Foreign policy of Narendra Modi

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Modi in June 2014

The foreign policy of Narendra Modi (also referred to as the Modi Doctrine)[1][2] concerns the policy initiatives made towards other states by the current Modi government after he assumed office as Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014. The Ministry of External Affairs, headed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (the first woman to hold the office since Indira Gandhi), is responsible for carrying out the foreign policy of India. Modi's foreign policy is currently focused on improving relations with neighbouring countries in South Asia,[3] engaging the extended neighbourhood in Southeast Asia and the major global powers. In pursuit of this, he has made official visits to Bhutan, Nepal and Japan within the first 100 days of his government, followed by the United States, Myanmar, Australia, and Fiji. Swaraj has also made official visits to Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thimpu, Bhutan, Kathmandu, Nepal, Naypidaw, Myanmar, Singapore, Hanoi, Vietnam, Manama, Bahrain, Kabul, Afghanistan, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, New York and Washington, D.C. in the United States, London, United Kingdom, Port Louis, Mauritias, Male, Maldives, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Seoul, South Korea, Beijing, China, Muscat, Oman and Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Background[edit]

While Chief Minister of Gujarat, and under sanction from Western states like the United States, Modi made several foreign trips to foster his business links with major Asian economic powers. This included meeting Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe twice in 2007 and 2012 and building a personal rapport.[4] He also reached out for investment deals with China[5] and Israel,[6] who sought to increase economic ties beyond defence and agriculture, according to outgoing Israeli Ambassador Alon Ushpiz.[7] He was widely appreciated for his endeavour to organise Vibrant Gujarat, a biannual international business summit, to welcome investment in his home state which also helped build a pro-development and business friendly image.[8]

2014 General election[edit]

Though Modi made no major foreign policy speeches during the general election campaign in 2014 except calling out China's potential aggression along the border with India [9] and making "illegal immigration" from Bangladesh an election issue specially during the later part of his campaign in eastern states like Assam and West Bengal.[10] He also asserted that Hindus outside the country would be able to seek asylum in India should they require it.[11] But time and again he had emphasized the fact the he (born in 1950) would going to be the first post-independence born Prime Minister therefore it would be natural to expect a shift in the world view from his predecessors. He also pledged to have a "strong" foreign policy, including engaging with China.[12] He had asked for External Affairs Ministry to focus more on trade deals instead of other geopolitical initiatives.[13]

Modi’s first foreign policy outlook were revealed during the run up for the Prime Ministerial candidature in his party in 2013 when he in a Network 18 program called 'Think India, dialogue forum' had outlined the following points.[14]

  • Improving relations with immediate neighbours would be his priority as peace and tranquillity in South Asia is essential for realizing his development agenda.
  • Significantly he pledged to introduce the concept of para diplomacy in India where each states and cities would have liberty to forge special relation with countries or federal states or even cities of their interest.
  • Bilateral trade going to dominate the relations with most countries except few important global powers with which India shares a strategic partnership.

Modi further responded to the many congratulatory messages and phone calls from most world leaders that he received in the aftermath of his historic election victory.[15]

Inauguration[edit]

Even before he formally took charge of office Modi, Prime Minister elect, had made his maiden foreign policy statement by inviting all the heads of state/heads of government of India's neighbours and doing so he had undone his criticism as being a hardliner. Modi's swearing-in ceremony featured nearly all the SAARC leaders along with Navin Ramgoolam of Mauritius who holds an observer status at the grouping. Guests list included Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, Bhutan's Tshering Tobgay, Maldives' Abdulla Yameen, Nepal's Sushil Koirala, Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mauritius's Navin Ramgoolam. As Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was travelling, parliamentary Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury came instead. Significantly Lobsang Sangay, the Prime Minister of Tibetan Government-in-Exile, was also spotted seating in the spectators gallery.[16] The media reacted positively to this in response to their own criticism of his foreign policy.[17]

Approach of P5 nations

Soon after the new govt took over the office important world leaders expressed their willingness to work with Modi govt to strengthen their relations with India as it provides them a big market. All 5 permanent member state of United Nations Security Council sent their envoy with to India within the first 100 days from inauguration which is significant given India's long standing bid to get a permanent membership at UNSC.

  • China To take the early movers advantage China was first to send its envoy to India after Modi govt came into power, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited new Delhi on 8 June and held bilateral talks in with his counterpart and also called on PM Modi. In other reactions, China indicated a willingness to reach a final settlement over the contested border disputes.[18][19]
  • Russia Russian Deputy Chairman Dmitry Rogozin visited India on 18–19 June 2014 to reach out the new govt led by Narendra Modi. Where the two sides discussed the cooperation in joint defence production which is one of Modi's top agenda. Later Modi met President Vladimir Putin in July on the sidelines of 6th BRICS summit in Brazil.[20]
  • France French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made an official visit to India from 29 June to 2 July and held high level talks with both External Affairs Minister and Prime Minister. Strategic and defence cooperation was top on his agenda and he expressed hope of speedy completion of Dassault Rafale Jet deal as part of the much delayed Indian MMRCA project under the new govt.[21]
  • United States Prior to his India trip U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the importance of US-India in twenty first century and interestingly he borrowed "Sab-ka saath, Sab-ka vikaas" a Hindi slogan from Modi’s campaign meaning "together with all, development for all" (or simply, inclusive growth) and said America shared this goal and willing to work in full cooperation with the new govt to realize it. He arrived in New Delhi on 1 August and held bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart to made the groundwork ready for Modi’s upcoming USA visit and also bided a strong lobby to gain support from India for sanctions on Russia amidst the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Swaraj said in regards to the appeal: "There is no change in our policy. We think that foreign policy is in continuity. Foreign policy does not change with the change in the government."[23]

