Foreign policy of Narendra Modi

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj along with Modi.

The foreign policy of Narendra Modi 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 Foreign 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 SAARC countries[1] and other Asian states. In pursuit of this, he has made official visits to Bhutan and Nepal and Japan within the first 100 days of his government. Swaraj has also made official visits to Dhaka, Bangladesh, Kathmandu, Nepal, Naypidaw, Myanmar, Singapore, Hanoi, Vietnam, Manama, Bahrain, Kabul, Afghanistan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

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.[2] He also reached out for investment deals with China[3] and Israel,[4] who sought to increase economic ties beyond defence and agriculture, according to outgoing Israeli Ambassador Alon Ushpiz.[5] 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.[6]

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 [7] 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.[8] He also asserted that Hindus outside the country would be able to seek asylum in India should they require it.[9] 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.[10] He had asked for External Affairs Ministry to focus more on trade deals instead of other geopolitical initiatives.[11]

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.[12]

  • 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.[13]

Inauguration[edit]

SAARC leaders with Indian President, Vice President and newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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.[14] The media reacted positively to this in response to their own criticism of his foreign policy.[15]

Approach of P5 nations
Modi with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Modi with Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation
Modi and Swaraj with U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

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.[16][17]
  • Russia Russian Deputy Chairman 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.[18]
  • 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.[19]
  • 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 vikaash" 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."[21]

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"[22] 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.[23] Since taking office External Affairs Minister hold 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. 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.

Relation within the Indian subcontinent[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[24] 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. Later during a launch event at ISRO he has asked Indian scientists to take the endeavour to develop a dedicated SAARC satellite[12] 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.

Bhutan[edit]

Modi made his first foreign visit to Bhutan following an invitation by King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Tobgay. The visit was called by the media as a "charm offensive" that would also seek to check Bhutan-China relations that had recently been formalised.[25] He also sought to build business ties,[26] including a hydro-electric deal, and inaugurated the India-funded Supreme Court of Bhutan building.[27] While talking about the visit, Modi said that Bhutan was a "natural choice" for his first foreign destination because of the "unique and special relationship" the two countries shared. He added that he was looking forward to nurture and further strengthen India's special relations with Bhutan. His entourage included Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh.[28] He was further set to discuss the insurgency in Northeast India, and China.[29]

Nepal[edit]

Modi in a meeting with the Prime Minister of Nepal Sushil Koirala.

Modi arrived for a two-day visit to Nepal on 3 August. The last visit of an Indian prime minister to Nepal was 17 years ago in 1997 by I. K. Gujral.[30][Note I] The talks with Nepal were focused on reviewing the 1950's Treaty of Peace and Friendship, India-funded 'hydroelectricity projects' in Nepal and other infrastructure projects in Nepal, although the much anticipated Indo-Nepal power trade agreement (PTA) could not get signed due to technical problem in the draft agreement.[31] Following Jana Andolan, that marked the beginning of constitutional democracy in 1990, Modi became the first foreign leader to address the Parliament of Nepal.[32][33] The Western media read it as a shift in foreign affairs for India,[1] as well as a Nepal policy shift.[34] He did puja at the fifth century Hindu Pashupatinath temple (where he donated Rs. 25 crores and the head priest, Mool Bhatta Ganesh Bhatta, said: "I told him that we see him as a mascot for Hinduism, and appreciate his efforts in saving Hindu culture").[35] Further he pledged not to interfere in Nepal's internal affairs (following controversy of appointment of Indian priests at a Nepali temple[36]), Modi announced a credit assistance programme of US$1 billion to Nepal and said "Nepal can free India of its darkness with its electricity. But [sic] we don't want free electricity, we want to buy it. Just by selling electricity to India, Nepal can find a place in the developed countries of the world." He also told Nepali MPs he wanted to turn India's "hostile borders benign and ultimately gateways for free trade and commerce...borders must be bridges not barriers." The Kathmandu Post reacted in writing: "Modi mantra warms Nepal's hearts."[1] The New York Times also suggested the lack of a meeting with former King Gyanendra signified that India would not support a return to monarchy[34] despite the lack of a new constitution of Nepal. The commonality of a majority Hindu heritage was also played up.[35]

Prior to Modi's visit, Swaraj made a three day visit to Nepal from 27 July 2014 and co-chaired the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission meeting and also prepared the ground for Modi's scheduled visit. The last visit by a foreign minister of India to Nepal was made 23 years before this.[37]

Bangladesh[edit]

