, Volume 93, Number 1

Rajesh Basrur

The advent of Narendra Modi as prime minister has produced considerable debate about the direction that Indian foreign policy might take under his stewardship, writes Rajesh Basrur. Through a consideration of the influence of Hindu nationalist ideology, the execution of a traditional balance of power approach, and the pursuit of an increased global status, this article shows that there is no substantive change in the trajectory of Indian foreign policy and rising India's future direction is likely to remain both predictable and moderate.

The advent of Narendra Modi as prime minister has produced considerable debate about the direction that Indian foreign policy might take under his stewardship. While there are diverse ways in which one might assess Modi’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the major powers, three overarching questions are of central importance. First, given his reputation as a staunch Hindu nationalist, to what extent do his ideological leanings influence Modi’s foreign policy, especially with respect to the use of national power? Second, how is Indian policy towards the major powers designed? Are there signs of a classic balance of power approach drawing it towards the US and Japan, and against China? Finally, how is Indian foreign policy configured towards the objective of attaining higher status in the states system? Above all, is Modi significantly different from his predecessors? It is shown that there is no significant shift in the use of power arising from the ‘Hindu’ content in Modi’s foreign policy; that his approach to the major powers reflects continuity (with some variations) by way of a focus on strategic partnerships; and that the quest for status is in line with the strategy pursued by previous prime ministers. In sum, there is no substantive change in the trajectory of Indian foreign policy and rising India’s future direction is likely to remain both predictable and moderate.

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