Posted By

Tags

Paradigm shift in Indian policy likely

When candidates run for high office in a democracy, off-cuff remarks made during interviews, especially on foreign policy, are often forgotten. But for political observers they provide a perspective of the strategic orientation expected if the candidate and his or her Party come to power.

Narendra Modi, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Prime Ministerial candidate in the general election that concluded on May 12 spoke of the need to accommodate Indo-Fijis in times of need.

His comments were made in passing during an interview with Time Now journalist Arnab Goswami on May 8. It was mentioned on a compassionate note, perhaps indicating the need for India to play a leading role in world affairs through the Indian Diaspora.

Results of the general election will be declared on May 16 but if the opinion polls conducted in India over the past several weeks are any indication, Mr Modi will be the next Prime Minister, heading a BJP-led alliance.

There is reason to believe that the new Government will make a paradigm shift in India’s policy towards countries with a large population of people of Indian origin; in our context, New Zealand, Australia and Fiji will enter the equation.

As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr Modi has presided over the impressive participation of Gujaratis in his home State through investments, joint ventures and other commercial interests. His Government may well tap into the enormous potential that exists with the substantial Gujarati population in these countries.

It could perhaps be said that New Zealand, Australia and the countries of the South Pacific form a far flank, the importance of which is yet to be realised. Many in India believe that the corridors of power in Delhi’s South Block are pre-occupied with Pakistan and China.

However, if India is to play a major role in international affairs, it is important that the new Government takes seriously the strategic and economic importance of the far flank countries rather than giving them a casual glance.

A pragmatic approach to the region might include India extending its development aid to Fiji and consider increased diplomatic presence in the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, to mention a few.

As Prime Minister, Mr Modi will do well to appoint a Special Representative to the South Pacific, coordinating efforts with the diplomatic missions established in the region. In order to ensure greater effectiveness, the appointment should be at a high level, with the incumbent reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mr Modi should also consider going to Fiji since there has been no visit by any Prime Minister of India since 1981. Possibilities of such a trip can be considered as a part of his visit to Australia to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit scheduled to be held in Brisbane on November 15 and 16, 2014.

Such a visit will also reinstate India’s growing importance as a global economic power and the country’s eagerness to enhance bilateral and multilateral economic and trade relations with Fiji and the South Pacific.

India’s High Commissions and consulates in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji have been doing commendable work in strengthening political, economic and commercial ties and promoting India as a favourable investment, education and tourism destination. The Government led by Mr Modi is expected to provide a fillip to these efforts and make India a more attractive business proposition.

There is also hope that a conservative, right-leaning Government (such as the one that Mr Modi would lead) will view the lacklustre progress in a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and New Zealand and adopt a more conciliatory approach.

Mr Modi will however find it difficult to negotiate a free-trade pact that would oblige India to grant tariff-free status to agricultural, dairy and meat exports from New Zealand, compromising its own farming sector. A viable balance should be found, taking the FTA talks forward.

India’s stand on nuclear technology, albeit for peaceful purposes, would also find resistance in New Zealand. BJP would not have forgotten the diplomatic winter that ensued India’s nuclear test held in May 1988 when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. It took almost ten years before the relations with New Zealand could thaw.

Although the John Key Government has not shown any interest in the BJP election manifesto, India’s insistence that it would continue its ‘No First Use Policy’ in relation to nuclear weapons, would certainly be a strong reaction when it comes to the crunch.

The talk in Delhi political circles is that India may conduct further nuclear tests in the coming years and that Mr Modi as the Prime Minister will not be averse to such exercises and may in fact approve enthusiastically. Apart from securing its self-defence in the wake of growing tension with Pakistan and China, India needs nuclear technology to tackle its serious power shortage. According to recent reports, peak power deficit rose by 4.2% as at the end of January 2014. The country currently generates 127,239 megawatts of electricity as against the estimated demand of 132,786 megawatts. Planning for power has always been a major challenge for Indian planners but the need for a long-term solution is being increasingly felt by the Federal and State Governments.

On the other hand, India under Mr Modi’s watch is likely to follow a muscular foreign and strategic policy, which would include reaching out to countries in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen their existing defence logistics.

In New Zealand’s case for example, a closer defence relations would mean India helping the New Zealand Armed Forces in getting better logistics and training for amphibious operations and augment counter-terrorism operations.

Balaji Chandramohan is our Delhi Correspondent. The views expressed by him in the above guest editorial are not necessarily those of Indian Newslink.

Share this story

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement