For a change, India is in a “sweet spot” on the world stage. Largely due to Modi’s Foreign Policy approach in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India seems to have “played its cards well” and it is being wooed by both the West and the East. As the United States deepens its engagement with India, we are also not cutting off our historical ties with our “all-weather friend”, Russia, which remains even now, the top supplier of defence hardware, including spare parts and the like. Moreover, Modi’s Foreign Policy has also allowed us to reach out to the EU or the European Union and countries such as Australia, that have long been invested in China. Indeed, the reason why the US and its allies have not “turned the screws” on India despite its covert support for Russia is that they need a strong regional partner, who can thwart an increasingly assertive China in the Asia Pacific theatre. So, while we continue to abstain from the UN or United Nations resolutions on the Ukrainian war, we stand little to lose as the world seems eager to woo us for various reasons, including the fact that there are no morals in geopolitics, that is largely driven by naked national interest.
On the other hand, Modi’s Foreign Policy has some distance to cover in the immediate neighbourhood. While it is a fact that South Asia is on the boil, what with Srilanka defaulting and Nepal close to a crisis, whereas Pakistan is heading towards a disaster, India cannot rest easy since it is in our interest to have a peaceful neighbourhood. Moreover, all these three countries have for some years, been in the grip of the Chinese Dragon, and so their being in crisis now is a godsend to us as we have the chance to make them “return” to our fold. In addition, this also gives us a chance to reassert ourselves in the face of naked Chinese aggression that now includes occupying large tracts of land within India, So, Modi’s Foreign Policy faces a crucial and real test here as globally, we are seen as a counterbalance to China while we seem to be unable to “set our own house in order”. This is where our challenges lie as we can parley the global attention and translate it into meaningful gains, economically and geopolitically, and at last, stand up to the Chinese.
What this also means is that the Russian invasion has given India an opening into the geoeconomic space, where geopolitics combine with economics and this can be translated into investments and the like. Already Modi’s Foreign Policy has reaped dividends in the form of cheap oil from Russia and promises of American largesse, as well as concluding a significant trade deal with Britain, which in the post-Brexit world, wants to strike out on its own, free from the shackles of the EU. Talking about the EU, it is noteworthy that the Europeans too have discovered the benefits of dealing with India, in the context of shared values and such aspirations, as both see themselves as being in the frontline of the firing line, with the former having to deal with Russia on their doorstep, much like the latter has to deal with China. So, Modi’s Foreign Policy should focus on extracting tangible gains from this once in a blue moon opportunity.
Historically, India has long played the Non Aligned card, though the joke goes that non-alignment means not aligned with the US. While this approach has made India closer to Russia, since the 1990s. when India liberalized its economy, it has more or less drifted away from Non-Alignment, which is also irrelevant for many. When money trumps morals, as is the case ever since India opened up to the world, the corresponding changes in international relations are there for all to see. The Russian invasion has prompted a mixed approach from India, wherein it is supposedly “neutral”, though it appears as though Modi’s Foreign Policy is all about playing the game as long as the moola comes flowing in. With the current penchant for geoeconomics, it is hardly surprising that economics is driving geopolitics, which according to me, is not a bad thing. This is where Modi’s Foreign Policy must focus on namely, translating the “newfound” love for India, among global powers, into dividends for Indians.
At the same time, it is to be remembered that this can be a “transient” moment under the Sun as the West can lose interest in India once the dust settles on the global stage. Modi’s Foreign Policy would face its real test then and it remains to be seen as though we can move from the optics to actual ground level gains. While it is all good for the cameras as Modi hugs global leaders, the proof is will this bonhomie lead to better lives for Indians. In my opinion, Modi’s Foreign Policy would be tested in so far as how India’s position as a bulwark against China can be used as leverage to wean the West away from investing in China. While some would say that this is a pipe dream, I still believe that this is possible, especially in the post-Covid world, and more so, when the American elite is increasingly talking about China, as they used to do about Russia during the Cold War. With the New Cold War brewing now, Modi’s Foreign Policy has its task cut out with the return of a national interest-driven and economic gains oriented approach.,