Watch: Third term for Modi -Will the coalition govt impact foreign policy?

In this episode of Worldview, we discuss what are the foreign policy priorities for the new NDA government

Updated - June 21, 2024 09:14 am IST

Published - June 14, 2024 07:55 pm IST

As PM Modi picks the same team for diplomacy and national security- will there be any changes in Indian Foreign Policy in his third term with a coalition in charge ? What’s on his agenda for travel, and what are the foreign policy priorities for the new NDA government?

This week we want to get you primer on what to expect in Foreign Policy in the third term.

First, the NDA government’s core team dealing with diplomacy and national security remains the same:

1. EAM S Jaishankar- who met with leaders from the neighbourhood this week even before his portfolio was announced took charge, spelling out some of the priorities- and catch phrases of the new term

2. NSA Ajit Doval

3. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

4. There are 2 new Ministers of State

KirtiVardhan Singh- who went to Kuwait for the fire tragedy

Pabitra Margherita

For those who follow these beats closely, watch out for these appointments: Foreign Secretary- As FS Kwatra’s extension ends in October- who will be the new FS, and will Mr. Kwatra be appointed to an ambassadorial post Deputy NSA – As Vikram Misri is tipped to return to the MEA as the FS Ambassadors to US, UN and France

Let’s get to what the Foreign Policy Priorities of the new government will be:

 1. Neighbourhood is important, keep the comfort zone close:

-Invite to all the neighbouring countries of SAARC minus Pakistan and Afghanistan and IOR with good ties

-Special effort for Maldives President Muizzu, given the tensions of past months

-In Afghanistan and Myanmar, no recognition for Taliban or Military junta regimes

-Expect bilateral visits in the next few months- Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc

-Trouble zone of China and Pakistan will be on agenda, but different tacks with both

With China,

-An early détente over LAC situation will be key, possible meeting with Xi Jinping next month on sidelines of SCO

-After 2 years, China is back as India’s biggest trading partner

-Even so, Pres Xi Jinping did not greet PM Modi- it was Premier Li Qiang who sent a message

-Significant that Beijing hosted Pakistan PM Sharif last week, even as election results and swearing in was taking place in India, issued a joint statement including parts on Jammu Kashmir that MEA objected to

With Pakistan

-No early détente expected, although Pakistan FM has hinted at movement on trade

-Attack in Jammu on day of swearing in is part of growing violence in JK, will make any engagement with Pakistan difficult

3. Global Power Balance

-PM Modi is expected to continue the tightrope walk over the geopolitical rivalries between US and the West and Russia and Global South

-PM was in Italy for the G-7, as India was one of 12 countries invited to the outreach, meeting with western leaders including Biden, Sunak, Macron, Scholz, Meloni and Ukraine President Zelenskyy who was a special invitee

-Next month will be in Kazakhstan for the SCO summit- Putin, Xi, Sharif, Iran, Central Asian leaders expected Plans to host Quad Summit later this year, but also to travel to Russia for BRICS summit

-India will maintain its stance on Russia-Ukraine war

-New Delhi will keep focus on Global South issues- particularly on Food, Fuel, Fertilizer security

4. UN and multilateral forum leadership

-Keep up the push for UN reform

-In September India is expected to make a renewed pitch for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council- along with G-4 partners Brazil, Germany, Japan, they also advocate a seat for Africa

-Memberships for other groupings like NSG will be pursued

5. Trade agreements

-FTAs with UK, Australia, EU, GCC, Oman on the anvil

-FTA talks with Canada on hold

-Revision of FTAs with ASEAN etc required, given RCEP in place

-In the US a Trump government could restart FTA talks as well

So whats big on Modi’s travel agenda?

June- G7, Italy

July- SCO, Kazakhstan

September- UNGA, NY

October- ASEAN-India summit, Laos

October- BRICS summit, Russia

November- G20, Brazil

November/ December- Possible Quad Summit in India

Single Party vs Coalition: Wil Foreign Policy be impacted?

 -No major change expected due to coalition politics and pressures, which will be domestic

-However, a stronger opposition in Parliament will scrutinize all FP moves more, particularly on China

-In a third term, and with more domestic political commitments, PM Modi may travel less, leaving more responsibility with the EAM for travel

-Attracting investment will be key to bilateral ties, may be more evenly spread out, given coalition partners are from states.

WV Take:

While no major changes are expected on the foreign policy front, given the team in place for the new NDA government- there are certain indicators one can glean- In a third term, leaders often turn inwards towards domestic reforms and consolidation rather than new policies, and more reactive than proactive to international developments. Of particular concern is to ensure that intractable relations- whether with China, Pakistan, Canada, Turkey or the Maldives are not neglected, even as New Delhi shores up its ties with traditional friends.

 WV Reading Recommendations:

1. Nehru’s First Recruits: The Diplomats Who Built Independent India’s Foreign Policy by Kallol Bhattacherjee

2. India’s Trade Policy: The 1990s and Beyond by Arvind Panagariya, important read from his former columns after India’s Moment: Changing Power Equations around the World by Mohan Kumar

3. Biden And Beyond: The United States Rethinks South Asia, Edited by C Raja Mohan and Hernaikh Singh

4. Covert: The Psychology of War and Peace A.S. Dulat, Asif Durrani and Neil Aggarwal

5. Tyranny of the Minority: How to Reverse an Authoritarian Turn, and Forge a Democracy for All by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Script and Presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Gayatri Menon and Shibu Narayan

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