Tuesday, 4 October, 2022
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The Modi govt keeps mixing up IR (international relations) and PR (public relations)

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Modi squandered an opportunity that the UPA never had, of improving relationships with Pakistan and China without surrendering national interest.

There are three indicators of a successful foreign policy: rutba (stature), rasookh (influence) and raub (awe). You succeed if you command more respect, love or fear. Or any combination of these.

A nation gains stature by occupying a high moral ground, by following a principle path and becoming a referee in the international Arena. A nation gains influence by making new friends and by deepening existing relationships. Awe is a function of raw power. A country gains it by adding to its military and economic might and by exercising it deftly.

How has the Narendra Modi government performed on all these three indicators? Let us examine this question in the context of India’s neighbourhood, still the principal arena of Indian foreign policy.

At least here Modi cannot complain of serious legacy issues. India’s growing economic clout and improved relations with the US had given his government a good starting point. And he began rather well by inviting all the South Asian leaders to his swearing-in. This was followed by a historic welcome in Nepal and an unusually warm meeting with the Chinese president. Yet at the end of nearly four years of his government, Narendra Modi has little to show on any of the three indicators mentioned above.

It was unrealistic, almost unfair, to expect the Modi government to follow high principles in foreign policy. In all fairness, Indian foreign policy lost its high moral ground quite some time ago. If we are embarrassed by the PM’s silence on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar, we must not forget how the UPA had made peace with the military junta in the same country. So, when the Indian government speaks for Madhesis in Nepal or Baloch people in Pakistan, it looks more strategic than principled.

No wonder India failed to protect democracy in the Maldives.

Developing better relationships with its neighbours was a more realistic and reasonable expectation. Pakistan and China were expected to be tough and proved to be so. The surprising and somewhat knee-jerk bonhomie with Nawaz Sharif soon degenerated into the worst name calling.

Similarly, the warmth generated by the visit of President Xi Jinping did not yield anything on trade or border dispute. To be fair, Modi did not make things worse. But he squandered an opportunity that the UPA never had, of improving relationships with Pakistan and China without inviting the charge of surrendering national interest.

Sadly this government failed the minimal test of maintaining relationships with our traditional friends. Even the pro-India Sheikh Hasina regime in Bangladesh found India patronising and made its differences explicit on the issue of the Rohingya refugees. Bhutan felt pushed and used by India on the Doklam issue and nearly said so.

The worst, of course, happened in Nepal where the long-standing resentment against ‘Indian imperialism’ came to the fore. Indian ways of pushing the otherwise fair demand of the Madhesi population led to border jamming and an unavoidable impression that India was forcing an economic blockade. This anxiety about sovereignty has produced Khadga Prasad Oli, the first Nepali prime minister openly hostile to India.

What about brute power? Even if we are not more respected and loved, are we at least more feared in our neighborhood? The short answer is no, unless we measure national strength by decibels in TV studios.

There is little to suggest that the PM’s loud signals on Balochistan have made Pakistan more vulnerable there. Similarly, there is no evidence that the much publicised ‘surgical strikes’ have made our borders more secure. If anything, the evidence points to more frequent border incursions and much higher casualties on our side.

As for Doklam, the jury is still out. From what we know, the Chinese army is planning a comeback with better fortification. In any case, we have not managed to counter the Chinese strategy of encirclement.

So, at the end of the day, or almost there, this ‘nationalist’ government had added neither rutba nor rasookh nor raub to India’s presence at the global stage.

The lesson is clear: You cannot replace IR (international relations) with PR (public relations). Foreign policy cannot be replaced by gimmicks, sustained action cannot be replaced by dazzling optics, relationships cannot be built by bullying, and national security cannot be achieved with nationalist bluster. Diplomacy is a subtle art. And subtlety is one thing our prime minister cannot be accused of.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Yadav self proclaimed intellectual got kick on his back. by Kejariwal. After becoming useless he is giving gyan to PM on international matter. An absolute idiot no taker

  2. I’d give Mr. Yadav due credit for trying to balance views in context of work done by UPA vs NDA. I guess he overlooks some more important areas:

    1) in international context, the focus has moved beyond being regional leader in SAARC, be it engagement with Japan, Asean, Israel, UAE or even USA(pre Trump). Barring Russia, that has moved closer to China, relationships have improved.

    2) within SAARC, srilanka election was a major win, though Nepal seems to be slipping under Chinese influence. If we track Chinese belligerence in South China sea since Xi Jinping’s ascension in Beijing, we can reach a general conclusion that it’s push of Chinese might in local theaters rather than Indian lack of initiative.

    3) Pak was and will remain a thorn, with loss of CIA funding (for AfPak) being replaced by Chinese support for CPEC. Unless a long term solution removes root cause, it is unlikely to change.

  3. Don’t know where Yogender Yadav learn International relations but ruthba rasook and raub are not what Kautilya instructed.

    The job of the Prime Minister of India is NOT defending the democracy of Maldives or protecting Rohingya. Neither is it the job of PM Modi to certify the Nepali Constitution or solve their internal problems with respect to Madhesis.

    The duty of India’s Prime Minister is to further India’s interests – be it in forcing Nepal to contain the Madhesis in their land, or defending our strategic interest in the Chicken neck area, or controlling illegal immigration from so called refugees or getting access from Bangladesh for road transit through Bangladesh and solving the issue of enclaves.

    The ignorant moral grandstanding by Yogender Yadav about defending democracy or dealing with Rohingya only demonstrates his delusion that virtue signalling is International relations.

    Whether or not PM Modi’s mention of Baluchistan has harmed Pakistan or not can be found in the mention of Baluchistan on London Buses and Swiss taxies. It can be judged by reports of Chinese negotions with Balochi militants and the security around Guwadar. The same applies to the surgical strikes and the costs imposed on Pakistani militants both diplomatically and militarily as well as the infrastructure that supports them coming under pressure. These are not accidents that Pakistan is being sanctioned by the FATF or that Pakistan is being sidelined even by Islamic nations.

  4. Childish analysis. Let Mr Yogeneral Yadav suggest a road map to explore better relations with expansionist China and terrorist Pakistan, that too when these enemy countries are being provided with all helpseudo by Owaisies, Yetchuries, John Dayals, Sonias, etc. from within.

      • Your comment is as bereft of substance as your politics is bereft of governments in India today. Lol.

        PM Modi’s foreign policy’s success is self evident in the misery of the Pakistani establishment and the loud fury of the Chinese media mouthpieces. His success is evident in his trip to Israel and his meeting with Iranian president within a few weeks of each other.

        The fact that China needs to build bunkers demonstrates their caution , not their dismissal of India.

        Unfortunately your failures over the decades has blinded you to the Stark change in dynamics, where Pakistani forces can’t bury their people fast enough and Chinese troops no longer wander into Indian territory requiring Indian EXAM to run to Beijing and beg them to go back.

        Keep praying about chowkidaar, your nappunsaaka leaders dismal failure is writ large from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

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