Lots of travel, bouquets and brickbats

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

Narendra Modi with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

Many have hailed the NDA’s foreign policy but questions remain over the outcomes

The Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy initiatives have been hailed as being better coordinated than its domestic programmes.

Never before has any government made foreign policy a matter of public discourse. This has happened because of Modi’s emphasis on showmanship, with gala public addresses, embracing Indian expatriates.

New approach

Be it inviting SAARC leaders to his swearing-in or announcing a surprise trip to Pakistan on social media, Modi has made sure his foreign policy efforts reach the masses.

“PM Modi was able to raise India’s global profile. His foreign policy measures came as a fresh start after UPA-II’s lacklustre policies. He was able to stabilise relations with the US, Japan and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),” said Sanjaya Baru, media advisor to former PM Manmohan Singh.

But outcomes remain in question, say officials.

US, China ties

With the US, although problems persist on the economic front, in defence collaboration, both sides took unprecedented steps by agreeing to sign and negotiate foundational pacts that will bring both military establishments closer, according to sources.

PM Modi will undertake his fourth visit to the US next month. He is expected to sign one of the three defence pacts that America is pushing India to agree on.

“With China, some of the overtures made in terms of high-level visits and signing of agreements, have backfired. It continues to invest in Pakistan due to strategic reasons,” avers Neelam Deo, Director, Gateway House, a foreign policy think-tank.

South Asia challenge

While Modi has made several overtures to the Pakistan administration, there are differences between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar about how to deal with the neighbour, say sources, with Jaishankar preferring a more cautious approach.

“Modi’s foreign policy measures have been better steered than his domestic policies, but the vigour with which his government took foreign policy steps has mellowed as it faced the realities of the world,” says Rajiv Bhatia, former Director-General, Indian Council of World Affairs.

According to Bhatia, although India tasted success in its ‘neighbourhood first’ policy with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, the government has failed to make headway with Pakistan and Nepal.

Published on May 16, 2016

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