New Delhi: The Modi doctrine has tried to handle various conflicting interests in favor of India, through the India-first policy and previously complex relationships with Saudi Arabia, Israel, the UAE, and Iran have received a new impetus. Under Modi, India’s foreign policy has remained completely detached from any ideology, which is a significant departure from the past.
When India shipped 130,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan via Iran’s Chabahar port, it marked an important milestone in the tripartite bilateral relations.
India has always been an important partner for Afghanistan and India’s policy dictates close collaboration with the war-torn country. India has spent more than a decade cultivating and nurturing its relationship with the country — from building highways and other high-profile construction projects to providing financial assistance. US President Donald Trump has said that he wants to further develop a strategic partnership with India to achieve his country’s goals in Afghanistan.
China and Pakistan share a mutual distrust over India’s rising graph and proximity with major powers. While Pakistan wants to settle the Kashmir dispute, the chief reason for its insecurity is India’s successful role in isolating Pakistan in international affairs. India has forged good relations with the UAE and Afghanistan – a move which has irked Islamabad.
America for years has pumped billions of dollars in Pakistan via aid which the latter has used to support cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. Pakistan is insecure about the fact that it’s most reliable ally and friend is gradually shifting towards India but this fear has its own limits and comes with an expiry period.
Pakistan’s dependence on the United States — particularly military aid — is slowly declining as the country has developed closer ties with Beijing.
Similarly, China is concerned with India’s growing clout on the world stage. The Doklam standoff was a litmus test for India in terms of how resolutely it could stand up against a belligerent China to protect the interests of Bhutan as well as its own. New Delhi has also sent out a message to the world that it is not going to be pushed around by a bullish Beijing.
As the American power is on the verge of decline, China has started projecting itself aggressively. From the South-China Sea to Doklam, China has a history of encroaching upon the target country’s land or maritime territory. It then starts building heavy infrastructure on it which is later claimed on ”historical grounds” followed by playing the victim card. This hapless “victim” then starts issuing threats either directly or indirectly through state-controlled media and in most cases; it gets what it wants.
China has never shied away from openly supporting Pakistan on the world stage. Recently, Beijing blocked the UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar again, citing lack of “consensus.”
China is also toeing the same line consistently repeated by Pakistan on the international stage that it is a “victim of terrorism.”
Closer ties with Beijing give Islamabad more room to maneuver and this should not be underestimated.
Even before formally taking charge of office, Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi invited the heads of the governments of all South Asian states to attend his swearing-in. This gesture was without precedent because no world leader had been invited to attend what was traditionally considered a domestic event.
Leaders from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Maldives descended on New Delhi to attend the ceremony. This move was a big political statement from Modi that signified India’s arrival on the world stage.
Soon after Prime Minister Modi assumed office, all five permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council sent their envoys to India within the first 100 days and expressed their willingness to work closely with the current regime. China was the first country to send its envoy and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to New Delhi. He held bilateral talks with his counterpart and also called on PM Modi. China also expressed its willingness to reach a final settlement of the contested border disputes.
In an attempt to strengthen ties with India’s western neighbors, especially the Gulf countries, Modi proposed the Link West policy to complement his Act East policy concerning East Asia. Although ‘Link West’ gives it a bigger geographical connotation, the policy is chiefly focused on the Middle East.
To protect its interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India is reaching out to Island countries like Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Canada and the UAE were significant as these countries had not witnessed Indian Prime Ministerial visits in decades.
India’s foreign policy under Modi has been highly proactive and the country needs to pursue it with vigor to check the rise of China.
India, for decades, has worked with Afghanistan to identify priorities and projects where Kabul needs New Delhi’s assistance to be directed.
Weeks after US President Donald Trump sought New Delhi’s help in the economic development of the war-torn nation, India announced taking up 116 “high impact community developmental projects” in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.
A decision in this regard was taken during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.
These important investments will be in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydro power, sports and administrative infrastructure, according to the external affairs ministry.
Some of the key projects are Shahtoot Dam and drinking water project for Kabul that would also facilitate irrigation, water supply for Charikar city, road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan province that would promote tourism, low cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar province to promote their resettlement, a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value-added local industry and for import substitution, and a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.
India-Afghanistan ties are based on mutual trust and friendship. The Afghans see India as their friend and people to people contact between both the countries has also been warm and friendly.
India should continue with its current Afghan policy and should remain focused on development projects in the region. Apart from the chaos which has become a common fixture in the war-torn country, India is the only hope and the onus is on the Afghan government if it wants New Delhi to play a bigger, more strategic role in their land.
On China, it’s important that we maintain our stand on all the border disputes because the Chinese can’t be trusted and they have demonstrated from time to time.
In conclusion, Prime Minister Modi’s hectic foreign policy has been largely positive despite all the rabble-rousing rhetoric of the opposition and the mainstream media.