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Modi govt@3: India finds new partnerships but ties with China, Pakistan an issue

Better ties with Japan and UAE among notable successes for NDA government’s foreign policy but Indian diplomacy faces significant challenges in dealing with Pakistan and China

india Updated: May 31, 2017 15:01 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Modi,NDA anniversary,Indian diplomacy
Close ties with Japan, including a civil nuclear deal, is among the wins for Indian diplomacy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe have held a number of high-profile meetings, including two tours to each other’s lands.(REUTERS FILE PHOTO)

The Narendra Modi government decidedly moved away from certain conventional approaches in country’s foreign policy in past three years which brought some dividends, helped by factors such as India remaining the fastest growing largest economy.

But for a government, which swears by neighbourhood first, the biggest foreign policy challenge remains in its immediate periphery, especially the ties with China, Pakistan and Nepal.

The Modi government was pragmatic in its foreign policy objectives, placing flagship schemes such as Make in India at its heart to get investments, and make India a manufacturing hub for things ranging from nuclear reactors to aircraft. A domestic perception that the government would change things, chase away the despondency in the last years of UPA government aided Modi to woo investors.

The Prime Minister led from the front, meeting a large number of business leaders and women in trips abroad. The message was business-like: His government has the mandate and parliamentary majority to change unhelpful rules and regulations, and India would remain an attractive business destination. Though certain processes — such as delays in signing the Bilateral Investment Treaties – are a niggle, India continues to be on the radar of many global companies.

It de-hyphenated ties between Israel-Palestine, ventured for crucial tie-ups with Pacific islands countries, and reworked its foreign aid policy to include defence purchases.

The Modi government continued to build on ties with Japan, made huge strides in the relationship with the UAE, improved ties with Saudi Arabia. It settled the long-running marine issue with Italy, which was also an irritant in its ties with European Union.

Ties with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh too are on the upswing.

But Pakistan and China continue to be the key spots of bother.

A great deal of flip-flop marked these two relationship. A Pakistan military court sentencing Kulbushan Yadav, a former naval officer convicted on charges of spying, continuing cross-border terrorism, Pakistan military taking a more aggressive position on India, and Pakistan going for elections early next year ensure the relationship between the two remain frayed.

Only extraordinary political will is likely to set things right.

Sovereignty issues, however, were kept in check on its frontier with China, allowing both countries to have greater economic ties.

But the China-Pakistan economic corridor and the Dalai Lama issue came hit the relationship. India stayed away from President Xi Jingping’s signature One Road, One Belt summit -- attended by Japan, Vietnam and the US – over the project running through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

China’s position on India becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Mazood Azhar were more sour points.

Not on this scale, but India continues to be inconsistent in its Nepal policy. The way it has stood for the rights of minorities had angered the majority, and then the efforts to rectify the minority.

First Published: May 26, 2017 12:32 IST