Stéphanie Heng, visiting fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, India. scmp.com
Modi image from
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in May 2014.
Two years later, one can easily see that while several areas of his domestic performance have been criticised in India – for example, impressive annual gross domestic product growth of around 7.5 per cent but no job creation and no real delivery on the economic front – his foreign policy initiatives have enabled the strengthening of ties between India and other countries as well as the improvement of India’s global profile.
Modi essentially came to power with a mandate to implement certain domestic reforms.
His political mandate to foster economic growth has become a tool to reach out to the international community and, simultaneously, to reshape India’s image. His interactions with political leaders from other countries have generally increased global interest in India and gained favourable comment in the foreign press.
He has raised India’s attractiveness to the outside world, projected the country as a rising power and restored investor confidence. According to figures published in the media, Modi’s visits to 12 countries in 2014-2015 yielded US$20 billion in foreign direct investment.
The Indian diaspora has become a constituency for his economic agenda. No Indian leader before Modi has engaged with the diaspora to the extent he has. By creating a direct link to India’s diaspora, Modi has used social media platforms to send out messages about key initiatives to influential targets in the audience.
Public diplomacy through social media has become a foreign policy tool and an efficient means to support India’s development plans.
Modi has also organised massive events for India’s diaspora that have attracted many attendees. His key messages when addressing Indians abroad (in the US, the UK, Australia and elsewhere) have focused on changing the face of India.
Two years is a rather brief time to fully assess the results of Modi’s strategy.
Moreover, diplomacy has to go beyond all of this. For the moment, Modi still looks determined to take all necessary steps to transform and project a new India. But there is a lot to do in terms of domestic reforms to enable an environment conducive to foreign investment and a positive image of a leading, responsive – socially, politically and economically – and truly emerging nation.