Diplomacy is an art and the leaders who handle it well are remembered for a longer time to come in the future. It may be challenging to practice, but it is not a rocket science to understand. Statements such as these might trump the importance associated on this domain and skills that are required for a leader to steer a country towards a particular course, but they may not be entirely incorrect. As far as the discourse of India’s foreign policy directions are concerned the first Prime Minister of India Mr. Nehru’s role is apparently unmissable. It may not be unreasonable to say that after Nehru, if there is a leader who has generated a greater interest and debate on India’s foreign policy directions it is Prime Minister Modi.
The moot point is not how PM. Modi managed or manages super powers on a daily basis but what he is trying to do regionally ie., with the states in south asia. The very first signal was loud and clear when he invited all leaders of SAARC nations for his swearing-in ceremony.
The fundamental prerequisite to run a country is that the one who leads should have clean intentions and a little amount of creativity & imagination. If a government that is embroiled with scams and other controversies, it would have no time to spend its energies in addressing its external relations with other countries, which was the case with 10 years of UPA regime.
What PM Modi is trying to do could be as simple as a metaphor I am about to explain.Let’s say we live in a house in a particular colony and are surrounded by many neighbours with whom our relations are not great then no matter how robust our relations are with people who are 10 blocks away from our colony or house, we cannot live at peace at our homes. No peace means perpetual turbulence. Like wise if we don’t build strong relationships with the countries with in South Asia then it is of no use in trying to build greater ties with far off nations, they may be super powers, but it hardly matters. US has been a greater ally of Pakistan since its birth, but that has never helped Pakistan to achieve peace and stability with in its territory, not to mention its turbulent relations with other countries in the region.
If there is one major difference we could pickup between Nehru and Modi, it is the focus of their energies.Nehru has extensively used his political capital in handling super powers and China with greater indifference to immediate neighbourhood, relatively speaking. Nehru has taken other countries in South Asia for granted not to mention his approach towards the third world countries. For example when your neighbourhood is burning you would not go for a lecture tour in middle east and Islamic Maghreb unless such overtures can produce immediate and tangible results at the very least.
If one has to strictly go by the results produced, then what ever minimum benefits resulted by Nehru’s diplomacy they were nullified by Chinese aggression on India in 1962 and the US abandonment of India on certain important issues at a global scale.
Modi’s focus is to re-integrate South Asian region. After all it was a single geographical entity for all the known history, the division of this territory based on westphalian design caused a greater harm than any benefit, may be that was to suit the ambitions of colonial rulers. The greater tragedy was that no genuine leadership was exhibited by most of leaders of this sub-continent to unite this land as one entity, instead they chose to carve out different nation states that triggered a bitter regional rivalry. Being a de-facto regional power, it is the responsibility of India to promote good will among the countries in South Asia.
The current leg of PM Modi’s visit to the countries in Indian Ocean is an important step in that direction, ie., towards the re-integration of South Asia, though few experts would like to call it as an Indian ocean strategy, which is also relevant. Only when people move across the borders freely and mechanisms are established to integrate regional economies there will be prosperity in the region which is a pre-cursor for peace and stability. Most of the times it has to do with the socialization process which the leaders of respective countries have undergone in the past as they would set the tone of foreign policy of a particular country. In that sense Nehru’s Communist tentancies and Modi’s Nationalistic tendencies are examples to be studied and understood with out being prejudiced towards any one ideology.
The fact that in the last ten years our regional diplomacy has been in a deep Somber is matter of great worry and the current Indian Govt. has much ground to cover. From 2008 terrorist attacks to the parking of Chinese warship in Srilanka’s port all point to failures and misdirections of Indian foreign policy in the 10 years of UPA regime. It is another fact that PM Modi stresses on similarities on culture and other aspects to drive home his point which is impressive and creative. And saying things that he genuinly feels for is much needed which he does at ease. Being honest in diplomacy is a rare virtue which Modi can use it with out any consequences in this region.
The message is clear. If you want to live peacefully in your home, it is essential that you improve your relations with your neighbours through mutual respect and trust.
Also Published in Niticentral Portal – http://www.niticentral.com/2015/03/14/understanding-narendra-modis-regional-diplomacy-306744.html