpreneur believe in “we can do it” through Make in India. His marketing skills has let India becoming tourism hub for foreign tourist resulting in 75% increase in tourist between 2014 and 2019. PM tried to make relations cordial even with Pakistan when he invited all SAARC nation leaders for his first sworn in. He visited Nepal as one of his first country.

  16. Bang On ! Cant agree more . I have said so many times , when there is an effort to make one person above country than this is the price you pay , hope Bhakts will understand this .

  17. Everything is about creating new Modi-Hindutva legacy. This includes even all domestic projects along with greatly planned and well executed PM Moid’s trip to foreign countries.

    Take a look at statues that have been build or planned. But even more important is Central Vista project at the cost Rs 200 billion and due to be completed by 2024.

    What’s driving Modi’s Central Vista project:
    The bid document issued to select the consultant for the project, states the following objectives:

    “A new Master Plan is to be drawn up for the entire Central Vista area that represents the values and aspirations of a New India – Good Governance, Efficiency, Transparency, Accountability and Equity and is rooted in the Indian Culture and social milieu…These new iconic structures shall be a legacy for 150 to 200 years at the very least.”

    Here is what Anish Kapoor world renowned British Indian artist says:
    “The destruction of Lutyens’s Delhi is deeply misguided and comes out of Modi’s political fanaticism,” Anish Kapoor adds. “This is not the redesign of buildings, it is instead Modi’s way of placing himself at the center and cementing his legacy as the maker of a new Hindu India.”

    Indian Political Opponents:
    Opponent of the plan to redevelop Dehli’s Central Vista argue the money would be better spent on fighting the global health crisis.

    Anuj Srivastava, an Indian architect:

    “Land is a scarce resource, but heritage is even more valuable since it cannot be reclaimed or rebuilt,” said Anuj Srivastava, an architect who has filed a petition against the Central Vista project that is pending in the nation’s top court.

    A disastrous redevelopment of Lutyens’ parliament buildings in Delhi is being rushed through to cement the PM’s legacy.

  18. Good article but most of the Indian people doesn’t understand because of the language.please published it the print hindi as soon as possible.people makes there opinion on information available.i hope you understand my point.

  19. Xi Jinping didn’t announce he intended to capture the Galwan Valley, BECAUSE HE DIDN’T SO INTEND! pm mODI HAS TOLD THE ALL PARTY MEETING THAT, CHIN HASN’T INTRUDED INTO indian territory! “At the all-party meeting convened to discuss the tense border situation with China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday denied the Chinese intrusion across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). “Neither anyone has intruded into our territory nor took over any post,” the Prime Minister told presidents of various political parties in the virtual meeting.”

  20. Did not expect anything else from you guys-
    Did Modi stand up against the BRI and OBOR initiative that even had European leaders and definitely our neighbouring SE Asian countries, Indian Communists and their friends in the Indian media, jumping with glee, only because he wanted to promote his image? This was when everyone in the liberal Indian media was gung-ho about the Asian Century and berated Modi for stubbornly standing up against it. Did Modi stand up against the Chinese incursion at Doklam, because he cared for “personal brand building” and he wanted to “boast of his ‘personal friendship’ with Xi Jingping”? What sort of nut cases write and approve of this heartily? Do I smell the alluring stench of Chinese Communist funds making some publication houses and writers, lose their bearings? It takes guts to be Modi. A Rs 10-a-word article churner can never fathom this. You are way beyond your depth.

  21. People are not foolish to fall for your thrash analysis. The way the article is written looks like they have received honorarium from certain quarters. This is the best misuse of freedom of speech to write against it’s own country and leaders. Shame on print to print such article even when country needs to stand in solidarity. Hate of PM is more than like for the country. Please think of writing such things in china against china. I know you will not understand this because the hate for PM and love to bring down the country is of prime interest to print.

  22. Modi is an autocrat. He thinks of himself first. Then the Nation. Aandh bakhts r helping him in this mission. Very soon, India will b alienated from it’s neighbours which is a recipe of disaster.

  23. Your alluding that Modi’s foreign policy is just about himself is extremely misleading. His domestic policies are also all about himself!

    For example, NSA Doval seems to be spending more time fire-fighting Modi’s domestic issues than fighting the enemy. What was he doing managing the ‘CBI Rafale crisis”?! No wonder China catches us napping with men, machinery and structures on our land, with no one noticing! He goes to Italy, and the Italian Marines are set free, in exchange for the Italian PM giving a statement against Sonia Gandhi. He ‘arranges’ awards for himself. His party blunders into creating communal riots while Trump is here. The German press runs a cartoon showing our PM as the new Hitler. And all our neighbours are pissed off with us. I mean, Muslim and dalit activists are perpetually in jail, while terrorists like DSP Davinder Singh go free.

