, Volume 93, Number 1

Kanti Bajpai
Does Narendra Modi bring anything substantively new to Indian foreign policy? This article assesses Modi’s record towards Pakistan and China, arguing that he has significantly changed the course of India’s diplomacy, at two levels—bilateral diplomacy and coalition diplomacy. India has traditionally followed a policy of slow-to-anger, prudential bilateral diplomacy and, in the name of non-alignment, reluctant coalition-building against both powers. Under Modi, New Delhi has adopted a more assertive stance bilaterally and has actively sought to recruit third parties into a diplomatic coalition against Pakistan and China. Modi’s assertive bilateralism has translated into an insistence that anti-terrorism is the only subject of discussion and that the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan is off the table. In the case of Beijing, assertive bilateralism has meant reversing India’s traditional stance of normalization of relations leading to a border settlement by arguing that quicker progress on a settlement must be the condition for any further diplomatic normalization. Modi’s coalition diplomacy has entailed an active engagement with the US, the Gulf countries and even China against Pakistan, and with the US, Australia, Japan, Vietnam and the Indian Ocean states against China. The objective is not alliance-building but rather the application of diplomatic pressures against India’s two rivals. Modi’s diplomacy has been marked by a cooperation– defection cycle with both powers, signalling a willingness to cooperate on India’s terms and defect when it does not get its way. Not surprisingly, relations with both Pakistan and China have come under considerable strain.

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Narendra Modi’s Pakistan and China policy: assertive bilateral diplomacy, active coalition diplomacy
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