By Ranjana Narayan, New Delhi, May 17 IANS | 3 months ago

As India makes way for a new BJP-led government, with the elections keenly followed by major world powers, foreign policy experts say the regime change is a signal to the world "that the world's largest democracy is alive and kicking" and that the thumping majority gives "Prime Minister Modi" the mandate to rework and repair relations.


Former envoy Hardeep Singh Puri, who joined the BJP earlier this year, said the overwhelming mandate "gives Mr. Modi the mandate required to repair the relationships in the neighbourhood and rework other critically important relationships like those with the US and China."

"Prime Minister Modi will have the flexibility and space to pursue India's interests and ensure that India can contribute to global peace and security in a manner commensurate with India's size and potential," Puri, who served as India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and is likely to play a foreign policy role in the new government, told IANS.

According to former envoy G. Parthasarathy, the poll result "sends a signal to the world that the world's largest democracy is alive and kicking."

He said the "success or otherwise of foreign policy will depend on how our economy surges ahead... Automatically, foreign policy will be in order when it becomes clear to the world that India is set to grow and welcomes foreign investment and collaboration."

The former envoy to Pakistan and Myanmar said that "most foreign investors have lost confidence (in India) ".

He said "because of mismanagement of the economy, defence spending has fallen to a record low; this has affected our national security adversely", which, he added, needs to be addressed.

He said India has problems in the neighbourhood which "have to be imaginatively addressed". Parthasarathy said despite the BJP winning a simple majority on its own, in a federal set-up in dealing with Sri Lanka the government will have to have consultations with Tamil Nadu.. With Bangladesh, the views of West Bengal and Tripura" will have to be taken into account.

Well-known strategic analyst C. Uday Bhaskar told IANS that "One area where the BJP will have more freedom is in relation to the immediate neighborhood, where in the past some state governments and dominant regional parties hobbled the centre. Tamil Nadu in relation to Sri Lanka and West Bengal apropos Bangladesh are a case in point. With Pakistan, the Modi line is that he will not be a prisoner of the past but the terrorism issue will have to be addressed.

"As regards the other elements of India's foreign policies - whether China or the USA, a much more visible political context and content is on the cards. But as always, national economic resilience and the strength of the Indian rupee will be the bedrock of the credibility of Delhi's external policies," Bhaskar, a distinguished fellow with the Society for Policy Studies, stated.

Prominent foreign policy expert C. Raja Mohan says Modi's emphasis on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foreign policy legacy is politically significant. "It has offered much-needed reassurance all around that India will not abandon its traditional nuclear restraint, continue to seek peace with neighbours and promote regional prosperity through economic integration of the subcontinent."
Former envoy Pavan K. Varma, who is an adviser to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, said it is "too early to say", adding "foreign policy is a complex issue, it needs to be run on a planned framework and not on the basis of sentiment or emotion or jingoism."

The Bharatiya Janata Party in its election manifesto had pledged to "revise and update" India's nuclear doctrine. It had observed that the strategic gains acquired by the party-led National Democratic Alliance regime were "frittered away" by the Congress, and said its government would stress on "mending equations" and ties with neighbours.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

(Posted on 17-05-2014)