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