PM Modi completes stunning debut year in international affairs; recasts India’s image on the world stage

On May 16 this year, prime minister Narendra Modi will remember and savour the first anniversary of his spectacular triumph in the 2014 general elections.

But instead of celebrating that red-letter day in India with his associates in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he would be halfway through yet another high-profile foreign tour to China, South Korea and Mongolia.

Just as he took over India’s reins with an external affairs bang by getting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries’ heads of state to attend his swearing-in ceremony, the jet-setting Modi is concluding one year in power with a few more foreign policy feathers in his cap.

Having travelled to a whopping 18 countries over the last 12 months, he has set a record as a roving prime minister who prioritises international engagement through ever multiplying personal footfalls. In his folksy words, “We are hardcore Ahmedabadis [reference to his hometown in the state of Gujarat]. We believe in single fare, double journey.”

By deploying the full political will of the nation’s highest office at the service of India’s interests abroad, Modi has done justice to what the BJP labels as one of the five pillars of its foreign strategy — Samvaad — or a diplomacy of continuous, frequent and sustained interactions with the world. In the rare few months when Modi was not boarding and descending Air India One planes, he was embracing US president Barack Obamafor camera flashlights or swaying Chinese president Xi Jinping on a traditional swing.

Endowed with quintessential Gujarati streaks of entrepreneurship and an outgoing personality, Modi has reveled in international settings and reified the slogan of ‘bringing the world to India and taking India to the world’. For foreign policy aficionados, he has been a dream prime minister who is constantly, consistently and innovatively global in vision and action. Enjoying an absolute majority in Parliament and free from the pressure of any opposition party worth its salt at home, he has been able to devote much time and energy to strengthening India’s position overseas than any Indian prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru.

Modi’s impact is not limited to increased attentiveness to external affairs. He has also tried to reimagine and present India as a country on the march to great power status in the hierarchy of nations. True to the BJP’s other foreign policy pillar — Sammaan — or national dignity and honour, he has carried on his shoulders the burning ambition of Indians who crave for global recognition and prestige.

British journalist Lance Price’s new book, The Modi Effect, cites the prime minister expressing pride in “communicating what we can do for the world, which is so different [from the past] when our leaders have communicated what India wants”. Modi’s stirring speeches before foreign and domestic audiences about India being a vishwa guru or teacher of the world are expressions of his realisation that the time has come for India to give and lead, rather than take and follow.

On other occasions, he has issued realistic caveats that “the whole world is looking at India with great expectations but we are not ready”. By psychologically prepping the nation to assay a bigger role as an international problem solver and a ‘net provider’ of security and prosperity, he has recast India’s image from a self-absorbed and domestically preoccupied country into a force for good on a planetary scale.

That Modi’s rebranding of India is echoing is apparent from the accolades pouring in from influential foreign quarters. Obama’s tribute to him in Time magazine as a symbol of “the dynamism and potential of India’s rise”, and a Chinese government-backed publishing house’s naming him as “the highest ranked global leader in handling domestic and international affairs”, speak volumes. The sleek public relations offensives for which Modi is famed

have put India on the world map as a happening and upcoming country, especially in economic terms. In his first year, Modi has aced what the BJP terms as a key pillar of its foreign policy — Samriddhi — or shared economic prosperity. The Economist has argued that “amid the disappointment” and gloom enveloping China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, “one big emerging market stands out: India”.

Modi’s vigorous pursuit of foreign direct investment (FDI) during his foreign jaunts and the sizeable inward financial commitments he has secured from Japan, China, the US, Canada, Australia and Germany have reversed the investor alienation that had plagued India.

Set an Aggressive Target Foreign inflows from April 2014 to January 2015 have risen by 36% compared to the corresponding period in the previous fiscal year.

Source: Economic Times


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