THE invitation of India to the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and his Council of Ministers, indicates the country’s foreign policy motivations about connectivity with the immediate neighbourhood. In 2014, when Mr. Modi took oath as Prime Minister for the first time, India had invited leaders of the members of South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that included Pakistan. That time, too, the aim was to connect with the immediate neighbourhood as part of the foreign policy initiative. The effort, thus, is to join the dots to strengthen regional togetherness.
In the past five years, the main goal of the Indian diplomatic activity was to connect first with the neighbourhood and then to connect with the larger world. In both these goals, India succeeded vastly in the first term of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. In the second term, too, a similar approach seems to be on the cards. Obviously, India will continue to play a major role in the regional as well as global arenas.
The manner in which the world as well as regional leaders connected with Indian leadership in the past five years demonstrated the strength of India’s stand on various international issues including climate change or strategic defence. The world also hailed India’s leadership on the issue of fight against terror and supported the Indian initiatives in multi-national platforms like the United Nations. In fact, the way India convinced most members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the issue of proscription of terror mastermind Masood Azhar showed the success of its diplomacy.
With a career-diplomat like Mr. Subramanian Jaishankar now having been given the charge of the Ministry of External Affairs, India’s diplomacy in the next five years will get a finer touch, and a better control of detail-management. Mr. Jaishankar has had a glorious career in diplomacy, having served as India’s Ambassador in China and the United States and also as Foreign Secretary. His mastery of detail is legendary and negotiating skills of a superior variety. He was the leader of Indian delegation that worked out the famous Nuclear Deal with the United States during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. Now working with Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, he will lead the diplomatic process to a new high in the next five years.
With the world becoming more and more complex every passing year, diplomacy will have its own importance in the overall context. When he led the Indian diplomatic initiatives from the front, Mr. Narendra Modi had proved himself to be equal to all the global leaders. Even though he was just a first-timer in handling of external affairs, he led the charge with aplomb. As Minister of External Affairs, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj was Mr. Modi’s able partner in the Indian effort.
From now on, Mr. S. Jaishankar will lead the process with his habitual skills and experience of a lifetime. In the next few years, as the world’s fastest-growing economy and a regional military power, the world will watch India with a keen eye. More and more nations are eager to forge economic as well as military ties with India on a bigger strategic map. In such a challenging atmosphere, what will help India most is a new approach to diplomacy, unleashed by Mr. Modi. He perfected it to a near fine art with his personal qualities. Mr. Jaishankar will now add value to that dynamics. Diplomacy is not about just winning arguments; it is about engaging the other side in constructive and continuous dialogue. In that art, Mr. Jaishankar is a master. He will prove an able partner to the Prime Minister in diplomacy.