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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Understanding PM Modi’s flight plan | HT editorial

The PM’s visits – France, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and France again – indicate a shift in priorities and partnerships

editorials Updated: Aug 22, 2019 21:29 IST

Hindustan Times
Indian diplomacy today plays on more levels than it has ever done before
Indian diplomacy today plays on more levels than it has ever done before(AP)

Hopscotch in diplomacy can be a sign of confusion, but in India’s case it is an indication of multiple interests. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest international itinerary – France, Bahrein, the United Arab Emirates and France again – is a tale of three major international priorities of his government.

The first and most immediate is containing the international reaction to the ending of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under the Constitution. France has emerged as the most dependable and consistent supporter of India at the United Nations and other forum on the trickiest of issues. The Abu Dhabi royal family has been influential in ensuring a large part of the Arab world has remained neutral, and even supportive, of India’s Kashmir shift. That Modi will be given the Bin Zayed award amid the present furore is telling. At the Group of Seven summit on his return trip to France, Modi will get an opportunity to directly make India’s case to three leaders of the Security Council’s permanent members plus all the major Western governments. He will have to explain to Donald Trump that his chances of buying Greenland are greater than his chances of becoming mediator to the Kashmir dispute. The double French stopover is a reminder of a longer-term shift in India’s defence and diplomatic partnerships. Over the past several years, Russia has become increasingly less dependable in tricky international issues, largely because of Moscow’s increasing closeness to Beijing. Russia’s technology increasingly no longer matches India’s developing defence requirements. The US has been diplomatically supportive, but India is mindful that a superpower will always have multiple interests and no country can hope to be more than first among equals in such a relationship. The country that worked hard to fill the resulting geopolitical space the past five years has been France. Modi rightfully has made it a point to shake hands with Emmanuel Macron whenever he can get a chance.

An even longer timeline is evident in the visit to Bahrain. The emirate is only the latest of the Persian Gulf States to indicate its interest in investing a chunk of its $ 20 billion dollar sovereign wealth fund into the Indian economy. The UAE was the first of them to promise to put in billions of dollars into India. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have followed suit. Bahrein is the latest to join the bandwagon. The motivation is not only commercial, it is also strategic. Indian diplomacy today plays on more levels than it has ever done before, sometimes with the same country and often in an interconnected manner that requires an ever more complicated flight plan.

First Published: Aug 22, 2019 19:43 IST