    Does he have any international credibility left?! As rightly pointed out, he can be manipulated by offering to pump up his image for domestic consumption. All he can now do, is manage ‘you scratch my back, I scratch your back deals!’

  24. Very true. In this Modi takes his inspiration from J. Nehru for whom the image of international statesman was more important then the welfare of India. Just like Nehru, Modi has personalised foreign policy and now has received a rap on the knuckles from China just like Nehru received one. As long as India underestimates it’s own strengths and constantly looks for short term and ad hoc solutions to problems, the status of great power will evade it. But then who can tell this to our know it all government.

  25. The Chinese have sorted out Modi. It happens in International Relations as a matter of course. They study their counterpart’s profile and probe for weaknesses. There is an interesting story in this regard. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has a well known fear of dogs. President Putin, when he met her in Sochi, called in his black labrador Koni in the middle of their meeting alone. The fierce, well trained dog circled and smelt Merkel. She froze and saw Putin grinning at her discomfort.

    I suppose Modi’s narcissism, his constant need for self certification, his megalomania and vanity have already been figured out by the Chinese. At his moment of weakness “uski chaddee utaar dee”. I just hope India doesn’t have to pay too high a price for that.

  26. A party which presents this PM has one …and only one agenda…to uphold the myth of “Hindu Rastra ” !! And they have no intention of doing positive for country !! Totally inefficient…power monger…arrogant PM we have with us now !!!

  27. ” The need to use Pakistan in BJP’s domestic politics has meant India gave up on any possibility of a nuanced engagement with Islamabad.” India should close all its relations with the terrorist sponsor country.
    ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’. must be taken. What would India do? Just accept the blackmail and make west Bengal a Muslim majority country? And make west Bengal as part of Bangladesh, because once Muslims are majority they will start a separatist movement.

    This author should be arrested and out in jail.

    • Well, not talking to them has made the situation is Kashmir worse than ever! Terrorism is still going strong, even with an information lockdown in place. To deal with illegal immigrants you don’t have to insult Bangladesh!

    • The bhakt never understands because he is lost in the dream. Did we have an agreement with Bangladesh about sending the illegal immigrants back? If you don’t have a roadmap, don’t build the road.

  28. 😂😂😂 I don’t know laugh or cry !!! But unfortunately every bit in the article is truth.

  29. China has pow reerful army,infrastructure and logistic support which they are building over the years long ago. Capabilities are not build up in few years.However Modi Govt. tried it’s best energy to military build up and as well as good foreign policy.China is a communist,authoritarian country without opposition .Modi is a smart Prime Minister knows every thing and he knows the ill motive of China and our real enemy is China but how to tackle and contain China is a bigger treat.He tried all option but Communist China is aggressive and hard to control. Modi tried to buy modern fighter plane as quickly as possible and try every thing possible to make India strong.You need not to blame Modi for the issue.If you are worried about situation please show the solution in stead of writing such dumb article.

    • The original contract signed by UPA in 2013 needed sovereign guarantee from french govt on both the initial jets manufactured in France as well as those manufactured under license from Rafale in India by HAL. French govt was refusing bthis and did not even want to give french sovereign guarantee even for jets manufactured by Rafale in France. This was causing delays. Russia gives sovereign guarantee on all defence equippment. French would have climbed down to some extent and asked for Abit more money and some more control over HAL manufacturing a bit less guarantee fro jets manufactured in India. The schedule for delivery was 12 jets delivered in 2016and by 2021 46 jets and rest in next couple of years.
      Modi in his bombast said we can’t wait till 2016 for our first jets and thought he could get jets off the shelf immediately. Knowing his bombastic nature they made fool of him they re started fresh negotiations with a bit more arms etc and the whole deal was costlier than 126 jets only 36 jets. Instead of getting first jet by 2014 we have only got 3 jets so far with first one coming in 2019 instead of 2014 and Midway through 2020 we have only three jets. Also no made in India jets inHAL or for that matter make india jets with Ambani who since father died has lost money in every business they have touched and left govt holding the bill . ( Yes you read that right every business after their fathers death is loss making new or old) now foregin companies are (promising only,) investing small amounts( for them) to prop up Ambanis so they can get concessions in their other business ventures in India. In another 5-6 years either face book Saudi et all will finally get control of India’s multi brand retail either through reliance or their other ventures. They are waiting bjust like east India company.
      Modi is corroupt incompetent and destructive even pappu will be 10 times better than him.

  30. Just because you have privilage to write on these pages, it does not give you any right to write trash.

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