Foreign policy team[edit]

Sushma Swaraj, one of the senior most leader of BJP, was given the portfolio of External Affairs which is going to be a very important ministry with India's growing role in international affairs.[24] She is the first woman to hold the office. Earlier on her capacity of leader of opposition in Lok Sabha from 2009-2014 She met a galaxy of visiting foreign leaders which apparently helped her understanding of foreign relations. Modi appointed Ajit Doval, a seasoned intelligence officer, as National Security Advisor. Doval is believed to be close to the RSS, an organization Modi comes from.[25] On 28 January 2015, only a day after the US President Barack Obama's successful India visit Modi govt sacked Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and appointed Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in her place, Jaishankar was then serving as India's ambassador to the United States.[26] Modi himself is believed to be unhappy over Singh's ability to lead the foreign office and on the other hand impressed by Jaishankar's diplomatic skills in turning the flagging relationship with US into a flourishing partnership.[27]

Policy initiative[edit]

Act East policy[edit]

Main article: Act East policy

From the very beginning the Modi led govt made it ample clear that India would focus more and more on improving relation with ASEAN and other East Asian countries as per India's Look East Policy which was formulated during Narasimha Rao's govt in 1992 for better economic engagement with its eastern neighbours but successive govt later successfully turned it into a tool for forging strategic partnership and security cooperation with countries in that region in general and Vietnam and Japan in particular.[28] In her recent visit to Hanoi, Vietnam Sushma Swaraj has stressed on the need for an Act East Policy[29] that she said should replace India's over two decade-old Look East Policy emphasizing a more proactive role for India in this region.[30][31][32]

Neighbourhood first policy[edit]

One of the major policy initiatives taken by Modi govt is to focus back on its immediate neighbours in South Asia. Even before becoming the Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinted that his foreign policy will actively focus on improving ties with India's immediate neighbours which is being termed as neighbourhood first policy in the media[33][34][35] and he started well by inviting all heads of state/heads of government of South Asian countries in his inauguration and on the second day on office he held bilateral talks with all of them individually which was dubbed as a mini SAARC summit by the media.[36] Later during a launch event at ISRO he has asked Indian scientists to take the endeavour to develop a dedicated SAARC satellite[37] to share the fruits of the technology like tele-medicine, e-learning etc. with the people across South Asia to complement the currently operating Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme program in the region.

Indian Ocean outreach[edit]

The Indian Ocean region (IOR), which is long been considered as India's nautical backyard, steadily turning into a hotspot thanks to growing Chinese strategic presence over the region's numerous strategically located archipelagos.[38] To counter the recent moves made by China on the name of President Xi's pet Maritime Silk Road project, India started to reach out its maritime neighbours in the IOR with proposals of enhanced economic and security cooperation.[39] The policy towards IOR started started to unfold during Sri Lankan president's visit to New Delhi in early February 2015.[40] Following that Modi embarks on a three nations Yatraa (pilgrimage) to Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka,[41][42] although Maldives was also initially part of this putreach but recent political turmoil in that country led to last-minute cancellation of the scheduled visit.[43]

It is interesting to see that ahead of Modi's scheduled visit to Beijing in May 2015, India wants to project that it commands a strategic supremacy over the IOR and its relations with its maritime neighbours are far more cordial than that of China's with particular reference to South China sea.[44][45][46]

Project Mausam[edit]

On the back of growing Chinese naval activity in the Indian ocean region,[47] which India considers its area of supremacy, the Modi administration have introduced Project Mausam,[48] which is believed to rival the Chinese Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative.[49][50] Masuam (Hindi: मौसम) which means weather or season in many South and Southeast Asian languages is highlighted because of its profound role in cultural exchanges in region as in ancient time maritime trade used to depend on seasonal monsoon winds. The project which is still in the evolving phase, is being with the worked on with the Cultural Ministry, will focus on the ancient trade and cultural linkages and emphasize on future maritime cooperation in the Indian ocean region stretching from Southeast Asia to East Africa with the central location of India, from where the ocean derived its name.[51]

Forum for India-Pacific Islands cooperation[edit]

Modi chose to visit Fiji soon after democracy was re-established in the island country after 8 years. There apart from bilateral meeting, he also met heads of state/government from 14 pacific island states to enhance India's engagement in the region and proposed a 'Forum for India- Pacific Islands Cooperation' (FIPIC) be held on a regular basis.[52] He conveyed there India's keenness to work closely with Pacific Island nations to advance their development priorities in this regard a number of measures to strengthen India’s partnership in the region were proposed which include setting up of a 'special fund of $1 million' for adapting climate change vis-a-vis clean energy, establishing a 'trade office' in India, 'Pan Pacific Islands e-network' to close the physical distance between the islands by improving digital connectivity, extending visa on arrival at Indian airports for all the fourteen Pacific Island countries, 'space cooperation' in space technology applications for improving the quality of life of the islands, 'training to diplomats' from Pacific Island countries to increase mutual understanding.[53] He also expressed his willingness to host the leaders in any of India's coastal town for the next summit in 2015. It was quite significant to see Chinese President Xi following Modi's trail visited Fiji on 21 November (just 2 days after Modi's trip) to meet a similar gathering of leaders indicating a struggle for influence between the two Asian giants in the island countries of south pacific.[54][55]