There was scepticism during election campaign about Bangladeshi illegal immigrants in India which raised concern in Bangladesh but it was Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who made a remark: "I am delighted to see a great friend of Bangladesh leading an extremely friendly country, India, in the coming days." following Modi's victory in the general election. And the new Indian govt too were quick to realize the immense geo-strategic importance of Bangladesh in India's security paradigm and therefore Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj chose Dhaka for her first stand-alone foreign visit on 26–27 June 2014, where she met her counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood and also called on Sheikh Hasina. Discussions were held regarding the land boundary agreement (LBA), the proposed Teesta water sharing pact, cooperation in eliminating extremist groups from North-East taking refuge in Bangladesh and illegal immigration.[38] And taking a lesson from the the previous UPA govt experience Swaraj had discussed contentious issues of Bengal with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee before leaving for Dhaka, indicating a federal style of foreign policy.[39]

Afghanistan[edit]

Afghan President Hamid Karzai with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The first challenge before the new govt had come from Herat, Afghanistan where the Indian consulate was attacked by the ISI backed terrorist organisation days before Modi's inauguration. Visiting the war-torn country on 10 September Swaraj called "India Afghanistan's first strategic partner".[40] and has committed to play a greater role in capacity building by strengthening the Afghan National Army but sighed away from possibility of sending troops or direct export of military hardware from India instead according to an arrangement made earlier India would pay for purchase of arms and ammunitions from Russia.[41] Potential re-emergence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the subcontinent following NATO withdrawal from the country by end of 2014 and the deadlock over the US-Afghan bilateral security agreement (BSA) have raised concerns among Indian security establishments.[42]

India is also in the process of reviving an old agreement for modernising the Chabahar Port in Iran. This is to provide an alternative sea access to Afghanistan which will help further the Indian investment in the country and bilateral trade which is so far restricted by Pakistan's hostile transit policy through Karachi Port.[43]

Sri Lanka[edit]

Despite India being Sri Lanka's only neighbour the India-Sri Lanka relations faced stagnation in recent decades due to several reasons including the large scale civilian casualties in civil war in the Tamil dominated north of the island country and a growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka. In fact there were hardly any high level visits between the two therefore inviting President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the inauguration in Delhi, overcoming domestic pressures from Tamil Nadu based political parties, helped set the ball rolling. At the same time the Sri Lankan President announced the release of Indian fishermen jailed in Sri Lanka in a goodwill gesture. But when the two leaders met in Delhi Modi had reportedly asked for Rajapaksa's commitment for fast implementation of thirteenth amendment to the constitution giving more self rule to the Sri Lankan Tamil people in Jafna.[44]

However the Indian govt is in favor of a good relationship as part of a greater 'neighbourhood first' policy and now Modi is scheduled to visit Colombo in January 2015 and will be the first Indian prime minister to address the Sri Lankan Parliament in 35 years.[45]

Pakistan[edit]

Modi has long been considered as a hardliner nationalist against enemy forces across the border sponsoring terrorist attack in India while he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, a state bordering Pakistan, but post-election things have changed substantially when he decided to invite Nawaz Sharif in the swearing-in ceremony.

Foreign Secretary level talk scheduled on 25 August in Islamabad was called off last minute by India following a meeting with secessionist leaders from Jammu & Kashmir at the Pakistani high commission in Delhi. Later External Affairs Minister Swaraj averted the question of whether Prime Minister will meet Nawaz Sharif in New York on the sidelines of UNGA by saying that "there is no full stop in diplomacy".[46]

Relations with East and Southeast Asia[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.[47] In her recent visit to Hanoi, Vietnam Sushma Swaraj has stressed on the need for an Act East Policy[48] that she said should replace India's over two decade-old Look East Policy emphasizing a more proactive role for India in this region.[49]

Japan[edit]

Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe, during former's bilateral visit to Japan, 2014.

Japan occupies a very important place in Modi’s Asian strategy, as India is looking toward Japan, at a time when it is becoming 'normal state' amending decades old pacifist constitution, to forge a security alliance to balance an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region. Maritime cooperation is most likely and bilateral naval exercises are on the cards. Significantly in 2014 Japan participated in the Malabar, a primarily bilateral naval exercise between India and US, held in Sea of Japan. Negotiations progressed recently for selling of US 2 amphibious aircraft to Indian Navy and the long pending civil nuclear agreements which would eventually help strengthen the strategic partnership.[2][50]

Modi visited Japan on a five day official trip from 30 August to 3 September which was labelled as his fist bilateral state visit outside the subcontinent also by the media.[51] His 2014 visit further strengthened the ties between the two countries and resulted in several key agreements, including the elevating the already established strategic partnership to the "Special Strategic Global Partnership".[52] Business ties are stronger than ever with a commitment of US$33.5 billion Japanese investment in India in the next five year. India is in the process of importing Shinkansen technology form Japan as part of Modi’s Diamond Quadrilateral project for introducing high-speed rail in India.

