Sunday, May 21, 2017

India’s goal-oriented foreign policy unafraid to punch above its weight

Sandeep Unnithan/Ananth Krishnan[?],

uncaptioned (Swaraj) image image from article
Like the Indian PMs before him, Prime Minister Modi sets the tone for Indian diplomacy. But few predecessors have exhibited the kind of stamina Modi has by personally setting a scorching pace of global capital hopping as he outlines India's foreign policy priorities. ...
Prime Minister Modi's visit to Tel Aviv this July, the first ever by an Indian head of government since ties were established with Israel 25 years ago, will finally bring its close ties with the Jewish state out of the closet. It will make India one of a handful of large countries to have excellent relations with three civilisational adversaries in the Middle East-Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel.   
Modi is ably aided by vice-captain Sushma Swaraj, who arguably runs the biggest public diplomacy drive by any world foreign minister and is not averse to going the extra mile. Last year, she asked the naval spokesperson to steer the closest Indian warship towards a citizen in distress in the Gulf of Aden. A metaphor for her government's new reimagined goal-oriented diplomacy.  
The past year has been a testing one for Swaraj's ministry. The Modi government's third year offered a reality check to the giddy start, where even relations with Pakistan and China seemed to hold limitless possibilities. That said, Swaraj, like her predecessors, hasn't had a prominent role to play in crafting foreign policy as PM Modi, like his predecessors, directly calls the shots on foreign policy, drawing on the Prime Minister's Office and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, as well as Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. Yet Swaraj hasn't been content to merely sit on the sidelines. She has carved a unique public diplomacy role for herself and burnished her reputation as a citizens' minister. From coming to the aid of tens of thousands of Indian workers laid off in Saudi Arabia to saving a couple's honeymoon to Europe at the last minute, no cry for help from the Indian citizen has been seen as too small for the external affairs minister. She has also made a mark on the world stage, giving a stirring speech in September at the UN General Assembly that summed up Pakistan's misdemeanours. Pointing out that Modi had twice offered the hand of friendship to Nawaz Sharif, Swaraj asked, "What did we get in return? Pathankot, Bahadur Ali and Uri."

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