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Modi Doctrine 2.0 creates an enabling framework for India’s resurgence

Author: Ramaharitha Pusarla
Publication: Myind.net
Date: June 4, 2021
URL:      https://myind.net/Home/viewArticle/modi-doctrine-20-creates-an-enabling-framework-for-indias-resurgence

Prime Minister Modi’s seventh anniversary into power has been a low-key affair. Plagued by a treacherous Wuhan virus wave, the leadership has asked the Chief Ministers of BJP ruled states to announce Covid schemes for orphaned children commemorating the event.

Outshining his predecessors, Prime Minister Modi has leveraged India’s soft power to elevate India’s global stature. Riding on the twin horses of galvanising the Indian Diaspora and capitalising on India’s cultural and religious connect, Modi gave a new direction and vision to the India’s foreign policy. Exemplary outreach has been his forte. By stitching an extraordinary personal chemistry with the World leaders across the aisle, Modi diversified India’s engagement with comity of nations. As the Modi regime reaches the significant milestone of completing seven successful years, it is time to reflect on the hits and misses of the NDA-2 with a special focus on the foreign policy.

Foreign policy should be guided by national interests and PM Modi has unequivocally reinforced this aspect many a times. It is a doctrine which should be insular to political nit-pickings. But inadvertently, two pivotal domestic legislations- stripping of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bestowing Indian citizenship to non-Muslims facing persecution threats has cast a shadow on India’s ties with immediate neighbours. Marshalling diplomatic resources just months into second term, Modi had successfully defended India’s uncompromising stance on these aspects.

In continuum to the approach of standing up to the hostility of Pakistan and China with the Balakot air strikes and Doklam stand-off, India refused to be cowed down by threats or cowered by the intimidated. Battling a threatening pandemic, India checkmated China’s stealthy intrusions. Donning an aggressive avatar, India repulsed China with the Galwan incident. Demolishing China’s make-believe frame of reference of India of 1962, India sent a stern message by occupying the strategic Kaliash ranges and deploying 50,000 troops through the harsh winter. Backing words with actions that boundary issue can’t be separated from bilateral relationship, India banned over 200 Chinese apps, stalled Chinese investment projects and disallowed Huawei from 5G trials.

Looking into the Dragon’s eye, with an unshaken resolve, India proved that it can be no longer be muscled out. As a defiant bulwark, India stratified its centrality to the Indo-Pacific region. Extending invite to Australia, India added fresh impetus to the Quad 2.0. A paradigm shift from Pakistan-centric strategic calculus to a pragmatic realisation of China as the formidable enemy has significantly changed India’s approach towards geopolitics.

Compelled by a crippling economic recession, Pakistan stepped the orbit of ‘geo-economics’ and in tune with this new development, prodded by the UAE, India and Pakistan agreed to observe ceasefire since March 2021. Predisposed to subterfuge and deceit, India’s hasn’t let down its guard. Though Kashmir valley is relatively peaceful, targeting killing of the mainstream politicians and attacks on Kashmiri pandits by Pakistan sponsored terrorists indicate that it is not over until it is over.

Adeptly defending the territorial borders, Modi government simultaneously invested energy and resources to buttress India’s maritime security and influence. Over the past seven years, India sealed military logistics agreement with Russia, Singapore and South Korea, LEMOA with the US, MLSA with France and Australia, ACSA with Japan, white water shipping pact with Israel. Deepening cooperation, India began 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with the Quad members. India obtained access to Indonesia’s Sabang port and Duqm port in Oman. To spread Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), India started India Information Fusion Centre (IIFC) for Indian Ocean Region building linkages with 18 countries and 15 multinational/ maritime centres. Modi proposed Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) for safe, secure and stable maritime domain, which is in line with India’s vision for the region at the 14th EAS (East Asia Summit).

India’s relationship with the Gulf countries have reached a zenith under Modi regime providing the much needed diplomatic capital and heft in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370. Teeming strategic partnership, infrastructure investments, bilateral trade and energy collaboration further solidified these ties with the region. Modi doctrine managed the tight rope walk of maintaining friendly relationship with regional rivals- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine at the same time.