Fast-track Diplomacy[edit]

On completion of the first 100 days of Modi govt the External Affairs Ministry published a booklet called "Fast Track Diplomacy"[56] show-casing the achievement made in the foreign policy arena. In her first media interaction the minister Sushma Swaraj said the catchphrase for her tenure was "fast-track diplomacy" and said it had three faces - proactive, strong and sensitive.[57] Since taking office the External Affairs Minister held round-table meeting with all Indian heads of missions to the SAARC region, ASEAN region and Middle East separately as a follow up measure to carry forward the leads gained by high profile visits and exchanges.

Para Diplomacy[edit]

One of the innovative idea of Modi govt is the introduction of elements of para diplomacy in India’s foreign policy where each states and cities would be encouraged to forge special relation with countries or federal states of another country or even cities of their interest in order.[58]

During the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping Town twinning agreement between Mumbai and Shanghai, Ahmedabad and Guangzhou and a similar 'sister states' agreement between Gujarat and Guangdong province of China will likely to be signed. Earlier Varanasi signed partnership agreement with Kyoto, Japan.

East Asia policy[edit]

From the very beginning the Modi led govt made it ample clear that India would focus more and more on improving relation with ASEAN and other East Asian countries as per India's Look East Policy which was formulated during Narasimha Rao's govt in 1992 for better economic engagement with its eastern neighbours but successive govt later successfully turned it into a tool for forging strategic partnership and security cooperation with countries in that region in general and Vietnam and Japan in particular.[59] In her recent visit to Hanoi, Vietnam Sushma Swaraj has stressed on the need for an Act East policy[60] that she said should replace India's over two decade-old Look East Policy emphasizing a more proactive role for India in this region.[61]

East Asia being the major focus area of his foreign policy, Modi and his foreign minister chose several Asian countries for their initial bilateral visits. He has made state visits to Bhutan and Nepal and Japan within the first 100 days of his government followed by visits of Myanmar and Australia and also hosted Asia leaders like Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng apart from inviting SAARC leaders in his inauguration ceremony. External Affairs Minister Swaraj has also made official visits to several Asian capitals like Dhaka, Bangladesh, Kathmandu, Nepal, Naypidaw, Myanmar, Singapore, Hanoi, Vietnam, Manama, Bahrain, Kabul, Afghanistan, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Male, Maldives, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Seoul, South Korea and Beijing, China.

South China Sea disputes[edit]

South Asia policy[edit]

Even before becoming the Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinted that his foreign policy will actively focus on improving ties with India's immediate neighbours which is being termed as neighbourhood first policy in the media[62][63][64] and he started well by inviting all heads of state/heads of government of South Asian countries in his inauguration and on the second day on office he held bilateral talks with all of them individually which was dubbed as a mini SAARC summit by the media.[65] Later during a launch event at ISRO he has asked Indian scientists to take the endeavour to develop a dedicated SAARC satellite[66] to share the fruits of the technology like tele-medicine, e-learning etc. with the people across South Asia to complement the currently operating Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme program in the region.

Middle East policy[edit]

Indian External Affairs Ministry refers the region as West Asia and not as Middle East which is a more popular attribution, particularly in the western countries. The region plays a vital role in India's economy as it supplies nearly two third of India's total oil import, bilateral trade is also flourishing in recent years particularly with UAE and other gulf states. Over the years millions of Indian mostly working class have migrated to the gulf looking for jobs and they account for a sizeable share in the total remittances received from abroad.

Link West policy[edit]

In an attempt to strengthen ties with India's western neighbours specially the gulf countries Modi proposed this policy to complement his Act East policy concerning East Asia. Although it is called 'Link West' (west of India) which gives it a bigger geographical connotation, it is most likely to focus on the middle-east and some of the India's strategic thinkers are calling it as Modi's middle-east policy.[67]

Stand against ISIS[edit]

On 16 December 2014, Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced in the Parliament that ISIS is banned as a terrorist organization under the United Nations schedule.[68] Following the arrest of few Indian individuals with ISIS connections, on 26 February 2015 India put fresh bans on 'The Islamic States/Islamic States of Iraq and Syria/Islamic States of Iraq and Levant' with all its manifestation and all its affiliates under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.[69][70] There were also unverified claims that India may send its Air Force to fight against the group in Iraq.

