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The Euphoria and Reality of India’s Diplomacy with Major Powers: Critical Analysis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi First Summit Meeting with President Trump

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The Euphoria

Apart from niceties exchanged with a tight-hug diplomacy which our dynamic Prime Minister has achieved in recent years during his meetings with various heads of states, there was no such substantive outcome to cheer from the first Modi-Trump summit in Washington DC. There is euphoria over him being the best friend twitted and welcomed by the latest White House occupant. But what did he achieve in return of buying the US drones and other defense equipment?  A passing remark on Pakistan to ensure its territory not being used to launch terrorist attacks on others is not enough to stop this mother of all terror nation, funding and abating the cross border terror activities in the guise of Kashmiri freedom. Pakistani establishment understand that it was just to please Indians for a deal which benefits US military-industrial complex than to scare the undeclared US Ally in war against terror.

Indians are emotional people and this weakness is well known to leaders in America. Chinese often use the word best friend for any business deal the clinch with a partner; even they go a step further by hugging and making his new business partner as good brother. We got a historic lesson when Chinese came to us and echoed the neighborly brotherhood of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai slogan. No country in the world will take these niceties so much on face value as Indians tend to. It’s time to make a critical analysis of our “relationship with some of the great powers and show some maturity in our foreign affairs dealings. Our relationship with these Great powers should not be lost in the euphoria of nice words and phrases.

Cede More than Get

President Trump is a typical US business man and he will go to any extent to get the deal done. His embracing of India prime minister and hosting him in the White House is well serving the interest of selling American goods and services to world’s largest and fastest growing emerging market economy.  But from the Indian side, the expectations were already low and the agenda was very limited for the white house meeting, which excluded some of the burning issues including the H1B visa. During this summit meeting, Modi government was expected to take up the issue of increased racial attacks on Indians in USA but his advisors have had shunned it off.  Hence we lost a very good opportunity to raise the issue with President Trump and ease the psychological fear surrounding our expatriates in the US.

As a strong leader who believes in clinching the deals, if we know Modi so well on domestic issues, why he is so different on India’s foreign relations. What has he achieved in his marathon foreign trips is yet to be scrutinized. India has attracted largest FDI in the last two years, and the inflow of foreign tourists to the country has also increased. He has been praised for his reformist governance and anti-corruption drives. Prime Minister Modi is very popular among Foreign MNC CEOs and they have shown keen interest in the Indian market. But there is a huge gap between speech and actions. The investment in the Greenfield projects in India has been minimal, and most of the FDI has been directed to the virtual economy and stock market.  Apart from major defense deals which creates and supports thousands of American workers jobs, the progress in the area of collaboration in civil technology use and production is yet to be materialized. India is merely being treated as market for US products and services, and it’s still far from the scale and size of investments, these US firms have invested in our largest neighborhood. That has been possible because our neighbor has bargaining power and skills which our leaders and diplomats are shying to apply.

MEA needs to be revitalized.

Why cannot Modi Government do a hard bargain and make a win-win deal which will give India an equal power status. The problem lies with his core team which is incapable of handling India’s relations with great powers. Half of them are retired officers and working on extensions and the other half are policy novices with little experience in dealing with major powers. Day by day, it’s becoming clear that there has been no change in the Modi administration policy on the foreign policy front, especially when it comes to make a deal. India has been always earning good name for ceding much more on its national interest and in return getting superficial praises and niceties from the current major power leaders. 

If Make in India and several other policies of the current government need to become reality, the Prime Minister must revitalize his foreign policy making team and designate experts and powerful negotiators to ensures the interest of India, whether its climate change negotiations or our localization of defense deals. We cannot entrust a small bunch of senior retired diplomats on extension to deal with host of major challenges our country is facing on the way to achieve an equal great power status.  These diplomats are not accountable to our parliament or people and hence it’s the time to bring them in the background, and let our elected representative do the foreign policy negotiations. The current Government must initiate some drastic change in tis foreign missions which serves as a main window to attract foreign investment. It is time India revitalizes its diplomatic establishment in these great countries and sharpens its negotiation skills and makes it tough for foreign firms to see India merely as billion plus market for their product and services. The MEA should become much more active and the honorable External Affairs Minister should lead the way. May God Bless India! May God Bless Our Prime Minister!

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