Allaying fears that an NDA government would adopt a security-centric approach with neighbouring countries if elected to power, BJP leaders have emphasised that a Narendra Modi-led government would place equal, if not more, emphasis on trade.
Economic linkages at par with strategic concerns and empowering the states to deal directly with foreign countries, ending New Delhi’s exclusive control, will be the highlights of a new foreign policy doctrine, Modi’s aides suggested.
“We will continue (Atal Bihari) Vajpayeeji’s foreign policy legacy and work in the direction he showed us a decade back when he was Prime Minister,” Modi told HT in an emailed interview this week.
Sources close to Modi and privy to his foreign-policy blueprint told HT that his engagement with Pakistan and other countries in the neighbourhood would be on similar lines, despite apprehensions about an aggressive and expansionist New Delhi under the BJP.
Modi’s latest message, however, has failed to convince everyone in Pakistan.
“While everyone wants trade to continue, there is a feeling in Pakistan that it will be hostage to politics,” said former commerce minister Muhammad Zubair. While earlier, India would woo Pakistan to continue trade despite political difficulties, “It seems the opposite is happening now,” Zubair added.
Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, a strong proponent of trade with India, is also on the back foot with criticism coming his way for proposing trade ties at a time when Modi has issued several threats against Pakistan.
Sharif’s initiatives have been on hold owing to the general elections and his advisors feel there will be an adverse effect on trade ties if the BJP comes to power.
Sources close to Modi, however, insist the PM candidate plans to bring about a paradigm shift in India’s engagement with foreign countries.
“Trade and culture, not just military or strategic concerns, will drive his foreign policy,” an aide said.
Modi has been vocal about leveraging the bond certain states share with foreign countries.
He recently cited how Odisha shared a strong bond with Indonesia with former chief minister Biju Patnaik being a highly-respected figure there.
At a function a couple of months ago, Modi had also proposed the idea of allowing states to open their desks in Indian missions abroad to try and bring more investment for their regions.
“Trade would be a key element in India’s relationship with countries like Pakistan and China but that would not mean a softening of the party’s line on issues of cross border terrorism and incursions,” a BJP leader said.