2014 Israel-Hamas conflict[edit]

At the height of the tension between Israel and Hamas in July India offered a rhetorical condemnation holding both sides responsible for erupting violence and asked Israel to stop "disproportionate use of force" in Gaza which was read by many as departure from tradition of more vocal supports for the Palestinian cause. External Affairs Minister Swaraj insisted that "there is absolutely no change in India's policy towards Palestine, which is that we fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel. " clarifying India's current position on the issue. That might sound like fence-sitting, but it's a policy shared by all Indian governments of the past 20 years following the establishment of formal diplomatic relation in 1992.[71]

Sushma Swaraj, a seasoned parliamentarian, had herself blocked the opposition demand in Rajya Sabha for passing a resolution condemning Israel for 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict by saying that "India has friendly relation with both Israel and Palestine and therefore any such move may impact its friendship negatively".[72] Although later in a symbolic gesture India joined others BRICS nations in voting at the United Nations Human Rights Council for a probe into the alleged human rights violation in Gaza. Which generated mixed response among media and analysts in India.[73]

Overseas Indian crisis in Iraq and Libya[edit]

With the rise of ISIL in northern Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of Indian migrant workers live, the security of those overseas Indian came under threat. On 16 June, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) set up a 24-hour helpline at the Indian embassy in Baghdad for assistance of Indian nationals stranded in the conflict cities. It has been reported that 46 Indian nurses were abducted from the Iraqi town of Mosul[74] who were later freed and flown back to India.[75] Moreover, 39 Indian workers from mainly from Punjab were taken hostages and the fate of those workers still not known. There were wide spread speculations about their lives and on 27 November 2014 ABP News reported, citing Bangladeshi migrant co-workers, death of all the 39 men. Although the following day External Affairs Minister (EAM) Swaraj made a statement to the parliament neither rejecting nor confirming such possibility and re-assured the nation about MEA's commitment for continuing search for the Indians in Iraq.[76]

A similar situation occurred in Libya where many Indian nationals are stranded because of the armed conflict that broke in Benghazi and other parts of the country. Swaraj informed parliament that her ministry was evaluating all possibilities to secure the safe evacuation of all Indians stranded in both Iraq and Libya.[77] A chartered flight from Djerba, Tunisia brought over 200 nationals back to India. A further 216 national left on 8 August, with a total of another 1,500 nationals having been evacauted. About 3,000 more nationals registered with the embassy in Tripoli in order to return.[78] On 5 August 44 nurses returned to India on a special Air India flight; they were predominantly from Kerala with some from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.[79] A further three Goans were reported to be safe in Libya with full employment and had not requested repatriation. Goa's Director of NRI Affairs U. D. Kamat said that it was ascertaining whether there were Goan workers in the country.[80]

Relations with America[edit]

United States[edit]

Prime Minister Modi and President Obama shake hands during a joint press interaction

During the run-up to the general election there was wide ranging scepticism regarding future of the strategic bilateral relation under Modi’s premiership as in 2005 he was, while Chief Minister of Gujarat, denied a US visa[81] during the Bush administration for his alleged poor human rights records.[82] However sensing Modi’s inevitable victory well before the election, the US Ambassabor Nancy Powell had reached out to him as part of greater re-approachment from the west. Moreover, following his 2014 election as the Prime Minister of India President Obama congratulated him over telephone and invited him to visit the US.[83][84] US secretary of States John Kerry visited New Delhi on 1 August to prepare the grounds for Modi's first ever US visit as Prime Minister. In September 2014, days before visiting the US in an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Modi said that "India and the United States are bound together, by history and culture" but acknowledged that there have been “ups and downs” in relations.[85] Modi travelled to US from 27–30 September 2014,[86] beginning with his maiden address in the United Nations general assembly followed by attending a gala public reception by the Indian American community in New York’s Madison Square Garden before heading Washington, D.C. for the bilateral talk with Obama. While there, Modi also met several American business leaders and invited them to join his ambitious Make in India program in a bid to make India a manufacturing hub.[87][88][89] Later President Obama greeted Modi by calling him a "Man of Action" during their brief interaction at the Gala dinner hosted by Myanmar's President on the eve of ninth East Asia Summit this was their second meeting since Obama hosted a rare dinner for Modi at the White House on 29 September 2014.[90] On 9 December 2014 US Senate confirmed Richard Rahul Verma as the US Ambassador to India, the first Indian American to hold the office, signalling the Obama administration's will to elevate the relation with India to a newer height. He assumed office in the US Embassy in New Delhi on 19 December 2014.[91]

2015 Republic Day Guest

Modi invited President Obama to be the first US President to grace the 66th Republic Day celebration as Chief guest,[92] an honour typically reserved for India’s closest ally. President Obama will be first US President to visit India twice in office and the two leaders now scheduled to hold back to back summits within six months which is being referred as Modi's diplomatic coup by the media.[93]

"This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over… invited President Obama to be the 1st US president to grace the occasion as chief guest."-Modi tweeted.[94]

Brazil[edit]

Modi with the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, July 2014.

