Narendra Modi’s rivals have started attacking him for undertaking frequent foreign travel. Incidentally, Rajiv Gandhi was also criticized for his foreign travels. But Rajiv Gandhi achieved more by his foreign visits than he did in India. The Prime Minister is not a Chief Minister or a Zilla Parishad chairman. The main job of the Central government is safety, security and economic stability. These can be assured only through great diplomacy. Charles Talleyrand the French diplomat did more for France than Napoleon. Machiavelli did more for Italy than its Dukes.
Narendra Modi was sworn as Prime Minister on May 26 and started visiting foreign countries. He started with Bhutan on June 15, Brazil in July, Nepal in August and Japan in September. Modi visited USA and met President Obama in September. In November, he visited Burma and Australia. On the return journey from Australia, he visited Fiji, whose population is 50% Indian origin. It was over 30 years since an Indian Prime Minister visited Australia or Fiji, which are important to India. In the last 6 months, Modi has met top leaders of 46 countries in the world.
There are 195 countries in the world and India has relations with all of them. There are Indians settled everywhere in the world. Moreover, India is located in a very unfriendly environment and has two bitter opponents, China and Pakistan. Our problems with China and Pakistan are difficult to resolve since they demand Indian land. If India did not have problems with China and Pakistan, we do not need an Army.
A vast portion of our budget is devoted to Defense, Home and External affairs. More important, our government is totally distracted by problems with China and Pakistan. Pakistan’s only foreign policy issue is India. Till 25 years ago, China also encouraged Indian Naxalites and the entire North-East rebels with money and arms to keep fighting India .
China gifted an atomic bomb to Pakistan:
The China-Pakistan coalition has been strong since 1962. Chinese leadership describes their friendship as: It is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the Indian Ocean “. China keeps encouraging Pakistan to continue a low-Intensity war with India. Pakistan has gone so far as to hand over Indian territory in Kashmir to China. China in return has given nuclear technology to Pakistan. Pakistan has the bomb thanks to China. In fact international experts say that the most dangerous nuclear war zone is between India and Pakistan.
China has also worked to make India’s neighbors distance themselves from India. Nearly 5 million Nepalese work in India without a visa. Yet, China has managed to it turn Nepal against India. Millions of Bangladeshis find refuge in India. Sri Lanka is thousands of miles away from China and Pakistan. Yet, both China and Pakistan have managed to make Sri Lanka and Bangladesh hostile to India. In reality, India is surrounded by un-friendly countries.
This hostile foreign atmosphere has made India look weak and even friends do not treat you with respect. The famed international journal “Foreign Affairs“ wrote in 2013 that “India has a feeble foreign policy and is its own worst enemy“. India lost prestige in all international fora.
India needs a dynamic foreign policy to ensure that our main enemies also are made busy with worry and tension. China and Pakistan must waste their time and resources fighting India diplomatically. China never forgave India for giving Tibetan Chief Dalai Lama refuge in 1959. China feels that India must also be put in a state of imbalance and never be allowed to settle own. China and Pakistan never want India to focus on its economy. The only way India can counter China and Pakistan is by diplomacy and that is what Modi is doing. When Narendra Modi meets foreign leaders, he creates tension for China and Pakistan. Narendra Modi visited Fiji in the Pacific Ocean where there is a huge Indian population. Immediately after 4 days, the Chinese President Xi Jinping had to go all the way to Fiji. The Fijian leaders understood that China is worried by India.
a. When Narendra Modi went to Japan , a signal was sent to China that India will become friends with Chinese enemies. When he went to Bhutan, it was a message to China to stay out of Bhutan. In Nepal, Modi assured the Nepalese leaders that India will review the old treaty with Nepal and also assured Nepalese that they can do whatever they want and India will support them. Manmohan Singh did not visit Nepal for 10 years. Modi’s visit upset both China and Pakistan .
b. China has been exploiting Burma for the last two decades. China has tied up all the natural resources of Burma including rivers and oil fields. Modi’s visit to Burma created competition for China and it will have to be more vigilant . Burmese natural resources will cost China more now.
