India began its period of political transition when Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 25, 2014. With him at the helm and his political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, now in power, they have created the first non-coalition government in India’s history. They have also replaced a government that has been leading India since 1977.Tanvi Madan, fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution, and director of the new India Project discusses Prime Minister Modi’s possible developments in India’s future diplomatic engagements.
As Modi’s track record is focused on economic progress, people expect that India’s foreign relationships will take on more economic significance in the future. Though he has been forward with these intended economic and trade reforms, Modi has not discussed how these changes will affect diplomatic ties. Madan presents China, the United States, and Pakistan as countries to watch regarding their relationships with India.
China will definitely be a key player in foreign policy with India. Optimism is flowing about business prospects, and investment opportunities there may be crucial to India’s relationship with them. Though China has seemed open to Modi as Prime Minister, India’s relations with Southeast Asian countries and Indian nationalism might prove more difficult for China to reconcile with. In addition, Modi may have to balance the desire for business trade with a firm stance on territorial disputes with them.
The author discusses two possibilities of Modi’s engagement with the United States. The lack of legitimate meetings between the US and the Indian government in recent years may encourage Modi to create distance between the two countries. On the other hand, lasting economic ties between them may perpetuate their relationship as it is.
Another country to watch is India’s neighbor, Pakistan. The author describes their relationship as a “wild card.” Prime Minister Modi may have talks with the Pakistani government to discuss economic interactions, but this is unlikely if Pakistan fails to curb terrorist attacks on India’s soil. If there are attacks soon after Modi’s election, it could lead to a lack of cooperation between the two countries altogether.
Throughout his promises to improve India’s economic state and to crack down on corruption, Modi has created an image of a brighter future for India. This new outlook affects India’s position in foreign policy and extends to its business relations overseas.