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June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:June' 2017


An edge to bureaucrats !

Rajeev Sharma

As Narendra Modi has just completed three years, or sixty per cent of his prime ministerial tenure, it's time to have a look at his foreign policy -- the way he runs it and his major players in this intricate

Sushma Swaraj First things first. PM Modi has been virtually running a presidential form of government and there is hardly anyone he listens to on foreign policy related issues with major countries.
He listens only to his instincts and whatever direct foreign policy experience he had acquired as chief minister of Gujarat for over 12 years. It is an open secret that foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and her two deputies are simply show pieces and the MEA simply implements the policy decisions choreographed by the Prime Minister's Office.

Modi's men

Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar He has just two prime advisers whom he takes seriously and these are his go-to men on foreign policy related issues: National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.
Doval's views matter the most on national security issues but when it comes to hardcore foreign policy issues and where long term diplomacy is required, Jaishankar's role is most crucial.
Modi is known to give more leverage to the bureaucrats on foreign policy issues rather than the ministers as he purportedly doesn't want any BJP politician to gain in stature.

However, among the politicians there is a singular exception -- Arun Jaitley, the minister of finance, with additional charge of defence. Modi consults him regularly but on oneto- one basis, not openly and certainly not during cabinet meetings. Most cabinet meetings are dull and routine affairs where dissent of opinion and heated debates on foreign policy issues are unheard of. However, Modi's private consultations with Jaitley remain informal and in any case are not very frequent when it comes to foreign policy Issues.
There are two political figures who figure prominently in Modi's scheme of things when it comes to foreign policy related issues: Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat and Ram Madhav, essentially a RSS man but currently on loan to BJP.

Mohan Bhagwat

Mohan Bhagwat In many ways, the RSS chief is to the BJP what Sonia Gandhi has been to the three previous Congress-led governments, one tenure of PV Narasimha Rao and two tenures of Manmohan Singh. He doesn't dictate Modi's foreign policy but is eminently capable of throwing a spanner in the works and Modi will have to listen to him if he puts his foot down.

There is no known or reported incident of a Modi-Bhagwat standoff on a foreign policy related issue. In Bhagwat's vision India should look at China, not Pakistan, as India's biggest national security threat and challenge. The 66-yearold RSS chief keeps sensitizing Modi about the damage potential of China and wants India to enhance its diplomatic leverage with countries like the US, Japan, Vietnam and even Taiwan to counterbalance China. On Taiwan, the RSS chief's opinion is that if China itself can do business with Taiwan what should prevent India from doing so!

Ram Madhav

Ram Madhav This 52-year-old RSS functionary currently on loan to the BJP doesn't have the exalted status of Mohan Bhagwat. At best he is Modi's handpicked errand boy on foreign policy issues. He has been responsible for managing all foreign visits of PM Modi. He has been tasked by Modi to go as an advance team to all those foreign countries Modi is scheduled to speak. His behind-thescenes role in managing India's relations with China has been remarkable. Not many people in India know that he had successfully managed to bring Chinese President Xi Jinping to India very early in Modi's prime ministerial tenure -- September 2014 -- and while Xi was in India Ram Madhav was in the US to prepare ground for Modi's maiden visit to the US as PM. Modi's charismatic show at Madison Square Garden had been choreographed by Ram Madhav, a bachelor, vegetarian, teetotaler from Andhra Pradesh. However, women are known to be his weakness.

Be that as it may, the following points need to be highlighted to put things in perspective while discussing PM Modi's performance in the field of foreign policy in last three years.

The best example of Modi running the country's foreign policy by his personal instincts is his Pakistan policy which has witnessed extreme swings of a pendulum. When on the Christmas Day of 2015 he suddenly diverted his homebound plane from Kabul to Lahore, he hadn't consulted anyone, whether his cabinet colleagues or RSS leaders back home or the officials like the NSA and the foreign secretary who were traveling with him in his special plane. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj knows her delimitations well and has been deliberately keeping a low profile. She hasn't crossed the path of Modi or challenged his decisions even once.
This state of "One man driven" foreign policy is going to continue till May 2019 when Modi is scheduled to complete his prime ministerial tenure. Till then Modi is likely to shepherd India's foreign policy through the Doval-Jaishankar duo.
Given the complete rout of the opposition in the crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, it is highly likely that Modi will win second consecutive mandate in the 2019 general elections. So, the world may brace for dealing with Modi for a long time. The next big change in the Indian foreign policy team, therefore, is expected to ring in only if and when Modi begins his second tenure.