A nation’s strategic approach is by definition meant to take care of the security and economic interests of the country and it is truly remarkable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy on international relations has stood its ground amid a festering Ukraine-Russia military conflict, deepening geopolitical alienation between US -led West and the Russia-China camp and the progressively hardening regime of economic sanctions imposed by the US and its allies against Russia.
That India’s foreign policy — again a product of the nation’s security and economic concerns and hence a strategic instrument — has remained consistent through these turbulent times, speaks volumes of the wisdom of following bilateral relations that were mutually beneficial and consistent with world peace, the line of ‘positive’ non-alignment that the largest democracy of the world is able to put forth before the world and above all the rare political will that a strong leader like Prime Minister Modi has been able to demonstrate in the intrepid exercise of India’s sovereignty, by him.
Never before had India risen so fast on the global stage as an advocate of universal peace, a promotor of economic advancement of the world and a strong voice for renewable energy, environment and poverty elimination — all in the interest of the larger good of the humanity.
When the Ukraine-Russia conflict broke out in February-end with Russia launching what it called ‘a military operation’ to protect the interest of the Russian speaking population in the eastern part of Ukraine, India was the first country to show an understanding of Russia’s security concerns in a situation where the US-backed NATO had been egging on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to confront Vladimir Putin, in an avoidable replay of the Cold War tussle.
In reality, the sensible thing for the West was to work for peaceful coexistence of the East European neighbours with Russia after the USSR had been dismembered and a Unipolar world order had been established.
Significantly, Prime Minister Modi became the first world leader whom the two warring sides favoured as the peacemaker and responding upfront to this situation, Modi called for immediate cessation of military offensive in Ukraine and return to exploration for a negotiated solution.
The strength of Modi’s political will was rooted in his belief in doing what was right and this led India to abstain from voting on resolutions moved in the UN Security Council — first by the US and then by Russia — on the Ukraine imbroglio. India has not condemned Russian military action in Ukraine but has also lost no time in demanding immediate stoppage of hostilities and resumption of talks for peace. On his three-nation tour of Europe last week, Modi underscored the Indian view that on the present going, there would be no winner in the Ukraine-Russia armed conflict and — again without taking sides — warned that the entire world would suffer because of the impact of this confrontation on the people in the affected zone and the economic consequences that it would produce globally.
To the extent the military conflict in Ukraine is becoming an unending phenomenon, among other things, because of supply of arms and ammunition to Ukraine by the US and its allies, India is counselling both Russia and the Western supporters of Ukraine — the former to stop military action and the latter to abstain from adding fuel to the fire — and implicitly calling for peace on a minimal give and take.
Significantly there is no criticism of India by President Joe Biden of the US — beyond the appeal from his administration for India’s support for economic sanctions against Russia. There was in fact an expression of understanding for India’s impartial stand on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, from Quad.
Prime Minister Modi has kept up India’s commitment to this multilateral forum that was meant to safeguard the Indo-Pacific against any aggressive moves by China and at the same time, maintained friendship with Russia for preserving India’s enlightened self-interest — all of this was broadly understood by the democratic world.
It is a tribute to Prime Minister Modi’s grasp of the current geopolitical situation that all through the turbulence created by Ukraine-Russia military confrontation over the last two months and the threat of escalation held out by both sides, India has steadily worked its way up in building mutual cooperation with other major powers, in the sphere of trade and economy.
From free trade agreement with Australia to long-term economic pacts with UK and Japan and strategic partnership on energy and environment with Germany, all of this was facilitated by the personal cord of friendship struck by Prime Minister Modi with his counterparts in these countries, including Scott Morrison of Australia, Boris Johnson of UK, Fumio Kishida of Japan and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, not to forget Emmanuel Macron, the re-elected President of France.
Prime Minister Modi made a short stoppage at Paris on his way back home to specially congratulate Macron in person and became the first world leader met by the French President on his fresh election. Modi has opened into Nordic region by striking a green alliance with the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, at Copenhagen, besides participating in the summit of Nordic countries at the Danish capital.
India has thus pushed ahead with consolidating economic ties with Europe — steering clear of the sanctions US had placed on Russia in the wake of the military intrusion in Ukraine.
India is somewhere giving a message to the world that the issues of economic development and betterment of the people should not be allowed to be drowned into the negative fall-out of military conflicts howsoever serious they might seem to be.
In what will prove to be of far-reaching advantage for India in future, the Modi regime has succeeded in proving to the world that the Indian model of post-Covid economic recovery built on a bottom-up restoration of market and demand supported by the ‘vocal for local’ campaign, coordination from the top of all efforts to make India the global hub of production of vaccines and a sustained push towards making India the preferred destination for foreign investment, particularly in manufacture, has delivered.
The political executive of the nation headed by Modi has produced a bench mark in integrity, dedication and macro-vision that is enabling the country to move towards becoming self-dependent in defence, security and economic growth.
No narrative built against it by a desperate opposition would cut much ice. It is, however, extremely important that the nation remains totally alert against the concerted mischief the two prime adversaries of India on our borders — Pakistan and China — which might indulge to create internal destabilisation here for which they do have a potential as India’s next-door neighbours.
In recent times, India has reached out to Southeast Asia, countries of the Gulf and the Central Asian Republics to expand the areas of interest in both security and economic cooperation. Following the return of Taliban Emirate in Kabul with active collusion and support of Pakistan, the NSA of India invited his counterparts from Russia, CARs and even Iran to a conference in Delhi where a consensus was reached on the need to counter the danger of spread of radicalisation from Afghanistan.
This was a timely initiative that has kept in check the doings of Sino-Pak axis in Afghanistan and thus helped to maintain the security of this region.
Modi has brought the UK, Germany, France and the Nordic region on a grid of lasting economic relations with India — notwithstanding the differential that existed on their approach to the current Ukraine-Russia conflict.
If anything, Modi’s initiatives have enhanced the stature of India as a counsel for global peace. This strengthens the claim of India on a permanent seat in UN Security Council and certainly establishes India’s position as a star of the democratic world that deals with international situations on merit and leads the world towards multi-polarity to avert the return of Cold War.
India lends a powerful voice to the collectively of democratic nations against the dictatorial and fundamentalist regimes. In all his interactions abroad, Modi has given a call for united action against terrorism and elicited endorsement of India’s consistent policy towards Pakistan based on the principle that ‘talks and terror did not go together’.
India under Prime Minister Modi has universally established this country’s civilisational wisdom of upholding what is right and opposing what is violative of political morality and human values. This honesty of purpose will carry India ahead on the mission of becoming the sane voice of the world. It is already creating a world consensus in favour of India getting actively involved in the mediation for restoring peace between Russia and Ukraine. (Agency)
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)