His visit to Kyoto supervised the signing of a cooperation agreement between Varanasi and Kyoto both regarded as heritage city and cultural centre in their respective country.

China[edit]

Prior to election Modi had expressed reservation over alleged Chinese 'expansionism' into India's frontiers as India and China locked into bitter territorial disputes over last fifty years. During his Japan trip, Modi has said eighteenth century mind-set of vistaar-vad or expansionism won’t work and vikaash-vad or peaceful development is needed for sustainable peace and tranquillity in the world which was read by a portion of media as a subtle jibe on China. But he is also in favour of enhanced economic partnership with China.

Economic activity defines relation with China as it is India biggest trading partner in goods. Soon after taking office commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already made two visits to China. The two countries have forged a mechanism called 'strategic and economic dialogue' (SED) to discuss the trade and other economic issues. Modi has publicly expressed his willingness to enhance trade and economic cooperation with China. Describing the newly found activism in bilateral relation Modi said India China relation moving "INCH (India-China) towards MILES(Millennium of Enhanced Synergy) ".[53]

India China India sent National Security Adviser Ajit Doval as a special envoy of Prime Minister Modi to Beijing to negotiate the agenda and the schedule of the presidential visit to India which is appreciated by the top Chinese leadership who are known to be fond of diplomatic decorum.[54] President Xi Jinping, only third Chinese President to visit India, arrived in Ahmedabad, Modi's hometown, on 17 September which coincides with Modi's birthday. China is expected to commit investment over US$100 billion in India's infrastructure projects including in high speed trains and dedicated Chinese industrial parks to balance the huge trade deficit exists in China's favour. The two leaders had earlier met in Brazil this year on the sidelines of BRICS summit.[55]

Vietnam[edit]

Vietnam, strategically located in the South China Sea, plays an pivotal role in India's Southeast Asian policy and it is often referred as the important pillars of its 'Look East Policy' by the Indian diplomats. .[56] Defence and security cooperation in recent years define the strategic partnership along with fast growing bilateral trade which stands at US$8 billion in FY 2013.

Visiting Hanoi, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee called Vietnam, "a trusted friend and an important pillar of India's Look East Policy" which emphasized the the depth of their strategic partnership. The leaders reiterated their desire and determination to work together to maintain peace, stability, growth and prosperity in Asia.[57] And the two side vouched for 'freedom of navigation' in the South China Sea, which China claims as its exclusive economic zone, and called the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea-1982. .[58]

India-Vietnamese defence cooperation has multiplied in recent years with emphasize on maritime security which includes training of Vietnamese naval personnel with Indian naval ships making frequent port-call in Vietnam in past few years. Recently it extended a US$100 m Line of Credit for purchase of Fast attack craft for Vietnamese navy from India. Vietnam is also interested in acquiring Brahmos supersonic missiles, a Indo-Russian joint venture project, Vietnam has friendly relation with both Russia and India a precondition for exporting the missile system and talks regarding the po is believed to be in the advanced level.[59]

Agreements signed in oil exploration cooperation between India and Vietnam as it earlier offered India to explore strategically located oil blocks in South China Sea, which is disputed by Chinese claims. On the following day Chinese Foreign Ministry through an official media statement expressed its objection to India's activity in what it refers its exclusive economic zone. External Affairs Minister earlier during her Hanoi trip said the state-owned ONGC Videsh will exploit the opportunity provided in Vietnam, a development China sees as an aggression into its backyard.[60] Economic ties are fast growing with US$8 billion bilateral trade and the two sides emphasized the need of increasing people to people contact which is set to get a boost with upcoming launch of direct flight between Delhi and Ho Chi Minh City and using Bollywood to promote Vietnam to Indian audience.[61]

Singapore[edit]

Goh Chok Tong and Narendra Modi

Singapore is amongst the top source countries of foreign direct investment (FDI) coming to India. Economic cooperation dominates the India Singapore relations given Singapore's strategic importance in India's 'Look East' policy. External Affairs Minister Swaraj visited Singapore on 16 August where she held talks with her counterpart Shanmugam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong regarding Singapore's investment in India and their potential role in Modi's pet smart city project.[62]

Earlier Modi played host to Singaporean Minister for Foreign and Law K. Shanmugam where he recalled his policies as Gujarat chief minister to expand cooperation between the two countries in, amongst others, public housing for the middle and lower classes based on Singapore's expertise.[63]

Former Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong visited India on 10 September and held several high level meetings with Prime Minister and other Ministers, later in conversation with a selected members from the media he referred former Indian Prime Minister Vajpeyee as Scholar but Modi is "Man of Action", while reassuring once again his countries full cooperation smart city project.[64]

Australia[edit]

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Modi, September 2014.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was the first head of government to make a state visit to India in Modi government which shows the importance both side attaches to their relations. The most significant event of his tour was the signing of a civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement for supplying uranium (Australia is believed to have one third of world's total uranium reserve) to India. The nuclear deal is a further step toward India achieving international acceptability for its nuclear programme despite not ratifying the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and follows similar agreements with the United States and France.[65][66] The two side also agreed to enhance Maritime security cooperation in the Indo-pacific region and future joint naval exercise in the Indian ocean. During the joint statement following the summit Australian PM Abbott referred India as a model citizen in terms of following International guidelines justifying the nuclear deal beyond the scope of NPT and called India the emerging democratic superpower".

