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Has Modi changed India? Impact on regional geopolitics in last 5 years


New Delhi, May 01: Foreign policy and the way a country approaches international relations generally do not change radically with change in the political leadership. Even if the government of the day wants to bring about sweeping changes in it, there are doctrines, long term goals and guidelines that set certain limits.

Some opine that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has imposed himself on India's foreign policy and has tried to fundamentally change the way India approaches geopolitics. There is no clear cut answer to this as some things have definitely changed, but then how substantial are these changes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Traditionally, India's approach in dealing with neighbouring countries has hinged on peace and risk aversion. Risk aversion in the sense that India has always avoided conflicts and projected that its massive armed forces are purely meant to defend borders and safe guard national interests. But, under PM Modi India, from being a cautious power, seemed ready to take on the risk of conflict, especially with Pakistan. Pulwama attack and the Balakot strikes that followed were testimony to this.

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Modi's strong response to the terror strikes in Pulwama at the very end of his first term in office made one thing clear that despite his critics, he has managed to change the fundamentals of Indian foreign and security policy in his five years in office.

Has Modi changed India's approach towards Middle East:

India has asserted itself like never before in the the Middle East. PM Modi visited a number of Middle East countries and even managed to get so fugitives extradited from Dubai. India was even invited to the inaugural address of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for the first time in its 50-year history.

Many of these countries were viewed as overly supportive of Pakistan for religious reasons. With this in mind, Modi moved unexpectedly to engage Saudi Arabia and the UAE in ways that promise important political and economic benefits.

India avoided making statements or taking sides in intra-Gulf rivalries. Even in the Israel-Palestine matter, India's stance has been a neutral one. Benjamin Netanyahu's India visit and Modi's Israel visit were publicised, but an official statement always came that Palestine is equally important. India preserved good relations with Iran, despite being under pressure from the United States. After all, India needs Iranian oil.

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Modi tried to strengthen India's influence in Southeast Asia by banking on its civilisational ethos and values. From the very beginning the Modi led government made it ample clear that India would focus more and more on improving relations with ASEAN and other East Asian countries. In her visit to Hanoi, Vietnam Sushma Swaraj had stressed on the need for an "Act East Policy". She had said India is looking to play a more proactive role in this region. The launch of a SAARC satellite showed that India is indeed keen to forge stronger ties in South East Asia.

Modi's impact on ties with China:

Modi's handling of relations with China has drawn mixed reactions, but then any attempt made by any government in India should be gauged by considering that Beijing has its own agenda. Beijing not only wants regional dominance but global dominance. China is assertive, strong - both militarily and economically, and its closeness to Pakistan is for particular reason which does not forebode well for India.

There are a lot of grey areas in India China ties that cannot be fixed overnight. Modi stood up to China's alleged intrusion in Doklam. What talks Ajit Doval had with his Chinese counterparts during the Doklam stand-off is something for the veteran strategic matters experts to debate. Under Modi, India agreed to be part of the resurrected quadrilateral involving the United States, Japan, and Australia. This, needless to say, has left China irked.

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India is now a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is known to be a China backed bloc for military and energy cooperation. India held observer status from 2005 and publicly expressed its wish for a full membership. Chinese president Xi Jinping informed Modi during BRICS summit in Brazil that it is ready to welcome India together with Pakistan to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Modi has publicly expressed his willingness to enhance trade and economic cooperation with China.

Both the Indian Forces and the Chinese border forces have had some altercations in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, but both countries are willing to move beyond them keep the trade continue unhindered.

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