The Modi Years – Changing World View

Non alignment, the policy of not being aligned with any single particular power in the international geo-politics, has been at the centre of foreign policy making in the nation of Bharat. The first Prime Minister of Bharat Jawaharlal Nehru decided to shape independent Bharat’s foreign relations and international proceedings on the principles of non alignment, predominantly non alignment to any of that era’s superpowers – United States of America and Soviet Union.

Ever since Nehru structured and institutionalised non alignment, every proceeding governments followed on those principles even after the end of Cold War era. When Soviet Union (USSR) collapsed in 1991, it’s military, geographic, demographic and economic strength was divided and as a result United States was left as the sole superpower of the world.

While in theory our government’s never polarised itself towards any of the superpower, in reality it did. Bharat under Nehru decided to follow and implement the soviet socialist model of governance and economy, therefore naturally aligning Bharat more with the USSR, in sharp contrast to the theoretical non alignment. Alignment with any major world power or subscription to idea of any major world power has its own advantages and disadvantages. It’s how you nurture the advantages and hinder the disadvantages that decide how you performed on the foreign policy front.

Unpopular opinion, as it may be, is that Bharat did not do well on that front. It nurtured less advantages and more disadvantages in its quest for theoretical non alignment and practical soviet alignment. The fact that Pakistan used to garner more vocal and physical support than us in our conflicts, speaks volumes about our previous foreign policy. Except for Russia (formerly USSR) and Israel no other major nation stood by us in our conflicts with rogue terror state Pakistan, despite we being one of the most peaceful and responsible power. We utterly failed to build reliable ally in the West, in the Middle eastern world and in China for well over 6 decades prior to independence.

Narendra Modi has been successful in changing this Bharatiya world view and world view towards Bharat through its brilliant handling of foreign policy. Narendra Modi government has replaced the older non alignment policy with the modern all alignment policy. This government has actively worked on to improve our ties with almost every single major world power and has turned the tide in Bharat’s favour.

Modi has time and time again emphasised on the ancient values and principles of Bharat regarding the world society such as Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam at the same time has also highlighted the future ambitions of Bharat. We were successful in making the world understand the dangers of terrorism and climate change and have emerged as a potential global leader in fight against both. Carrying forward the agenda of development, Modi has been successful in gathering international attention towards Bharat’s economic potentials.

With drastic changes in Bharat’s international geo-political approach, here’s how this government has handled the foreign policy in its first five year term.

Strategic Alignment

The dilapidated policy of non alignment was dragging Bharat’s potential of global leadership. We were always in mode of balancing the situation rather than controlling it in our interests. Modi enhanced the way we used to approach towards such conflicts of thoughts. Modi has redefined strategic autonomy and global leadership as an objective attainable through short term alignments and long term partnerships.

As Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale asserted earlier this year in Delhi that “Bharat has moved on from its non-aligned past. Bharat is today an aligned state — but based on issues.” Modi has lead the policy making to “to help Bharat position itself in a leading role, rather than [as] just a balancing force, globally.” This perfectly sums up the approach adopted by Modi in his first term.

Emphasising that Bharat will take a leading role in the rule-making process, rather just following the rules as in previous times, Gokhale said “In the rules-based order, Bharat would have a stronger position in multilateral institutions.”

While still many intellectuals and bureaucrats espouses somewhat non assertive role of Bharat in global diplomacy, Modi has chosen the assertive policy making approach. Bharat has improved its strategic and military ties with US, sometimes at the cost of Russia but in the interest of Bharat. Modi has made accessing America’s capital and technology easy for the domestic enhancement and development. Under his tenure, Bharat signed the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US in 2016 to facilitate logistical support, supplies and services between the US and Bharatiya militaries on a reimbursable basis.

In 2018, Bharat signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement to aid access advanced defence systems and enable Bharat to optimally utilise its existing US-origin platforms. Modi has taken relations with US to new heights primarily on the basis of military cooperation and defence dealings. Bharat bought Apache and Chinook helicopters, made Boeing and Lockheed Martin part of huge MMRCA deal, bought UAVs and had signalled for partnership with US and US allies Japan and Australia to build a third front against China called the Quad. Modi emphasised the potential and strategic significance Bharat holds for the United States, while they try to tackle the China.

We have purposefully deteriorated our relationship with Russia from strategic alignment to predominantly military cooperation on Bharat’s terms. Modi has handled Russia in a cognitive way, Bharat needed Russia for its defence interests as more than half of our weapons are Russian or formerly Soviet in origin and hence Modi has maintained strong defence ties with Russia but he did not allow Russia to become hindrance in Bharat’s way forward.

