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Challenges for Modi

With the change of Indian leadership after a decade, the international community is closely observing the strategic orientation of the new government. Congratulatory messages are flowing to the new Prime Minister from all corners of the world, seeking stronger economic and strategic ties but the strategic calculus of the world will depend much on the new Indian government’s acumen in delicate handling of its policy towards declining super power US or Russia which is trying to reassert its cold war predominance or towards a rising China which wants to extend its suzerainty in its surrounding areas.

Concerns have been expressed in strategic circles over the possible reopening of India’s no-first use nuclear doctrine and its implications over the regional nuclear security. With India emerging as an economic heavy weight and a leading consumer of luxury goods, the developed world wants to find a foothold in Indian market and has been wooing India with its financial muscle and offering its strategic weight behind India.

The Manmohan Government though tried to maintain a balance and remained non committal on its stand on bilateral disputes between various powers; the new Indian government cannot afford to stay neutral for long on most of the issues like the Sino-Japanese disputes, the Rebalancing Asia policy of the US or the Russia-Europe confrontation.

Since the days of the nonalignment are over, the country cannot afford to adopt a neutral stand on most of the international disputes. But India can influence the strategic calculus of the world only if the new government utilizes the opportunities that have come its way.  Changing strategic calculus cannot be unidirectional. Since only strength respects strength, India will have to make itself more stable and powerful from within.

Vibrant economy

In fact, much of the world’s attitudes towards India will also depend on how much political and economic stability the country can provide and its long term outlook.  Only a socially stable and economically vibrant India can provide strategic magnet to its international profile and makes a strong case for the developed world to make special efforts to deepen relations with India.  

The entire strategic dynamics for India will change once it makes its infrastructure, manufacturing and nuclear energy production policy more comfortable for international investors. The international investors in these fields will flock to India in hordes which will encourage the developed world to have cozy relations in strategic arena also. The new government on the strength of its new liberalized trade and investment regimes accompanied by a hassle free entrance in Indian market will make its voice heard in international strategic arena.

The leaders of the new government, though still grappling with issues related to international relations, will not be able to deviate much from its previous regimes views on bilateral, regional and international relations. For example India cannot afford to antagonize Russia in its tussle with the European Union and the US, while at the same time cannot distance from its new strategic partners US with which India has been claiming a shared strategic interest.

This means clearly that India would support US strategic moves to contain China, while not appearing to do so publicly. The decision to continue with the trilateral dialogues and maritime exercises with US and Japan would show that India would better engage with the US led West to dissuade China from putting strategic pressures on India with which the boundary and territorial disputes continue to ensure trust deficit. India also does not like China aligning with Pakistan through which China puts strategic pressures on India by supplying nuclear and missile technology and equipments.

The new Indian leadership will find many major powers trying to court India and bring the country in its fold. The Chinese President Xi Jinping has already conveyed his desire to make India his first overseas bilateral summit meeting with the new Indian Prime Minister and the US would not be far behind and would not like to lose the opportunity to invite the new Indian Prime Minister to White House, though the US side should reciprocate the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s November 2013 visit to Washington. It all depends on the new governments’ pronouncements on international relations and its leanings towards a particular bloc and its likely emergence as a magnet for international investments.  

Promoting India’s interest

In fact the new government will have to deal with many international issues immediately after its assuming power and will have to speak loud enough on international forums like the forthcoming G-20 summit, the East Asia summit, the BRICS summit etc to mark its arrival on world scene.  

Whether the new Prime Minister will be able to handle the international relations deftly will depend on the strategic acumen of the new National Security Advisor and his clever tutoring of the new Prime Minister on international diplomacy. Management of international strategic relations has become too complex an area for a political leader who is little acquainted with world power game to cleverly play his cards. The new Prime Minister will have to extract time from his busy domestic politics to engage with the International leaders to promote India’s economic and strategic interests in the international arena.

If the new prime minister is able to create an atmosphere of amity in its neighborhood through his political management, he will be able to attract the attention of world leaders which would further add strategic weight to India. The international investor wants an India which has a peaceful and friendly neighbor, as this would make the investment environment much comfortable for them. Wanting to make India as their production hub the international companies would lobby with the governments to develop strong ties with the Indian leadership. For this to achieve the Indian government will have to remove all bottlenecks in the fast development of infrastructure and manufacturing sector.   

At a time, when China is staring at India’s face with its close economic and strategic bonds with India’s neighbors, the new Indian government will have to accept the challenge of balancing China’s economic and strategic influence in the region. Only when India has good and mutually dependent relations with neighbors, the international community will recognize India’s clout in the region.

Relations with Pakistan can only improve if Pakistan is made to believe that continued maintenance of animosity towards India is only harming its own countrymen and the country remains an economic pariah for the international community. Only India’s trade presence in Pakistan will provide economic credibility to terror infested Pakistan and India will also gain by telling the world that India can be an investment destination which can cater to the industry and consumer needs of entire South Asia.  

The international community especially US would like India to provide a level playing field for its nuclear energy companies, as the Manmohan Singh government was restrained by domestic political pressures to provide a competitive environment to the US nuclear companies.

An economically sound India will enable its policy makers to arrange for more funds for its military preparedness which will dissuade the rival countries to challenge India’s sovereignty, integrity and unity.  India is at a take off stage from where the new leaders will find a very enabling atmosphere provided the government is able to maintain economic, political and social stability in the country.

These factors will add more flesh and bones to the economic and strategic muscle of the country which will impact the mindsets of the world powers towards India and result in changing the strategic calculus of the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific region.