Contours of Modi-Fied Diplomacy
   12-Aug-2019

 Indian Foreign Policy : The Modi Era, Published by HARSH V PANT  
Pages: 314,  Price: ­­₹895

 
There have been path-breaking shifts in India’s foreign policy initiatives since 2014. And this book by Prof. Harsh V Pant dwells ­­­on the initiatives and developments
 
Adhikari Narendra Bhusan Mallick
 
Nations and their relations are not built in a day. It's a result derived from a complex set of permutations and combinations built over innumerable hits and misses. Despite such uphill tasks the results may or may not be a rosy or convincing affair.
 
The width and depth of a Nation’s relations is calculated not only by shared interests but also by history, geography, mutual agreements & disagreements, demography, political leadership, and ideology.
 
Post 2014 despite the Modi govt coming to power with an overwhelming majority, they were hurled accusations of indecisiveness, lack of understanding of the complex world order and compromising on the decade long international policies of previous dispensations. This book unlike most authors discovers how Modi has "MODI-FIED", the international order through a mixture of wit, exuberance and vision, objective and strategic analysis and has also been able to break the jinx that the opposition had accused him of.
 
The Author, Professor Harsh V Pant, Director ORF and Professor of International Relations at King’s College, London takes us through the thick and thin of MODI-led government's illustrious journey. A thorough critical analysis, pregnant with facts and wide coverage cocktailed with fluidity, clarity & depth in understanding of India’s International affairs is a bonus for readers intellect which makes the book a great page-turner.
 
THE MODI ERA
 
This book has been divided into 7 sections each of which has been crafted in such a way that the issues of the past and present are intertwined during the course of these stimulating collections of writing.
 
In the first section titled, "Expanding Horizon of Indo-US Ties", he underscores how India’s diplomatic alignments with other countries has been undergoing change, challenging the foreign policy shibboleths of the past. Under the Modi era, the relations with the US has been defining moments, though strained at some points. The dilly-dallying of past has now been abandoned and the US in order to uphold its sovereignty and contain the emergence of China has accepted India as a major defence partner, focusing on realigning the Indo-Pacific by greasing the QUAD, conducting MALABAR exercises with India and Japan, rethinking on CAATSA by implicitly relaxing its terms for India, Lockheed Martin, the maker of F-16, has even decided to shift its production unit to India in an effort to support Modi’s MAKE IN INDIA programme.
 
Further the signing of COMCASA, GSOMIA, LEMOA has increased the interoperability between the armed forces which makes India a pivotal player for the US in the Indo-Pacific. This relation has also had its own version of challenges ranging from tariff barriers on certain products to H1B visa issues which the present govt handles with great maturity and dexterity.
 
Part Two titled, "The China Challenge and The Indo-Pacific", does shower drops of relief by affirming the fact that the emergence of China is filled with its own problems. Its rising debts, slowing down of its economy, trade war with the US, instability in Afghanistan, stalled infrastructure projects in several countries due to human rights violations etc., are major checkpoints for China's dominance. It is beginning to meddle in the politics of the Maldives and Sri Lanka pushing them into debt traps which is a concern for India. Unsurprisingly, the author pulls the right strings at the right time in this book by highlighting countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Japan, where India needs to nurture a comfortable relations to contain a hegemonic China.
 
Most authors might miss out on countries such as North Korea as having hardly any significance for India. But Professor Pant certainly is not one of them. With decades of experience in diplomacy, he sees the light in the relations between India and North Korea. In this book, India's relations with North Korea has been mentioned with several insights and the visit of an Indian delegation to North Korea has been outlined as a masterstroke signifying the prerogrative of India in conducting and choosing its friends and enemies.
 
In Part 3, “The South Asian Landscape,” is a signature dish served to delight the readers of this book. It does in real terms what Indian’s are best at: “Exposing Pakistan”. The author does justice by not only ridiculing Pakistan but has also devoting a considerable amount of substance in showcasing what really went wrong while dealing with neighbours in South Asia. India should learn from China, which has been investing in South Asian countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka thus winning significant praises from there. The Sheikh Hasina Government even went so far as to describe China as the “most dependable and consistent friend of Bangladesh”. while asserting her autonomy away from India’s domination. The policy of shaming Pakistan in international arena as a state sponsor of terror paid dividends as Pakistan has received International censure over its support to terrorist groups. It’s Modi govt’s positive outreach that has been the reason for Pakistan's global isolation and the Trump Administration demand for accountability for diverting America’s funds has pushed Pakistan into a corner. Professor Pant has highlighted with an incisive analysis India’s shortcomings and way forward on India’s conduct to strike a balance in South-Asia makes this book unputdownable.
 
Part IV on the Middle East, Part V on Africa and Part VI on India’s expanding global imprint, mostly focuses on the conduct of the Country and it’s peaceful relations with various countries of the West. The striking of balance among the Middle East rivals such as Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine needed some tough calculations. India’s increasing trade with countries of Middle East, its dependence on its energy and increasing number of expatriates in the region has made the Middle East a central point in India’s affairs. To make sure Africa’s presence in India's affairs especially for strategic reasons and energy needs, especially when China’s increasing footprints by establishing its first overseas military base has been a concern. Agalega in Mauritius and Assumption in Seychelles have been counter points to China’s might, still India’s focus is not only on strategic assets in Africa but also on the overall development of Africa. Opening of mission in Rwanda, the extension of $200 million line of Credit to East African Nation’s ITEC programme & gifting of cows in the Girinka event has been a shot in the arm for accelerating ties with Africa.
 

The policy of shaming pakistan in international arena as state sponsor of terrorism paid dividends as Pakistan received global censure 

 
India’s friendship with Europe, especially with France, has paid India rich dividends. The ties with Russia and its importance in view of USA’s unpredictable policies, the need to engage with Central Asia for its energy needs and the assistance of Nordic Countries for Smart Cities programme in India and their support for India’s induction into NSG and UNSC makes the Nordic nations important than ever before.
 
In the last section, Part VII, “India’s Multilateral Matrix”, the author gleefully rejoices over the election of India’s nominee to ICJ by contesting with old power UK makes this book a delightful read. BRICS, SCO, ASEAN and India’s inclusion in these multilateral institutions is a sign of increasing diplomacy with various nations to nourish India’s interests and aspirations. The Nuclear doctrine is a grey area where the author reprimands the past and present governments not clearly and categorically articulating India’s Nuclear doctrine for its friends and adversaries.
 
The erratic nature of international relations and Modi government's relentless swim against the tide to normalise relations and shedding the risk-averse attitude has earned this government a great name.
 
This book is a concoction of surprising facts that keep you captivated till the last page. Simply unputdownable!
 
(The reviewer is a Delhi-based freelancer)