Will Narendra Modi be able to improve relations with neighbours?

Ananya Shroff
10 Min Read

Ranjit Kumar
Soon after assuming office as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made a grand debut on the global stage by attending the G-7 summit. Three weeks later, he will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan on July 3-4. His participation in the anti-US China and Russia-led SCO within a month of attending the US camp's organisation G-7 will be interesting.

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Balanced policy
By attending the summit of two opposing groups, Prime Minister Modi will try to balance Indian diplomacy with the intention of achieving national interests. It is also true that countries of both camps are trying to pull India towards themselves. But Modi has built relations with G7, Quad, BRICS, SCO keeping in mind the national interests. This has increased the importance of the country on the world stage, but the biggest success of Indian diplomacy will be considered in building relations with all the neighboring countries.

China’s stance
The way the leaders of America, Russia and many European countries called Modi and congratulated him before the start of his third term and the way the leaders of China and Pakistan ignored him shows that while big powers want to attract India towards themselves, some neighbouring countries have a hostile attitude towards it. In such a situation, it is a big challenge for Modi to maintain normal relations with neighbouring countries.

India is a necessity
Modi is important on the world stage because America and developed European countries have become disillusioned with China. Also, India is rapidly moving towards becoming the third largest economy of the world. Its pace of development is quite fast. India is also a big market for high-tech industrial products of developed countries. Therefore, this is also a compulsion for rich countries.

The Russian Aspect
The US and European countries need India's support to counter China's growing dominance from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. It is also in India's interest to maintain strategic coordination with the US, Japan, Australia, etc. to control China in these regions. But the way the US practices the politics of sanctions by showing dominance not only creates obstacles for India to build normal economic and diplomatic relations with its traditional friend Russia, but also creates obstacles in relations with Iran and Central Asia.

Shelter for separatists
Secondly, the way the separatist Khalistan movement is being nurtured in the countries of the American camp is a matter of concern for India. It is because of these elements that India's relations with America have become bitter. Relations with Canada have also become bitter on this issue. These countries should understand that they call India a strategic partner. At the same time, they have given a free hand to those elements who are anti-India and want to disintegrate India. It is impossible for India to accept this. Narendra Modi faces a big diplomatic challenge as to how to rein in the forces that are giving protection to these separatist elements on foreign soil.

A positive sign
Of course, it is a challenge for India to build strong relations with its neighbouring countries, but Narendra Modi has given a positive signal by inviting the leaders of Seychelles, Mauritius, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh to his swearing-in ceremony on June 9. Given the attitude of China and Pakistan, it will not be easy to build normal relations with them. This will be a litmus test for Narendra Modi and his diplomatic advisors.

India's stature increased
Actually, India's stature has increased among developed and developing countries, which is not acceptable to Pakistan and China. They want to improve relations with India on their own terms and by hurting India's sovereignty, which is not acceptable to the Modi government. But the truth is also that if relations with these two countries become normal, then India's path on the world stage will become much easier.

keep trying
Prime Minister Modi took several important initiatives to improve relations with China and Pakistan in his previous tenures, but the stubborn attitude of both countries spoiled it. Despite this, Modi should continue his efforts in this direction. If he succeeds in this, it will be a big victory for Indian diplomacy. Actually, for India, the image of being a neighbor friend matters more than being a world friend.

(The author is an expert on foreign and defence affairs)

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