Russia was not given position to actively control Bharat’s approach towards West and particularly America. Steps towards acquiring S-400 air defence system, plan for upgrading Su-30s, joint manufacturing of BrahMos 2nd and 3rd versions, AK-203 manufacturing and partnership in submarine inquisitions has helped maintain military ties with Moscow. While partnering with Washington on strategic fronts, not connected with Moscow, has aided Bharat in keeping Russia at bay.

Calling Pakistan’s Bluff

Modi’s strong hand response to terror proxy war waged by Pakistan in the shape of Uri surgical and Balakot air strikes, has in all consciousness, has called on the bluff of Pakistan. Modi’s strong response to terror attacks has made it unambiguous that he has changed the fundamentals of Bharat’s security and foreign policy.

The use of air power to target terror safe havens deep inside the territory of Pakistan after the Pulwama tragedy earlier this year was first use of Air Force after 1971 war. This made it pellucid to even his critics, that he was not going to go offhand on terrorism.

Modi has cemented Bharat’s long standing view over terrorism in the international community, thereby increasing Bharat’s global virtue as a responsible and strong military power, while at the same time calling out Pakistan’s nuclear capability bluff in front of the world. Bharat has opened gates for limited conventional war with Pakistan over terrorism, which has given weight to Bharat’s dialogue with other states regarding terrorism. Now, speaking at UN our foreign minister or MEA officials will have the confidence and backing of these strikes.

Bharat by defining the strikes as ‘non military preemptive strikes’ has artfully thrown Pakistan into a labyrinthine situation and has garnered international support. Bharat has also encircled Pakistan in the economic world. With great assertive force and strategic partners’ assistance, Bharat has successfully put Pakistan into FATF’s grey list, thereby hurting the terror state’s economic interests.

Winning the Middle-East

Modi has been a standout leader as far as dealing with the Middle East is concerned. With new strategic approach and balanced equations, Modi has successfully won the desert states of Middle East. Unlike precursory governments, this government portrayed itself as a potential world power and a exceedingly growing large economy, thereby attracting almost every middle eastern states support. Modi has also prudently utilised the socio-cultural bonds of Bharat with the Arabic, Persian and Jewish state.

Saudi Arabia and Bharat has seen deepening cooperative ties over these years. Despite, Bharat’s stand on Iran (Saudi Arabia’s de facto adversary), relationships with Riyadh has been profound. Bharat has also deepened its economic and strategic ties with the state of Iran.

Construction of Chabahar port in the geopolitically significant Iranian city of Chabahar by Bharat is testimony to the improved ties with Iran. Although, economic partnership is getting grossly affected due to US sanctions on purchase of Iranian, relationship with Tehran are still profound and steps by Modi government in the direction are laudable.

United Arab Emirates has always been Bharat’s significant strategic partner and during these past 5 years, the ties with tiny Arab state has galloped to new heights. UAE-Bharat relationship reached new dimension when UAE started construction of a Vaishnav temple in Abu Dhabi and conferred it’s highest civilian award to PM Modi. Bharat as magnificently utilised it’s soft power in the Middle East.

Balancing China

China, world’s second largest economy and third largest military power, has been on a run of increasing its influence in Bharat’s neighbourhood through its brilliant strategic initiative termed BRI. It was increasing its presence in Bharat’s immediate neighbourhood using its gigantic economic power. China was also enhancing and reassuring its support to rogue terror state of Pakistan.

BRI’s flagship CPEC project running through PoK coupled with China’s encircling of Bharat was seen by Bharat as an attempt by the dragon to hurt our national, strategic and economic interests. Doklam stand-off added fuel to the fire and became the personification of deteriorating Sino-Bharat relations.  

Modi has adopted a extremely calculated approach towards Beijing. By standing firm and strong in Doklam stand-off, New Delhi showed that we won’t fall to any Chinese trap and any attempt to hurt Bharat’s national interests will be dealt with strong force. Bharat has also increased its strategic partnership with Chinese neighbourhood and controlled China through active cooperation with the Quad.

Bharat has used its soft and hard power in Sri Lanka and Maldives to ward off increasing Chinese influence. Bharat has brilliantly handled the dragon through Wuhan summit and loads of meetings between both countries’ officials. Although there is still need for much more and scope for greater cooperation with China. We need better planned and calculated approach towards China.

To sum up, Narendra Modi led NDA government has arduously enhanced Bharat’s global partnership. This government has conscientiously changed the non alignment approach into strategic short term alignment approach. Modi, through utilising Bharat’s profound socio-cultural ancient wisdom has redefined the way world used to see us.

Enhanced soft power approach such as International Yoga Day and Ayurveda, has created a new room for cooperation for Bharat in global world. Leading the way forward in fight against terrorism and climate change has established Bharat as a potential global power. Modi has been successful in changing the worldview.


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About the Author

Yogendra Thakur
A student and two time state topper in Astrophysics and Art of Lecturing. Primary focus areas are Indology and Economics.