Modi met the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff on the sidelines of the 6th BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil, in July 2014. Describing Brazil as a key global partner for India, Modi noted that as two democracies and major emerging economies, India and Brazil not only had vast potential for bilateral cooperation, but also to strengthen each other in international forums and advance the interest of the developing world at large. President Rousseff emphasized the special place this relationship enjoyed in Brazil's foreign policy, because of the potential for bilateral cooperation and the international significance of their partnership. She congratulated Narendra Modi for his victory in the elections and wished him all success for India's progress and development. The two leaders also agreed to take steps to further expand and diversify trade and investment flows and deepen cooperation in agriculture and dairy science, conventional and renewable energy, space research and applications, defence, cyber security and environment conservation.[95]

Relation with Europe[edit]

France[edit]

French President Francois Hollande with Modi at the sidelines of 2014 G-20 summit

Modi met President Francois Hollande in Brisbane, at the sidleines of G-20, where the two sides discussed bilateral issues including strategic space and defence collaboration. They also committed on global cooperation against terrorism.[96] Following the gunman attack in Paris, Modi called Hollande and conveyed condolences on behalf of the people of India and expressed solidarity with the people of France besides condemning the act of terror.[97] French foreign minister Laurent Fabius made several visits to New Delhi hoping to break the deadlock over the stalled US$20 billion deal for 126 Dassault Rafale fighter for Indian Air Force. The two sides also negotiating setting-up of a 9900 MW nuclear power plant in Jaitapur by the French firm Areva which is allegedly halted due to pricing issue and concerns over India's new nuclear liability law.[98] But lately Laurent expressed his hopes of early breakthrough of nuclear liability issues in the lines of US.[99] Now Modi is expected to visit France during his European trip in April 2015 where he is going to actively promote his Make in India campaign before French industries to set up shop in India.[100]

United Kingdom[edit]

British Prime Ministers David Cameron with Modi at the sidelines of 2014 G-20 summit

UK Prime Minister David Cameron was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Modi soon after his landslide victory in the election. The two leaders met for the first time on 14 November 2014 in the sidelines of G20 leaders summit in Brisbane. Where the British Prime Minister said improving relations with India in the "top priority" of UK foreign policy. He also invited Modi to visit his country at the earliest.[101]

Earlier Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attributed the growth story of South Asia, which is going to grow fastest in 2014-15 outside the East Asia region, to the election of Prime Minister Modi and his recent efforts to turnaround the economy.[102] UK hailed Modi's Make in India policy and is all set to invest in Rajasthan.[103]

Relations with Euresia[edit]

Russia[edit]

Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin shake hands in New Delhi in 2014

Russia, India's long term strategic ally for more that half a century, enjoys a special privileged strategic cooperation unparalleled in India's foreign relation. But over the years specially after the end of cold war the relation experienced strain as India started diversifying its defence purchases from an totally Soviet dominated one. But with Putin and Modi, both with strongman image at their home country, at the helm of affairs in their respective foreign policy it is expected to get a push.[104][105] During the 20th 'India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation' (IRIGC-TEC) held on 5 November 2014 in New Delhi Modi met the Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and had reassured the visiting side that the new dispensation in New Delhi will continue to attach very high importance to the time-tested and special strategic partnership with Russia.[106] The annual commission meeting have identified new areas of cooperation including prioritising the International North South Corridor Project (INSTC), start negotiating on a Free Trade Agreement between India and the Euresian customs union, focusing on enhancing economic partnership in areas like energy, civil aviation and diamond trade along with Russian participation in Modi's smart city project.[107] Earlier on his first meeting with Putin, emphasising Russia's indispensable position in India's foreign policy Modi went on to saying that even a child in India considers Russia as it's best friend.[108] This meeting in Brazil at the sidelines of BRICS summit served well as the familiarisation between the two leaders.[109]

President Putin visited New Delhi on 11 December 2014 for the annual summit, first after Modi assumes office.[110][111][112] Trade and energy cooperation dominated the talks as they set a target of US$30 billion of bilateral trade by 2025 with equal amount of investment in each other's economy. On the backdrop of increasing western sanctions Putin earlier signed a gas deals with China worth US$400 billion believed to be heavily tilted in China's favour. India too was keen to strike an energy agreement on line of above.[113] During the summit both sides agreed for a joint feasibility study of building gas pipeline through China.[114] The two sides signed a total of 16 agreements and memorandum of understanding on various fields. Agreements on long term oil and gas cooperation have been signed between ONGC Videsh and Essar Oil of India and Russia's Rosneft, Gasprom[115] Putin also vowed to install 10 more nuclear reactors in next 20 years including adding more units to Kudankulam plant. Another burgeoning aspect in bilateral relations emerged in the form of Diamond trading, While Russia is the largest producer of raw diamond, India is the global hub of cutting and polishing raw diamonds. Russia has agreed to export raw diamonds to India directly bypassing mediators like Dubai and Belgium. On this occasion the two leaders also attended a World Diamond Conference held in New Delhi.[116] The Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov, who accompanied Putin in New Delhi, met several business delegation to discuss opportunity in the Black sea region although it was termed as unofficial. This has once again raised concerns in Washington, D.C. regarding India's stand on Crimea.[117]

