What India’s muscular foreign policy means for the world - Hindustan Times

What India’s muscular foreign policy means for the world

Jun 10, 2023 11:45 AM IST

India's foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become assertive and its voice carries weight on the global stage.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar this week talked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making India the leading global power in the next 25 years. He also articulated how his ministry was taking up the challenge and engaging continents and countries hitherto largely ignored in the past. In the same media interaction, Jaishankar lambasted Canada and UK for promoting Sikh separatists' activity as part of vote bank politics and named China for the military threat it poses to India after its unilateral armed belligerence in East Ladakh in May 2020.

PM Narendra Modi (Centre), External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (Left) and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (Right).(ANI)
PM Narendra Modi (Centre), External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (Left) and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (Right).(ANI)

While China before the advent of Modi was “he who must not be named” for Indian diplomacy, the Indian diplomats were also wary of bluntly calling out countries like Canada, UK, and Australia for turning a deliberate blind eye towards anti-India activity in their countries. Even though the muscular foreign policy does not fetch votes in a politics-obsessed country like India, PM Modi and his foreign minister Jaishankar has never shied from airing their sharp views when it comes to the national interest.

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Fact is that while rival countries are taken aback at India calling spade a spade, even friendly countries are still to adjust to new India. Gone are the days when India just frothed and fumed at a terrorist attack instigated by Pakistan and went back to the negotiating table with Islamabad after a few months. Today, Pakistan fears military retaliation from India in case of a terror attack either in Jammu and Kashmir or in the hinterland. The 2016 surgical strikes and the 2019 Balakot air strikes are not the only two examples of muscular India. Oblivious to any external pressure, Modi’s India has chosen not to talk to Pakistan till it puts an end to cross-border terrorism and is sticking to the guiding principle since the 2016 Pathankot airbase attack by Pakistani Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group.

China too never expected India to display military and diplomatic muscle synchronized with the economic rise of its adversary. The 2017 military stand-off at Doklam in aid of Bhutan and the extraordinary bravery displayed by Col Santosh Babu and his men at Galwan on June 15, 2020, has forced communist China to rethink about India. There is one more thing that is seriously bothering the Communist Party of China about India and that is its ever-growing relationship with the US. China cannot come to terms with the fact that despite the US forsaking India for the terror swamp called Pakistan at least till the turn of the 20th century, New Delhi and Washington have taken to each other on shared global interests on the strong foundations of democracy. The number of leaders who have been invited to address the joint meeting of Congress twice as PM Modi will on June 22 can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

It is due to a clear understanding of India’s national interest and vision for the future that PM Modi has been able to forge deep ties with Quad countries, whose mission is much bigger than only containment of China. The turn in the foreign and military policy of Japan and the no change in policy towards China despite a government change in Australia are all examples of the inherent strength of Quad. And the collaboration that the public sees in the open is just the tip of the iceberg.

While India has been able to distinguish between friends and competitors, PM Modi has ensured that the country is no longer treated as a soft power by any third country. The voice of India matters today.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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