Making up a decade of lethargy and indecision of UPA, Modi government prioritised relations with immediate neighbours. Unveiling the second term with an invite to BIMSTEC leaders, Modi bolstered sub-regional cooperation. Continuing the tradition of according highest priority to Bhutan made his first visit to Himalayan country. Later when the Pandemic struck the sub-continent, making SAARC countries, stakeholders in collective covid combat, India trained personnel, shared best practices, shipped medical supplies. Indeed, India's neighbours have been the major beneficiaries of India’s generous Vaccine Maitri. While nations looked inwards during the unprecedented health emergency, India rose to the occasion, supplied crucial medical supplies and actively engaged in health diplomacy during the early stages of the pandemic. Scaling up the domestic production of Hydroxychloroquine, India gifted it to over 50 countries. Weeks after rolling out domestic vaccination program, India exported and donated nearly 67 million vaccines to over 70 countries.

Hit by a devastating second wave of Wuhan virus, when India faced resource crunch, countries across the World mobilised financial assistance and shipped covid supplies. While critics questioned the prudence of Vaccine Maitri, as a token of reciprocity and spurred by the enormity of the Covid surge, an outpouring solidarity hit the India shores. Over 50 countries offered assistance in various forms to New Delhi. India gracefully accepted the foreign assistance as a part of “mutual assistance framework”.

Indeed, driven by the cardinal rule of nobody is safe until everybody is safe in the pandemic ravaged interconnected World, in absence of any leadership, India partnered with South Africa to stand up for the third World countries to realise the goal of Universal vaccination and proposed temporary patent waiver at WTO. Lobbied by Big Pharma, while Western countries opposed the waiver, Low- and Middle-Income countries (LMIC)s backed the proposal. Owing to India’s unrelenting pursuits, US lent support and even Members of European Parliament (MEP) approved the proposal while the European leaders are still reluctant.

Taking up global leadership mantle, India also initiated a Joint Political Declaration on Equitable Global Access to COVID-19 vaccines and garnered support of 180 UN members. In response to the global challenges, India initiated International Solar Alliance, Disaster Relief Infrastructure Coalition and proposed One World One Sun One Grid, which experts believe is an answer to China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).

Unruffled by the encumbering Wuhan virus pandemic, Modi government swiftly transitioned to virtual diplomacy and seamlessly engaged in multilateral engagements- like invitation to G7 meetings, G 20 summit, SCO and BRICS. True to it defining attributes of strategic autonomy, India is actively forging bilateral ties with multiple partners. Having pulled out from RCEP, redoubling efforts to expand economic partnership, India signed an enhanced trade partnership agreement with the UK and laid out a 10 -year framework for Indo-UK ties through “Roadmap 2030”. Along way, India resumed trade negotiations over the Free Trade Agreement stalled in 2013 with the historic virtual Indo-EU summit that witnessed participation of 27 leaders of Europe and European Commission. Courting EU post Sino-EU faceoff, Modi has rightly posited India as a lucrative global market, an emerging economy and an investment destination.

By projecting India as an assertive power, capable of partaking leadership roles to address global challenges, Modi has attempted to change global perception of India. In contravention to popular portrayal of India as a diffident nation, by standing its ground in the face of hostilities from its formidable adversaries, India refused to be muscled out. This defiance has infused a new confidence in India’s resurgence as a responsible power. This primal change in global outlook has made it a coveted partner in strategic relationships.

But India’s gains on ground are rather ambivalent with countries in the sub-continent using the bilateral ties with India for domestic politicking. Slippage of Nepal and Sri Lanka into Beijing’s orbit with their uncanny ability to play India's card against China and viceversa mirror the inadequacies of Indian diplomacy. Straddling of Chinese troops across certain areas in Eastern Ladakh by forgoing tactical advantage during the stand-off has been frustrating.

The major part of Modi Doctrine 2.0, thus far, has been consumed in managing the pandemic, which reared its ugly head. Devastating second wave has undone the gains which India has accumulated during the earlier cycle. Creaky medical infrastructure and incompetency of the authorities further exacerbated the crisis which has weakened India’s economic recovery. Critics. lost no time in writing-off India’s growth story.

Amid the prediction of gloom, India’s global partnerships and engagements played a major role in tiding the domestic crisis. A global outpouring of help when India’s chips are down aside demolishing absurd claims of India is looking inward by critics exemplified New Delhi's pragmatic foreign policy.

Though there are several frontiers where India must invest diplomatic capital to nurture its aspirations, Modi’s foreign policy has been instrumental in creating an enabling framework for India’s resurgence.
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