Defence ties

In the summit Modi mentioned about his experience with the Russian built carrier INS Vikramaditya as an example of burgeoning military cooperation and remarked that "even as India's options have increased Russia will continue to remain it's top most defence partner" signalling a long term defence relation. The two sides agreed on joint production of Mil Mi-17 and Kamov Ka-226[118] helicopters with Russian technology in India in compliance with Modi's Make in India program and also fast forwarding the long pending major projects like the joint development and production of light transport aircraft.[119] The final design contract of fifth generation joint fighter platform Sukhoi-HAL FGFA is expected to be signed soon as it already lagging by more than 2 years.[120] India to lease a second nuclear powered Akula-class submarine from Russia after INS Chakra which is already in service.[121] Weeks before Putin's visit news of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's Pakistan visit on November 20, 2014, first such visit in more than 40 years, when the two sides inked a defence cooperation pact. Media reports suggested that Russia was mulling a possible sale of Mi 35 attack copter, the first ever combat platform, to India's arch rival Pakistan.[122] These developments have raised concerned in the Indian strategic community as some see this as a counter move of growing Indo-US defence collaboration. Although the official response was much restrained as they termed it 'significant'.[123] Such apprehensions in India about Russia's strategic goals in the region was by the Russian Ambassador Kaladin as he said that it will not do anything detrimental to India's security.[124] Later Putin himself in an interview with India's PTI news agency said that 'Russia-Pakistan ties in India's long-term interest'.[125]

Relation with Africa[edit]

India-Africa Forum Summit[edit]

The third summit in a rotation basis was scheduled to be held in New Delhi, India in December 2014. But lately Syed Akbaruddin, the official spokesperson of Indian Foreign Ministry told the media that the scheduled summit is now postponed to 2015 and will include more no. of African leaders unlike previous two occasion where the event was restricted to only 10-15 African countries. Although media reports claimed that Ebola outbreak in Western African nations played key role behind the postponement of the summit.[126]

Mauritius[edit]

Mauritius was the only country outside South Asia whose head of government attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony in Delhi. With people of Indian origin constituting a large share of its population Mauritias has a very good bilateral relations with New Delhi. Swaraj made her maiden trip as Foreign Minister to the island country on 2 November 2014 to attend the celebration of Apravasi Divas, marking 180 years since the first Indian indentured labourers arrived in Mauritius. There she had called on President Rajkeswur Purryag and Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam to discuss bilateral and regional issues of common interest.[127]

On top of her agenda was talk on cooperation between Indian Navy and Mauritian Coast Guard to ensure the safety and security of the strategically vital Indian Ocean region. In support to her stress on the importance of maritime cooperation three major Indian war ships were docked in Mauritian waters including a destroyer INS Mumbai, a frigate INS Talwar and the fleet tanker INS Deepak.[128] On 20 December 2014 India handed over the first offshore patrol vessels (OPV) ordered by the Mauritian coast guard, the ship named MCGS Barracuda marked India's first warship export.[129][130]

Multilateral Engagements[edit]

India, as one of leading developing countries, plays an active role in important multilateral forums for global governance such as United Nations, World Trade Organization, G20 leaders summit, East Asia Summit, BRICS summit of emerging economies, Commonwealth of Nations and often seen as a 'third world voice'. Apart from these big platforms India also engaged in many regional groupings like the BASIC, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Indian Ocean Rim Association, IBSA Dialogue Forum, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Mekong–Ganga Cooperation, BIMSTEC among others.

BRICS summit[edit]

Putin, Modi, Rousseff, Xi and Zuma.
Main article: BRICS

Modi in his maiden speech at the BRICS, a group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, called for brotherhood among the member states citing Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, an ancient Indian concept meaning the entire world is one family, to unitedly face the global challenges.

India together with its BRICS partner working toward launching of a financial institute rivalling the western dominated World Bank and IMF which was first proposed during the New Delhi summit in 2012 by the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In the 6th BRICS summit held on 14–26 July in Fortaleza, Brazil the group have agreed to establish the bank with a corpus of US$100 billion. The bank would be named the New Development Bank as suggested by the Indian side but Modi govt has failed to bag the bank's headquarter for New Delhi which would be located in Shanghai, China.[131]

  • Later at an event in Brasilia BRICS leaders met the UNASUR heads of state/heads of government. At the same time, the Ministry of External Affairs added Spanish to its list of available languages, which the Hindustan Times read as "indicative of the government's intent to go beyond Europe, Asia and the US to forge diplomatic and trade ties with Latin American nations."[132] He travelled there via Germany.[133]

Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit[edit]

India is not a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which is known to be a China backed bloc for military and energy cooperation, holds observer status from 2005 and publicly expressed its wish for a full membership. Although Russia has all along backed India's entry it was Beijing's reservation which held it so long. But recently Chinese president Xi Jinping has informed Modi during BRICS summit in Brazil that it is ready to welcome India together with Pakistan in order to project a united front against Islamic extremism in Central Asia including Afghanistan specially after NATO withdrawal. On 11–12 September EAM Sushma Swaraj attended the Dushanbe summit in Tajikistan where India formally put its paper for a full membership and now it is likely to be granted soon according to Chinese officials.[134] And if everything goes well Modi could participate at the heads of government summit in Astana, Kazakhstan in December.[135]

United Nations general assembly[edit]

