Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021
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Nuclear Family?

Modi's hyperactivism in foreign affairs has less to do with Modi’s background, acumen or a need to severely reform India’s foreign relations than with winning legitimacy for himself.

Nuclear Family?
Nuclear Family?
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Since he became PM, Narendra Modi has given almost obsessively high priority to foreign affairs. He’s made more than one overseas visit a month, he’s received a galaxy of world leaders at home, and he’s put foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in the shade. He crowned his record by inviting a US president as the Republic Day chief guest—something unthinkable only a few years ago. This hyperactivism has less to do with Modi’s background, acumen or a need to severely reform India’s foreign relations than with winning legitimacy for himself. Modi’s anxiety to overcome the pariah status he had worldwide until recently thanks to the 2002 Gujarat carnage is understandable, albeit deplorable. But we must ask, who pays the price? What’s at stake today is the collapse of India’s longstanding position, which survived old-styled non-alignment, that it won’t sign up as a permanent ally of anyone even while maintaining friendly relations with a range of countries within a complex foreign policy agenda.

True, this stand had eroded over time, especially with the signing of the US-India defence cooperation agreement and the civilian nuclear cooperation deal in 2005. To win that deal, India twice voted, under ‘coercion’, as a US diplomat publicly said, against Iran’s N-programme, undermining its own interest in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pip­e­line. To please the US, India has also periodically compromised its own people’s interests, for instance, by loosening price controls on essential medicines ahead of Modi’s US visit. But now, for the first time, India is being roped into an intimate alliance with the US, based on a comprehensive strategic, political and economic collaboration. Its cornerstone is the ‘Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Reg­ion’, which accords India strategic prominence in a swathe stretching “from Africa to East Asia”, involves it in “safe­guarding maritime security, freedom of navigation and ove­­r­flight, especially in the South China Sea”, and chides China for provoking tensions with its nei­ghbours. Put simply, the alliance bears a heavy tilt against China, which dominated the Modi-Obama talks for the first 45 minutes, much to the Americans’ pleasant surprise. Modi not only accepted the US language on the issue, but also suggested reviving the US-Japan-India-Australia security compact of 2007, which was abandoned amidst Chinese protests. The idea of punishing China for its “overreach” into the Indian Ocean, in particular “India’s backyard” Sri Lanka, by asserting India’s pre-eminence from the Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Straits may make our pro-US strategic hawks salivate at the mouth.

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