Issue :   
August 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         August 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:August' 2018


The Dragon on the ascent !

Syed Nooruzzaman

Narendra Modi Since the country is fast getting into the election mode with the NDA government going to conclude its five-year tenure in May next year, it is time to critically assess its gains and losses in various fields.
Here the focus is on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's conduct of the country's foreign policy, an area which has consumed much of his time and energy besides India's considerable financial resources. Till now he has visited more than 55 countries, including five trips to the US and China and four to Russia and Germany.
However, according to the government's own estimate, the country required as much as $1 trillion as FDI in 2014, mostly in the infrastructure sector, as stated by Modi during his first visit to the US as Prime Minister.

The figure for the FDI requirement today obviously must be much higher as indicated by the fact that in 2004 then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told an audience in the US that India needed FDI inflows to the tune of $150 billion, but the Modi government's estimate rose to $1 trillion after a decade.

However, can foreign direct investors continue to keep their interest in India intact in view of disturbing reports from different parts of the country relating to the missing fear of the law as indicated by increasing incidents of rape and lynching of Indians by Indians on one pretext or another. Overseas investors, obviously, cannot feel confident of setting up shop in a country which suffers from social peace and a major law and order problem.

Now let us have a close look at India's relations with its neighbours and major countries of the world as at the very beginning of his tenure as Prime Minister, Modi had made it clear that improving ties with the countries in India's immediate neighbourhood, as part of the "Neighbourhood First" policy, would be given top priority. But today one finds that the achievements made on this front are not in accordance with the expectations.

India had invested considerably in Nepal during its tumultuous days after the end of monarchy. Yet Kathmandu speaks a language indicating that India does not figure prominently in Nepal's schemes for rebuilding the nation.
Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli some time ago bluntly told Indian diplomats "not to interfere in Nepal's internal affairs". Contrary to this, Nepal's relations with China have been on the upswing ever since the dawn of democracy in the Himalayan nation. Perhaps, Kathmandu has become more suspicious of India after New Delhi's denial of some essential supplies to Nepal which were later on made available to it by China.

KP Sharma Oli India has been facing a major challenge from China in other SAARC countries too. India got an excellent opportunity to increase its presence in Sri Lanka when Sri Lanka Freedom Party leader Mahinda Rajapaksa lost power in the elections there. He was too well known for his pro-China stance. However, that opportunity is yet to be fully exploited though the new President, Maithripala Sirisena, the main architect of Rajapaksa's defeat, and his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are very much inclined towards improving their country's relations with India.

Mahinda Rajapaksa So far as India's ties with Bangladesh are concerned, the Modi government has, no doubt, added a new feather to its cap by clinching a major land boundary agreement with Dhaka, but China continues to be the most sought-after regional power in that country.

Maithripala Sirisena The Chinese presence in Bangladesh is expanding fast with two special economic zones coming up there with massive Chinese assistance. There are many other projects also in which China is closely involved in a country otherwise having a pro- India Awami League government. Myanmar too has an almost similar story to tell. Despite the much-publicised "Neighbourhood First" policy, India is nowhere near China in Myanmar's scheme of things.

Ranil Wickremesinghe An interesting policy shift in the case of Pakistan was expected with Modi's sudden decision for a stopover at Lahore to have an informal interaction with then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while being on his way back home after participating in the India-Afghanistan talks in Kabul in December 2015. Modi, perhaps, believed that a personal touch to the cause of India-Pakistan relations might help in making the other side realise that New Delhi's style of functioning had changed with the BJP-led NDA coming to power. However, the ground reality on this front remains unchanged, whatever the factors involved.

PM Nawaz Sharif shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi upon the latter's arrival at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore in December 2015 major achievement for the Modi government was seen in the signing of an agreement with Iran for the development of Chabahar port, but that too is losing its sheen following an accord between Teheran and Beijing over Chabahar. The second factor that may overshadow what India gained by providing assistance for Chabahar is the US withdrawal from the international nuclear deal with Teheran and the pressure being brought to bear on New Delhi for distancing itself from Teheran.
With the US being no longer associated with the deal, the sanctions it had earlier imposed on Teheran are effective again and that means a lot of difficulties in doing business with Iran. Besides these factors, any country strengthening or expanding ties with Iran is bound to be looked at with suspicion by the US.

Donald Trump Experts believe that Modi's special interest in taking our relations with the US to a new high has brought about dynamism in New Delhi's ties with Washington which is expected to benefit India in many ways. That may be true, but how to handle the situation arising out of the US decision on the Iranian nuclear deal is going to be a major challenge for New Delhi in the days to come. Besides these, it will not be easy for India to deal with the trade-war like conditions created by the US though New Delhi has responded courageously to certain trade-related moves made by the Trump administration, providing proof that India will not sit quietly if the US continues with its coercive trade diplomacy to make India fall in line on the Iranian front.

Xi Jinping The US under President Donald Trump thinks that the Iranian nuclear deal will only harm the American interests in the West Asian region and elsewhere whereas the European Union, Russia and China consider the deal as a major step forward in promoting peace in the world. What will be India's stand in such a scenario? Under the prevailing circumstances, it is not so easy to take a decision, but the world will respect India more if it continues to demonstrate courage in handling the US moves aimed at frightening New Delhi if it refuses to toe the US line on the Iranian issue.
Experts believe that India is providing proof that it has acquired enough capacity to ignore external pressures and go by its own larger interests on various global or regional issues. The belief is based on how India conducted itself during the Wuhan one-on-one dialogue between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to end the bitterness in the relations between India and China following the Doklam crisis.