Modi delivered his maiden speech in the sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly on 27 September 2014, where he called for reform and expansion of United Nations Security Council including India's long standing demand of a permanent membership. He expressed his concerns over the relevance of a 20th-century setup in 21st century and the need to evaluate UN's performance in the past 70 years. He had also argued why UN should serve as G-All for global governance instead of several parallel sub-groupings like G7, G20 etc. In the wake of ISIS threat in West Asia and similar in other parts of the globe he urged for immediate implementation of 'Comprehensive on International Terrorism' by the UN and offered India's pro-active role in it citing India as a victim of terrorism for decades. Prior to his speech he along with External Affairs Minister Swaraj met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and discussed UN governance relating issues.[136] Ridiculing the possibility of any multilateral intervention, a demand Sharif has made in his address at the UNGA on 26 September, on Kashmir related matter he stated that his govt is ready for 'bilateral talk' to Pakistan provided Pakistan should cultivate suitable environment for talks by giving up terrorism policy against India.[137] Modi commented briefly on climate change and use of clean energy, in this regards he also asked world leaders and UN officials for observing International Yoga Day, emphasizing the importance of incorporating Yoga in modern day life style.[138]

At the sidelines he held bilateral meetings with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala taking his 'neighbourhood first' policy forward even in New York. But there was no meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following the recent low in the relation. Later he also met where Benjamin Netanyahu, in a first meeting in 11 years between the two heads of government, the Israeli Prime Minister who had highlighted the potential of the bilateral relation saying "sky is the limit".[139]

ASEAN-India summit[edit]

PM Narendra Modi addressing the 12th ASEAN-India Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

Association of South East Asian Nations or ASEAN is the 10 member block, it is one of the most successful regional block in the world. India started looking toward the group seriously from 1992 with the launch of 'Look East policy' and now it occupies the central position in India's policy Southeast Asia. From 2002 onward India and ASEAN started holding annual summit at the sidelined of ASEAN summit showing the growing level of engagement between the two sides.[140][141]

At the 12th India-ASEAN summit, which was Modi's first appearance in an ASEAN meet, he called for greater connectivity with the Southeast Asian countries and mentioned that "India and ASEAN can be 'great partners'".[142] Stressing on the importance ASEAN commands in India's foreign policy Modi has repeatedly remarked that his govt has in the last 6 months made relation with ASEAN a top priority and turned India's two decade old 'Look East policy' into 'Act East policy' which reflects a renewed momentum in India's approach toward ASEAN nations. The two sides also discussed the scope of extending the existing free trade agreement on service sector as well and ways to increase India-ASEAN trade which is expected to reach US$100 billion in 2015. Modi also stressed on three 'C's to strengthen the relation and those are commerce, connectivity and cultural links.[143]

In the sidelines of ASEAN summit Modi also held several bilateral meetings with his counterparts including Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.[144]

ASEAN Regional Forum

Earlier Swaraj had attended the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum followed by the related EAS Foreign Ministers meeting, held from 8–11 August in Naypidaw, Myanmar, which was her first ever appearance in multilateral forums after becoming India's foreign affairs head. At the sidelines of the multilateral meetings she had also held bilateral meetings with her counterparts from seven countries including China, Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.[145][146]

In regards to controversy of territorial ownership in the South China Sea, a contentious issue impacting most ASEAN member states, where ONGC Videsh has investment in oil blocks, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: "India is not a party to the dispute in the South China Sea. We feel that the dispute should be resolved between those who are party to it in a peaceful manner and it should be in accordance with international law".[147]

East Asia summit[edit]

Main article: East Asia Summit
Modi (fifth from left) with national leaders at the 9th EAS in Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar.

East Asia Summit (EAS) which is an ASEAN led dialogue forum comprises 18 countries, 10 core ASEAN nations along with Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia,New Zeeland, Russia and United States. Over the years EAS has become the most important multilateral body in the Asia pacific region for discussing security, trade and commerce, environment and others unlike APEC which is purely economic in nature. Modi participated in the ninth East Asia Summit in Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar in November which was his second major multilateral even after BRICS in July. Describing the importance of the EAS in managing regional security, Modi mentioned "No other forum brings together such a large collective weight of global population, youth, economy and military strength. Nor is any other forum so critical for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia-Pacific and the world".[148]

With a veiled reference of the issue of South China Sea Modi has asked the global community for respecting maritime norms and regulations and stressed on the importance of maintaining free and secured sea-lines of communication for regular trade and commerce.[149] He made a remark that "In a world of interdependence and globalisation, there is no option but to follow international laws and norms. This also applies to maritime security. For this reason, following international law and norms is important for peace and stability in South China Sea as well".[150] Modi also focused on the role of EAS member countries to tackle the menace of terrorism in the region.[151] Modi also highlighted the re-opening of Nalanda University and the role of all EAS member states into it to showcase the joint effort of the block. Among others the issue of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was discussed in details during the summit.

In the sidelines of EAS Modi also held several bilateral meetings with his counterparts including Russia Premier Dmitry Medvedev, The Philippines President Benigno Aquino, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.[152]

G-20 leaders summit[edit]

Main article: G20
Modi speaking at the 2014 G20 session on "Delivering Global Economic Resilience".
Modi (third from left) with national leaders at the 2014 G-20 summit.

