Foreign Policies in mature democracies, as a matter of fact, must embody elements of continuity and change, to be seen as constructive and responsible processes of conduct, at advancing dynamic yet continuing National Interest. And so, if Prime Minister Modi's opening term, was a bold, imaginative foray into seminal shifts and substantive departures from staid stereotyped diplomacy, then the strategic calculus of Modi 2.0, would plausibly constitute a consolidation and crystallization of the strategic dimensions, so delineated.
Modi 1.0 was willing to commence with a conventionally understood epistemology of Indian neighbourhood, which implied concentric contiguity. However, realising the persisting fallacy of flogging the SAARC dead-horse, it choose to be nifty and supple, in re-imagining and crafting a new definition of its neighbourhood, anchored in its Eastern vector and across its maritime expanse. With Modi's invitation to BIMSTEC grouping leaders this time around in contrast to SAARC leaders the last time, and through his initial sojourns to Indian Ocean nations of Maldives and Sri Lanka, in contrast to Bhutan and Nepal during his first term, his focus and emphasis is apparent, for his second term. And its not difficult to see the reasons why. Revitalising interaction and interchange within the BIMSTEC Community is key to irreversibly deepening New Delhi's Act-East policy schema. Similarly, putting a premium on effective cooperation and tangible capacity building of IO states, who remain the cross-hairs of predatory Chinese strategic footprint, is critical to India recouping its ceded strategic space, if not winning back primacy for itself. On both these dimensions, Modi 2.0 will be sobering and pragmatic in hand-holding with peer powers with aligned strategic objectives, helping to consummate its goal of competing with Beijing and its Indian Ocean ingress, through an alternative paradigm.
The India-US relationship remains pivotal to the former, as it is seen as the most epochal external catalyst to helping India fructify its comprehensive national development and achieve its ambitions in terms of regional position and global sweepstakes. Yet, affinities with Washington exert their own strains on constraining India's operation of sovereign autonomy in adopting strategic choices, from throttling Iran to containing China. This since Modi has internalised the need to maintain stability and productivity in exchanges with Beijing, where the relationship has been roller- coaster from the bonhomie of 2014-15 to the military standoff in Doklam in 2017. As two rising powers in each other's contiguity with overlapping strategic interests and spheres of influences on each other's periphery, ensuring constructive momentum is imperative, which would be Modi's priority, notwithstanding US pressures.
Relations with Russia carry a similar vein, defined by inveterate defence cooperation, but also developing into newer areas of collaborative development of technologies, exploration of the Russian Far-East, and convergences in India's near abroad, from Afghanistan to Iran. Modi 2.0 can be seen to engage deeply with the US deep state of government, to ensure that notwithstanding the vexing travails with Trump over trade and H1B differences, that New Delhi can maintain stable but balanced engagements with each of Washington, Beijing and Moscow.
Two other sub-region neighbourhoods, key to New Delhi's strategic positioning as also its economic transformation, remain West Asia and the Persian Gulf and Central Asia outreaching to the Eurasian swathe. Modi 2.0 would continue to disabuse notions that India cannot manage angularities in the juxtaposing Middle East, by crafting and sustaining mutually beneficent relationships with a Jewish Israel, a Sunni Saudi led GCC and a Shiite Iran, in the same breadth. As for Central Asia, India's own strategic objectives for multimodal connectivity avenues, energy sourcing and foraging for markets for its wares, is blended by the CARs own desire to see progressive Indian incorporation into the sub-region and Moscow's own subtle intentions to integrate India within its own Eurasian initiatives. No wonder then, that Modi 2.0 would predicate its Central Asia outreach, both within SCO and beyond, on the newly coined acronym of 'HEALTH' approach, enunciated by Modi at the recently concluded SCO Summit. Quite clearly, the Modi government, keen to elevate India to a five trillion dollar GDP come 2024, and a ten trillion dollar economic space come 2032, needs to conjoin India's domestic transformation with international economic relationships and to leverage this linkage for better strategic positioning of the world's largest democracy and one of premier emerging economies, on regional forums and across the firmament of global architecture, through becoming an active participant and trenchant actor, than its hitherto disposition as a passive observer, ever desirous of status quo than change.
