Date :23-Sep-2022

INDIA should take in its stride the fact that France and the United States (of America) hailed Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s frank talk with Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin. At the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit at Samarkand, Mr. Modi told Mr. Putin in no uncertain terms that the current era was not of war but of diplomacy, democracy, and dialogue. This frank talk did surprise the world -- since it did not match the image of India in their mind about a one-sided Russia-backer in the ongoing war. That was, of course, a wrong image based on presumptions and lack of informed judgement. Nevertheless, the world felt that India was violating the ethos of a rules-based world order. And then came the climax of Mr. Modi’s straight talk that shook the world out of slumber. By any standard, the entire episode has brightened up India’s image as a country with strong convictions and principled diplomacy.
May this fact be admitted that the world had forgotten that India has been one of the front-line supporters of the policy of non-alignment for decades. That policy, too, was based on the basic principle of national interest as the first and the only trigger of diplomacy. Through the thick and thin of international realpolitik, India adhered to non-alignment in rather a tentative manner. And that tentativeness led the world to believe that India was a weak handler of diplomatic issues. The exception came Prime Minister when Mrs. Indira Gandhi played her non-aligned cards very well and yet ensured that Russia -- then the Soviet Union -- remained on India’s side during the Bangladesh issue.
Barring a few of such expressions of India’s strong belief in diplomacy of self-interest, India’s management of foreign affairs was rather weak-kneed generally speaking. But with the onset of Mr. Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, the whole approach went through a pleasant and strong and positive transformation. Mr. Modi’s frank talk with Mr. Putin was a glorious outcome of that diplomatic activity conducted only in self-interest without losing the grip of principles and calling of the rules-based world order. During the current Russia-Ukraine war, India showed to the world the gumption to state openly that it would not indulge in mere lip service when it came to hard realities of realpolitik.
Despite this, the world did not actually expect such a turn of events. But Mr. Narendra Modi surprised one and all when he said in a matter-of-fact manner to Mr. Putin that the current era belonged not to war but to diplomacy. In that meeting at Samarkand, Mr. Putin opened the talk by praising Mr. Modi and indulged in an easy banter on Mr. Modi’s birthday the next day. In response,. Mr. Modi reminded Mr. Putin that both had started their upward political trajectory almost at the same time. And then came his straight-faced straight talk about war and diplomacy.
Why the larger world, even Mr. Putin must not have expected Mr. Modi to talk like that -- so openly, so outrightly.
India had done a similar exchange with Ukraine as well in the initial times of the current war.
Yet, the world was blinded by political bias and did not realise the strength of the Indian approach.
But at the United Nations, French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron could not resist himself from hailing the courage of Mr. Modi -- which actually contradicted the general impression. The White House, too, did not lag behind and appreciated Mr. Modi’s stand and India’s right to conduct its diplomacy in its own way.
This episode has endorsed once again India’s pre-eminent position in world affairs in the past 7-8 years. The world has now realised that India speaks from the position of strength -- military and economic and that it also utilises the ever-swelling numbers of the Indian diaspora spread the world over. This realisation on the part of the world is the latest gain in international affairs. The sanity of India’s approach to global issues, its effort to redefine the attributes of the Asian Century, its advice of caution to Asian countries to shed their regional chauvinism and become accommodate of global trends, its efforts to give a sensible direction to the management of contradictions in regional politics represented by China and India plus others are being noticed and hailed by the world.