Modi’s Foreign Policy Visits Can Bear Fruit

India’s confusion regarding its allies has already alienated Russia into partnering with China. Our foreign policy must be carefully crafted with neighbouring countries and the existing powers if India wants to become a potent force in South Asia, and the world

The leaders of the Congress and some scholars have been criticising Narendra Modi’s foreign policymoves and visits to 56 countries since becoming Prime Minister as futile because of China’s growing aggressiveness in the India-China border. For Modi’s critics, the current standoff at India-Bhutan border has made all claims of India-China cooperation and moving ‘inch towards miles’ redundant. They feel that Modi’s partnership with the US has drawn China and Pakistan closer.

The China-Pakistan proximity has also facilitated India’s strategic encirclement through their cooperation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to enhance Chinese economic security and productivity through infrastructure, investment, Chinese labours and loan on a high repayment basis. The support of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal for such initiatives despite knowing the complexities indicates the failure of Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. India’s growing closeness with the US has also distanced its most dependable friend Russia, with whom India has been negligent in firming up relations.  This has worked against India’s regional interests, as Russia has not only developed close ties with China and Pakistan but also adopted an indifferent attitude toward India’s geo-political interests.

As Russia is also frustrated by its isolation, it has found a friend and supporter in China, a role that India has failed to play because of its own confusions. They also feel that despite Modi’s several US visits, the United States still prefers to accommodate China’s interests. Furthermore, US President Donald Trump’s transactional and distracted approach towards the India-Pacific is less assuring for the Association of South East Asian Nations summit and India.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s participation in this summit and intention to align the BRI with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union despite apprehensions about China’s game of replacing it as a dominant power in Central Asia reflects Russia’s leaning towards China. Russia’s burgeoning close ties with Pakistan and its omission of any reference to cross-border terrorism or Pakistan-based group at China’s insistence during the 2016 Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) Goa Declaration also confirms its changing stance towards India’s problems. Through such strategic moves Russia is countering the western strategy of its own isolation.

Interestingly, Japan and Singapore, countries on which India intends to depend for tackling the Chinese challenges, too are looking at the Chinese initiatives favourably due to their trade interests. India’s membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation along with Pakistan is also being seen as a surrender to a China-led organisation. Some China experts feel that India has limited choices to confront the Chinese challenge because of its vulnerabilities. India’s border areas are still underdeveloped and lack proper connectivity while China has constructed impressive network of roads, railways and highways around Bhutan and Nepal. Though India aspires to become a leading power, India’s present infrastructure, its reach and connect with neighbours are no match to China’s infrastructural development and various corridors for connectivity and expansion.

The foreign policy initiatives of the Modi Government may look faulty but the Chinese challenge has, at least, initiated a new thinking. There are fresh possibilities of new alignments in Asia-Pacific with the US as a partner, something that Modi’s US visit with Trump and their joint declaration affirms. Although, Trump’s contrapuntal keenness for US’ withdrawal from global affairs could adversely affect the existing balance of power in this region. Barack Obama’s presidency did adopt a pivot to Asia stance. However, an inconsistent US approach made China assertive enough to challenge the US forays of freedom of navigation in the East and South China Seas. The US is still redrawing itself and its economic interests might not allow it to take hard steps towards China.

India’s decision of setting up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in Southern Vietnam and to drill oil in the disputed South China Sea is strategically important as India’s presence in the South China Sea is crucial for Vietnam. Since China and Vietnam are engaged in a boundary dispute, India, drawing a lesson from China’s strategic moves, is also supplying and transferring military, strategic and naval equipments, training services, more vessels and missiles to Vietnam. India has realised that if it has to act as a security provider in the Indian Ocean Region, it has to work proactively.

India’s move to invite the heads of the states of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam for the Republic Day celebration in January 2018 is also timely. Indian Navy’s Look East Policy role in guarding the Strait of Malacca and developing a close relationship with Singapore, aims to counter the BRI.

Similarly, Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s launch of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor for India-Japan collaboration can be hoped to develop quality infrastructure and digital connectivity in Africa by rediscovering ancient sea routes and creating new low cost ones. Such strategic passageways that connect Africa with India and other Southeast Asian countries can potentially undo the Chinese hegemony. Project ‘Mausum’ and ‘Sagarmala’ and revival of ancient spice route by India has similar aim. Modi has been working adjacently to isolate Pakistan on terror spawning through treaties with the United Arab Emirates and earning support of Central Asian countries to jointly combat terrorism. If India’s initiative along with Japan and Australia could take a concrete shape the China challenge could be tackled.





Source:- The Pioneer

The post Modi’s Foreign Policy Visits Can Bear Fruit appeared first on Indian Defence Update.

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