c. Bangladesh was the only country in the neighborhood that Manmohan Singh visited . Modi is trying to get the Land Boundary Agreement passed in parliament which means that India can agree with long standing demand of Bangladesh to exchange land. Bangladesh gains 6000 acres more than India . But this is a major issue and Modi would gain Bangladesh ’s trust. The enemies of India in Bangladesh have been propagating the view that India will never help Bangladesh.
d. Joseph Nye, a famous Harvard Professor has described “ soft power “ as a very important diplomatic tool . Nye defines soft power as “ the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment, which included “culture, values and foreign policies” . When Narendra Modi attracted 18,000 people for a meeting in New York, the US establishment saw his capacity. When Modi addresses 15,000 people in Australia, this again was a projection of India’s soft power.
e. There is also a lot of criticism that Modi hosted the Chinese President and his wife in India when Chinese troops were attacking Indian posts. But the photo of Modi pushing the swing on which Mrs. Xi sat is worth much more. The social media in China highlighted this respectful gesture and India won enormous goodwill by the respectful treatment of Chinese leaders. Strangely, after 2500 years, China is again following the Confucian teachings which lay great store on gestures and respect..
f. With regard to Pakistan, a clear message has been sent that Modi government will be harder to deal with than the Manmohan Singh government . By diplomacy, Modi sent a message that India will use all its soft power and economic power to reduce Pakistan’s stature and that is being done. The costs of behaving badly will go up for both Pakistan and China. When President Obama announced that he accepted Modi’s invitation to be the Chief Guest at the Jan 26 Republic Day parade, Obama informed Nawaz Sharif. Sharif requested Obama to stop on the way at Pakistan. President Obama replied that he will stop in Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif improves Pakistani atmosphere . This was rare setback for Pakistan and the message was clear that India and Pakistan are at different levels.
g. Modi also score a major diplomatic victory during his US visit, when he happened to be the rare foreign leader who visited the Martin Luther King memorial. Only African leaders visit that site. So President Obama being Black ,was pleasantly surprised and he broke all protocol and accompanied Modi to visit the Martin Luther King site . Obama also changed his immigration policy and it is going to benefit lakhs of Indians .
h. The Japanese visit of Modi was full of messages to China. Aside from the economic gains for India from Japan, China is deeply upset at India becoming close to Japan, which is now engaged in a near-war situation with China over some islands. Japan wants the USA and India to get more involved in Asian affairs to counter China. Message has been sent to China that if China continues to encourage Pakistan, then India will encourage all of China’s enemies like Japan.
i. Ganging up against China ; Australia, Japan, USA, Vietnam, Philippines and other Asian countries want to unite against the rising dominance of China. Since India is a huge country, they have been asking India to join them . India finds that while China is its biggest economic partner , China continues to be hostile everywhere to India. To counter China, Modi visited Australia, USA, Japan . It was not an innocent Modi. The message has reached China that if its gangs up with Pakistan, then India will gang up with Chinese enemies. India is quietly supporting the “ contain China “ policy .
National interest needed not political envy
The gains of diplomacy are never public. Thousands of years ago , though Kauravas and Pandavas were fighting each other, they nevertheless were united against outsiders. When some outsiders tried to attack the Pandavas and Kauvaras separately, they replied “we might fight each other, but against the outside world we are 105”. That is the reply which opposition politicians in India should give instead of making childish comments about Modi’s foreign visits. Indira Gandhi and Nehru understood the need for deep international ties. After a gap of nearly 30 years, Modi is a Prime Minister who, though having little exposure internationally, seems to have grasped the essential importance of foreign relations to India.
Modi should extend engagement with foreign countries. The only problem is that Modi should allow the Foreign minister and others to travel and not allow foreign policy to become a Modi foreign policy. One man is not enough for India. The old Persian proverb says “ Dog bark. But the caravan moves on “. Modi should concentrate more on foreign relations and not be worried by petty criticism.