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Home / India News / Indian diplomacy is now on front foot | Analysis

Indian diplomacy is now on front foot | Analysis

The evidence suggests that, unlike in the past, Indian diplomacy now stands up to any country seen to be interfering in internal matters

india Updated: Feb 07, 2020 15:07 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
People gather to protest against CAA and NRC at August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, December 19, 2019.
People gather to protest against CAA and NRC at August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, December 19, 2019. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)

On January 27, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla wrote a letter to the European Parliament president David Maria Sassoli. The subject was a motion for a resolution being introduced before Sassoli on India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA.

Birla urged Sassoli to respect the sovereign processes of fellow legislatures, especially those in democracies. “It is inappropriate for one legislature to pass judgment on another, a practice that can surely be misused by vested interests. I would urge you to consider the proposed resolution in this light, confident that none of us want to set an unhealthy precedent,” Birla said.

Later, the European Parliament decided to put off a vote on the resolution critical of CAA to a session beginning March 2.

Similarly, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu made it clear on Wednesday that if internal matters of India are discussed in foreign parliaments, others should be prepared for India taking similar steps. In his own trademark style, Naidu said “Brexit and Exit” will be discussed.

In the Lok Sabha, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, too, made India’s stand clear by bringing up a foreign publication that cited fears within India’s minorities because of CAA. An Opposition member called the publication respected one and asked Jaishankar to confirm this.

As the senior-most minister sitting in the House at the time, Jaishankar stood up and said: “Please read that editorial. Do not call it a balanced magazine. I do not confirm it.”

As Jaishankar heads to Europe to attend the Munich Security Conference between February 14 and 16, and then to meet EU foreign ministers at Brussels, it is evident that India has decided not to be on the defensive over this issue, and give a strong response to anyone who raises either the nullification of Article 370 (which gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir), or CAA.

It is understood that Jaishankar is prepared to discuss the “naturalisation” process and the past counterterrorism posture of Europe if his counterparts intervene in these internal matters.

In the second term of the Modi government, India’s foreign policy is undergoing a massive revamp as it gears up for its two years at the UN Security Council beginning January 2021, and the 2022 G-20 Summit in New Delhi.

The idea is to actively engage with big global powers, its neighbours, the extended neighbourhood in West Asia and Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), along with a renewed focus on Africa and South America.

Barring Pakistan, all the heads of state in the neighbourhood have either visited India or PM Modi has made a visit to these countries.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is in Delhi over the weekend and PM Modi will visit Bangladesh next month.

How actively India is engaging with the world is evident from the number of meetings both Modi and Jaishankar have during multilateral events.

For example, Jaishankar was part of 18 bilateral meetings and five pull-asides at the Asean Regional Forum; 36 bilateral, eight pull-asides and seven multilateral events at the UN General Assembly) last year; and 13 bilaterals at the Raisina Dialogues this year. More of the same is expected at the Munich security dialogue.

The evidence suggests that, unlike in the past, Indian diplomacy stands up to any country seen to be interfering in internal matters such as Kashmir or offering unsolicited advice on Pakistan.

Accompanying this active engagement is the ongoing revamp in the external affairs ministry, with additional secretaries made heads of clusters for better synergy. While the new foreign secretary, Harsh Shringla, has prioritised building a good working relationship among his experienced set of secretaries, the ministry is reassessing the requirements of the cadre to stay in step with new-age diplomacy. As part of this revamp, the external publicity department has been reorganised for better and effective communications.

The Indian diplomacy is now on the front foot.