Taiwan[edit]

As Modi has identified economic cooperation as a major thrust area in his foreign policy and coined slogans like Make in India to invite foreign direct investment (FDI) in manufacturing sector, Taiwan was one of the first to respond to his call. India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA) and Taipei Computer Association signed memorandum of understanding for local manufaturing of semiconductors and electronics, even there are plans to set up 'Taiwanese hardware park' in about 200-300 acres of land.[67] Although India was among the first few countries to cease diplomatic relation with the island nation but maintains an official relation through "India-Taiwan Association" a De facto embassy in Taipei.

Relation with United States[edit]

Although relation with USA was strained after Modi was denied visa in 2005 by the then George W. Bush administration when he was Gujarat’s Chief Minister because of his alleged role in oppressing religious freedom. But in the run up to the general election campaign when it became apparent that Modi was headed for the Prime Minister’s office the Obama administration started making efforts to reach out to him, immediately after his victory Obama made a congratulatory telephone call and also invited him to visit US at the earliest. Now Modi will visit USA from 27–30 September, after attending the UNGA on 27 Sept he will fly to Washington and will hold 2 day long discussion with President Barack Obama at White House.

Apart from this official engagements he will also take part in several business forums and community functions to be organized in his honour including a grand gala of the 'Indian American Community Foundation' at the famous Madison Square Garden indoor arena with 20,000 capacity in New York. [68]

Relation with West Asia (Middle East)[edit]

Indian External Affairs Ministry refers the region as West Asia and not as Middle East which is a more popular attribution. 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.

Bahrain[edit]

Swaraj choose Manama, Bahrain for her first visit to the gulf. The visit marked the first high level exchange from Modi govt to any Arab states following apprehension of less priority given to the Indo-Arab relation under Modi administration. The island country with a significant population of Indian origin people has extensive trade and business ties with India. There addressing at a business meet the minister reiterated "Our government is firmly committed to bring back growth, have clear policies which will facilitate business environment, transparency and speed, well thought out decisions".[69]

Israel[edit]

Israel is India's important strategic partner and major source of its military hardware. Relation is expected to flourish with Modi govt as the ruling BJP is known for its pro-Israeli stands and in favour of strengthening ties with Israel. Sushma Swaraj, who was chairperson of the 'India-Israel parliamentary friendship group', visited Israel earlier and publicly expressed her admiration for former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

2014 Israel-Hamas conflict

At the height of the tension between Israel and Hamas in July India in 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.[70]

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".[71]

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.[72]

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 at the 6th BRICS summit

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 India 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.[73]

  • 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."[74] He travelled there via Germany.[75]

ASEAN Regional Forum[edit]

Swaraj attended the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum followed by the related EAS Foreign Ministers meeting, held from 8–11 August in Naypidaw, Myanmar, which was his first ever appearance in multilateral forums after becoming India's foreign affairs head. She had held bilateral meetings with her counterparts from seven countries including China, Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.[76][77]

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 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".[78]

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.[79] And if everything goes well Modi could participate at the heads of government summit in Astana, Kazakhstan in December.[80]

Upcoming summits[edit]

Modi is scheduled to travel to the New York for the opening of the sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly where he will deliver his maiden speech on 28 September followed by several bilateral talks with heads of governments on the sidelines including Sheikh Hasina which will be his first interaction with the Bangladeshi Prime Minister.[81] But it is not yet clear whether he will hold any summit with Nawaz Sharif following the recent low in the relation.[82]

Though India is not a member of APEC but Chinese president Xi Jinping, the host of this years 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 supports form other member states such as Russia and Vietnam.[83]

Overseas Indian crisis in Iraq and Libya[edit]

On 16 June, the Ministry of External Affairs 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[84] who were later freed and flown back to India.[85] Moreover, 39 Indian workers from Punjab are still held as hostages.

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.[86] 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.[87] 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.[88] 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.[89]

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".[90]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

^[Note I] In 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Nepal but for the 11th SAARC summit held at Kathmandu.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Lakshmi, Rama. "Modi's speech in Nepal shows India is paying attention to its neighbors". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
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