After 17 years PM Modi visited Nepal 4 times as the Head of Government (HOG), which communicates India’s pledge and sincerity for enhancing respectable and cordial relationship with Nepal. Modi visited all the nations in the neighborhood except Maldives during his first tenure. Present in the first swearing in ceremony of Modi in 2014 were the HOG of South Asian Association for regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations in the immediate neighborhood while the second tenure beholds Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) HOGs, Chair of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) President of Kyrgyz Republic representing Central Asia and PM of Mauritius of the Indian Ocean Region. The reimagining of neighborhood initiates Delhi to associate with various nations, sub-regions and regions. PM Oli of Nepal has given an impression of being enthusiastic and prompt to be part of the swearing in function to be held in Delhi; at the same time the Nepal Communist Party came into power with anti India rhetoric. Nepal’s five HOG but four PM including Oli visited India during Modi’s first tenure. The first visit of PM Modi in Nepal was acknowledged with eagerness and optimism while the fourth one was accepted with dissimilar speculation. Discussion in Kathmandu is predicting to focus on the prospect of Nepal-India relationship, India’s “First Neighborhood Policy” and the Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) endeavor at accomplishing a geopolitical balance, with the increase of major power maneuvers in the region and Nepal. What would Narerndra Modi mean to Nepal?
As a rising power India will be part of the international state of affairs with the US trade war with China and Washington’s standoff with Russia over matters from Iran to Venezuela to arms control is driving Moscow and Beijing towards each other. Trump terminating India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from 5th June. Globalization and multilateral treaties and conventions are less significant.
The first visit to Maldives and a stop over to Sri Lanka, Modi will spend more time with the neighborhood. India is deeply drawn into “Act East Policy” which expresses the importance of BIMSTEC, while SAARC will be on hold till Pakistan’s expresses seriousness in countering terrorism, which was well expressed in Colombo. The critical platform to securing interests can be distinctly envisage as BIMSTEC to be the apparatus to the “Act East Policy” while Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to West and Central Asian Nations (CAN) and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as part of the Indo-Pacific conception. BRI may not be objectionable other than China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the contrary can be made use of for India’s key strategic interests by means of regional connectivity. India’s “Strategic Balancing Policy” will be at hand focusing more on the immediate and extended neighborhood with reworked “First Neighborhood Policy” with major powers expanded interest in the backyard.
India’s disinclination to uphold the 2015 constitution of Nepal was the initiating point, where owned impression turned around that led to the imposition of a blockade by India, when Oli was the HOG. The imposition impacted the daily lives of the general people severely. Anti India oratory took at large in Nepal especially by the then United Marxist Leninist (UML) and NCP Maoists who unified to participate in the federal and provincial election attaining majority and representing two thirds with the support from the Madhesh Based Parties to govern for a full term after 20 years.
The Oli government looked to the northern neighbor for assistance to lessen dependency with India and take economic benefit. Various Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) including agreement on Transit Transport and allowing access to the sea ports for third country trade used from various six customs. Nepal China Trans Himalayan Multi Dimensional Connectivity Network, including the Nepal China cross border railway, gateway to South Asia was reaffirmed during the President of Nepal’s visit to China this April in the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
When the new Modi government will be focusing on the immediate neighborhood as part of the strategic policy; Nepal and India need to work together for regional stability and bilateral economic enhancement, anti terrorism regional approach, energy security, supply security, disaster management and multilateral strategic connections. Mainly, successfully completing the road map for past agreements within a stipulated time, reviewing the 1950 treaty of security and friendship that have been submitted by the Eminent Person Group (EPG) that was established in 2016, energizing 16 bilateral committees for securing cordial environment, effective connectivity by bringing in railways and waterways to Nepali territory and communicating major concerns about comprehensive and strategic issues by Kathmandu-Delhi political engagements. The need to revitalize the recognition of Indo-Nepal strategic relationship is the need to move into the 21st century the century for the people of the two countries and the region.