As foreign affairs is a very dynamic and a delicate topic so there are bound to be some setbacks and India is no different as she also faced some setbacks in these last five years, prominent among those are the downward trend in relations with Pakistan, Russia and uncertainty in the relation with the Dragon.
In the last leg of this series we will analyse the misses of India’s foreign policy and how Modi government 2.0 can remediate these mistakes and move forward to take India at even higher levels.
India & Pakistan
One of the big promises made during the 2014 electoral campaign was to create an atmosphere free of terror and to improve our relations with Pakistan, which the government tried to implement from the day of swearing in ceremony of the new cabinet by inviting Prime Minister Sharif, but relations only went south from thereon and the rift between the two neighbors only widened.
Though efforts were made from both the side to resolve the long pending problems between the two, like surprise touchdown by Modi to wish Nawaz Sharif on his daughter wedding. But Pakistani establishment failed to rein in its powerful military and the non-state actors from acting rouge.
Because of which many flash points occurred between the two nuclear powers like the attacks at Gurdaspur and Pathankot air base, but the triggering point of the downfall was the attack on the Indian Army troops.
Indian government immediately retaliated this by launching a surgical strike, but a strategic error was made as this covert operation was popularized, leading to internationalization of Kashmir issue and reducing the options with the government but to take military action in case of such misadventures by our neighbors in the future like air-force was used after the Pulwama attack.
Also the Indian establishment was not fully able to leverage position to put economic pressure on the Pakistani side and force there hand to arrest the perpetrators of terror attacks like Hafiz saeed.
Even getting a UN sanctions against terrorist Masood Azhar took years and still the government is unable to convince the world to put Pakistan on the black list of FATF (Financial action task force) (Which will effectively make foreign money market inaccessible to Pakistan).
Poor management of this Pakistani problem also caused domestic issues in Kashmir making the common Kashmiri feeling more angered and raged with India.
Apart from Pakistan the other big miss has been the relation with China.
India & China
Relations between India and China has always been of frenemies and it continues to remain as such even today.
Though the strategic interest of both these emerging powers align on some issues like both fight against the hegemony of the western world, but most of the time their interest collide with each leading to tension.
Modi government has tried to resolve the long pending issues with China by following Nehruvian philosophy of Panchsheel, but the list of issues are so long and complex like territorial issue at Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, or the latest China- Pakistan economic co-operation etc. that it causes even small issue to flare up quite quickly as was the case with the military standoff at Doklam in 2017
The government has tried all in its power to maintain a good relation with China by having bilateral summit, increasing the trade with China etc. still India has not been able to utilize its position to reason with China on important strategic matters like not to build an economic corridor in Pakistan occupied Kashmir as it is technically an Indian territory or to lift off its veto against India’s entry into NSG (Nuclear supply group).
Though both the administration reiterate about the Wuhan summit, but the results are yet to be seen in reality
A much bigger hiccup than China is India’s relationship with Russia.
India & Russia
Russia has been the greatest friend of India since its independence in 1947, it has always helped India during tough times like vetoing against Kashmir resolution introduced by US and its allies at UNSC, providing rocket engine technology when the whole world refused it and the famous Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1971, which wade of the threat by China and US of attacking India for India’s support in Bangladesh freedom struggle.
But during the last five years due to changing strategic realities and interest, India administration to some extent has been ignoring its traditional partnership with Russia, which is compelling Russia to slowly move towards developing a relations with Pakistan and proof of that is Russia conducting its first ever bilateral military exercise Druzhba with Pakistan in 2016
Though the Modi government has tried to keep its Russian friends happy by conducting an annual bilateral meet between the two premiers and by not bogging down to the pressures and sanctions from the US against purchasing weapons from the former Soviet Union especially S-400 anti aircraft weapon system, still relations with Russia is a hiccup in Indian foreign policy strategy.
Apart from the above big three, other misses of Modi government has been with Latin America, Europe, Africa and South East Asia
India & the world
Nehru did build strong relations with most of the countries of Latin America through Non-Alignment movement, but later governments didn’t follow the suit and somewhat ignored the relations with that resource rich part of the world.
Modi government also intimate the same policy and ignored the Latin American region almost completely.
Apart for Brazil thanks to annual BRICS summit, that region is the least travelled by the one of the most travelled head of the state.
India doesn’t have an embassy in many of the Latin American countries and this has been a big miss for India as that region has large amount of resources be it the black gold (coal), uranium or the lithium which is currently the most sought after resource because of its use in making recyclable batteries.
Also trading opportunities were missed as still India and Mercosur (South American trade bloc) have not been able to take full advantage of the preferential trade agreement (PTA) signed between them due to which trade growth has faltered and has been $39 billion which dwarf if we compare Chinese trade with that south America which is approximately over $200 Billion
Indian-African relation dates back to thousands of years, but still the relation has not evolved much with most of the Africa nation apart for few counties like Kenya or South Africa.
India doesn’t even have a permanent embassy in many of those 54 countries in African continent.
Also in trading terms India lags way behind than China and has a total bilateral trade of $63Bn which is only 25% of the total Chinese trade of over $240Bn
This relation has been a big miss because India has made numerous promises to many African nations in these five years but has faltered fulfilling most of them also delays and cost overrun on many of these infrastructural projects promised by India has been frustrating for them.
Even with the European Union we are still not able to negotiate a free trading agreement since last two decades which is affecting our exports badly and also except a few nations in Europe, we still don’t have strong bilateral ties with many of the eastern European countries like the Baltic region and many states in Balkans.
South East Asia has also been a miss for Indian foreign policy, eventhough this region is in our neighborhood.
Though an FTA was signed between India and ASIAN back in 2004 still India was not able to reap its benefits as it didn’t cover the trade in service sector. Also the region is not happy with India delaying the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) negotiations again and again thereby causing a bad publicity of India around the world.
Apart for above Modi administration has faltered in Increasing trade with the world due to poor negotiations at WTO or bilaterally which has affected the growth of Indian economy.
Thought there has been a lot of misses and hiccups in these last five years, but they also provided a lot of opportunities to capitalize upon from which Modi government 2.0 must learn from and try to improve upon them.
India should negotiate a better deal for itself at the world stage by including more and more of professional negotiators and industrialist in negotiating process rather than ministers and bureaucrats with least of business acumen.
India should also reach out to the parts of the world where it still has minimal of contact like Africa and Latin America by setting embassies, searching for opportunities to trade with them, by investing in their developmental projects and reaching out to them by utilizing its soft power, which will help in building goodwill.
With China, India should follow the Wuhan spirit and try to increase exports to China so that both the economies gets vested into each other more deeply, which will help us cutting a better negotiations in future.
With Pakistan, India needs to use its diplomatic and economic capital to isolate Pakistan, so that they are forced to close these terror factories, also recent mobilization of troops to Kashmir region is a good move to build economic pressure on a broke Pakistan. India should also sincerely pursue getting Pakistan into the black list of FATF which contains the names like Iran and North Korea, so that more pressure is built on them.
Also India should reason with Pakistan’s allies like China and Turkey to force Pakistan to mend its way or otherwise face consequences.
As Richard N. Hass said “Success in foreign policy, as in carpentry, requires the right tools for the job”
Therefore India should also use the right tools to try and build a much deeper relations with the countries with whom she has been able to foster a strong partnership during Modi’s first term and also should try and explore opportunities to manage and improve its relation with countries with whom she lagged behind
Then only she can achieve her dream of becoming a super power of the world