G20 or the Group of 20 leading economies (advanced and emerging markets) of the world formed after the 2008 financial crisis for international financial governance. India which ranks 9 in terms of nominal GDP and the second fastest growing major economy plays an important role in the group since it began in 2008. For the first time in 2014 India was represented by Prime Minister Modi unlike all the previous summits when Dr. Manmohan Singh, a renowned economist, used to be the Prime Minister. The host and President of 2014 summit Australia's Tony Abbott intended the summit to focus exclusively on revamping the crisis prone fragile economy and to add US$2 trillion in the global economy by additional 2% global GDP growth rate for the next five years but countries like US was more keen to discuss issues of Climate change and reduction of Carbon emission as it sealed a similar pact with China. India's interest was also aligned with Abbott as it wants to reboot its economy and return to the high growth trajectory soon. In [153]

Modi, a chaiwallah (roadside tea vendor) turned politician eventually became the Prime Minister of world's largest democracy winning the highest number of votes in the history, was the most sought after world leader at the G20 in Brisbane and The Guardian called Modi the G20's political rock star commenting on Modi's popularity in Brisbane.[154] His personal rapport with host Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was something to watch out for. Abbott who was meeting Modi for the third time, after his New Delhi trip in September and in Nay Pyi Daw just 2 days back, extended a warm hug toward Modi while welcoming world leaders in the summit venue in Brisbane. This also generated in the Australian media circle as there was 'no hug' even for Abbott's long-time friend Cameron. Modi, on his longest trip of 10 days to three different countries, met leaders from 40 different countries and even his Australia trip didn't end at Brisbane thereafter he visited Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra what is being referred as his 'diplomatic juggernaut'.[155]

The issue of black or unaccounted money kept in tax heavens (countries that allow foreigners to dump huge unaccounted money) abroad was also raised by Modi which is also a burning issue in India’s domestic polity. He also stressed on the need of changing laws in certain countries to allow better information sharing of black money kept abroad as it is also linked to the terror funding.[156] India the world's largest recipient of remittances with $71 billion sent last year, pushed hard for the reduction in the remittance costs of non-residents at the G20 summit, asking it to work on steps to reduce costs in sending money home from abroad which is as high as 10 per cent in some countries. Earlier India has been able to convince Saudi Arabia to reduce it to 3.5 per cent. G20 agreed to bring down the global average cost of transferring remittances to 5%.[157]

In the sidelines of G20 Modi also held several bilateral meetings with his counterparts including British Prime MinisterDavid Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, Saudi crowned prince Abdul Aziz, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and also attended a special dinner hosted by his friend Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan.[158] Even before the G20 summit formally begins all five leaders of the BRICS grouping gathered in Brisbane for an informal meeting at the invitation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to discuss issues concerning the group like the New Development Bank.[159]

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation[edit]

Main article: SAARC

Relations with the immediate neighbours in South Asia, which have allegedly long been neglected by the previous governments, became a priority feature in Modi’s foreign policy. He started well by inviting all the heads of sates/governments of the neighbouring countries at his inauguration and then pushed for of an early summit to encourage cooperation in many regional issues like trade, connectivity, infrastructure, transit facility among the member states. In his maiden SAARC summit in Nepalese capital Kathmandu he had focused on greater people to people contacts, better connectivity, commercial linkages within the region.[160]

China, which holds an observer status in the group, was represented by Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin seen actively promoting a more active role for itself in the region including infrastructure funding through its proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and extending its ambitious Maritime Silk Road project to South Asian nations. Pakistan, China's all weather friend, also vouched for a more participatory role for the observer nations in the summit process, indirectly advocating for a more Chinese involvement.[161] Although no such proposal was accepted because of India's reservation.[162]

India had earlier advanced three proposal to boost connectivity in the region and those were the 'Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst SAARC Member States' for seamless vehicular movement beyond the national borders the 'SAARC Regional Agreement on Railways' for international rail service and the 'SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity)' for energy trade in the subcontinent which is often regarded as world’s most energy starved region. Pakistan which is the second largest economy in the block threatened to jeopardise the entire summit by not agreeing any of the three proposed agreements.[163] Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had a brief interaction with Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor which was seen as possible ice-breaker but later the Indian side termed it as ‘courtesy call’.[164] The Nepalese delegation including Prime Minister Koirala, the summit host, tried hard to mediate between India and Pakistan to rescue the summit from total failure which led to a hand-shake between Modi and Sharif at the end.[165][166] Finally all the sides agreed to sign the 'SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity)' only as a face saving measure for the Kathmandu summit.[167]

In the sidelines of the main summit Modi also held bilateral meetings with leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka with a notable exception of Pakistan due to ongoing stand-off between the two countries.[168]

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation[edit]

Although India is not a member of APEC, Chinese president Xi Jinping, the host of the 2014 APEC summit, invited Modi to attend the event in Beijing as a guest and also showed willingness to support India's bid to join APEC. India already enjoys such support from other member states such as Russia and Vietnam.[169] However, Mosi did not participate in the meeting as a host partner country on the line of Pakistan and Bangladesh on the account of busy diplomatic schedule and a likely state visit to China next year.[170]

Controversy[edit]

On 8 September in her very first official media briefing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made controversial remark while foreign journalist had asked her view on the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, 2014 which is scheduled on 18 September, She replied by saying "I don't think any possibility of that, God forbid it should happen". Her remark was highlighted in Daily Mail and other media outlets in UK although her foreign secretary tried to cover it up later by saying "It's for Scotland to decide".[171]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

^[Note I] In 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Nepal but for the 11th SAARC summit held at Kathmandu.[172]

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