Narendra Modi at G20 must raise Terrorism

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised expectations from his foreign visits since he went to US and Japan. His visits to Myanmar and Australia and Fiji will be talk in many nations across the world.

His inserting India into the global fight against terrorism during his maiden speech in the UN General Assembly in September may go further at G20 summit in Australia. Modi will be attending the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia on November 15-16.

It may be added here that speaking at the UN General Assembly, Modi had supported US’ renewed focus on fighting terrorism. Not mincing word, Modi had accused a neighbouring country (read Pakistan) of using terrorism as a political tool to disturb peace and stability in the region.

In this respect (and others) Modi is almost the opposite of Manmohan Singh, his predecessor. Modi seems to be intent upon implementing change free of any ideology or dogma. Although open to multiple sources for input, he has shown he is his own person. He has converted the previous Government’s “Look East” policy into an “Act East” mantra. It is here that the significance of Narendra Modi’s visit kicks in.

Modi’s policy of “Act East” is actually a sea change, or a South China Sea change. China is being wary, dropping subtle hints between the lines.

The US has long wanted India to stand up and be counted among the big boys of Asia, if not lead. That is why Manmohan Singh was an ‘underachiever’. But Narendra Modi never had any pretension or inhibitions to make up for the lost opportunities. His invitation to SAARC nations, including hostile neighbour Pakistan, to grace his swearing-in ceremony reflected his determination to clean the mess created by his predecessors. He once said, “We have to put our own house in order so that the world is attracted to us.”

He is in Myanmar to attend the 12th ASEAN and 9th East Asia Summits concluding on November 13.

From the strategic point of view, Myanmar is a very important neighbour for India, both for security reasons and as a gateway to Southeast Asia. Before leaving New Delhi, PM Modi said that ASEAN is at the core of India’s ‘Act East’ policy.

“ASEAN is at the core of our Act East Policy and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century, characterised by cooperation and integration,” the Prime Minister said.

Modi will be the first Indian PM to visit Australia in 28 years since Rajiv Gandhi in 1986.

The focus point of the Australia visit may be talks on the bilateral nuclear deal under which Canberra will supply uranium to New Delhi for its energy needs.

On the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, PM Modi is set to hold “one-on-one meetings” with an array of world leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy Brey. A meeting with US President Barack Obama is also planned.

“A key issue for me would be to highlight the importance of international cooperation against black money,” Modi said in a pre-departure statement. He will ask the world leaders for access to Indians’ black money stashed in their respective countries.

The one-to-one meetings with the premiers will bear his substantive style.

His interactions with almost 20 world leaders so far have shown his belief in the summit-style of diplomacy to resolve problems. One trademark of Modi’s foreign policy is that it is completely shorn of ideology, with pragmatism being the hallmark. It is departure from India’s foreign policy, heavily guided by Nehruvian ideology. Often India had to lose friends to win an argument. The last decade was a huge disappointment because India lost both the argument and the friends. Modi has completely turned it around, spreading his Gujarat template across the world. He invests political capital more in human enterprise than in predictable and failed ideology. A report has quoted Modi saying, “I believe a strong economy is the driver of an effective foreign policy.”

The policy’s overriding objective appears to be to enhance the country’s economic and military security as rapidly as possible. Given his background and ideology, his foreign policy is bound to be muscular and with an ‘India first’ direction. An interesting facet about his interactions with the world leaders is H2H (heart to heart) talk, graduating from B2B [business to business] and G2G [government to government] [interactions], according to an official, who helped organise Modi’s visits during his Gujarat tenure.

After a long era of ad hoc, confused, and weak-kneed diplomacy, this new confidence represents a welcome change for India.

(The writer is Shitanshu Shekhar Shukla)

Courtesy Niti Central



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