Diplomacy has been one of the high points of Narendra Modi government’s tenure from the gains at the UN winning ICJ, IMO and a strong support from the US President Donald Trump on the issue of terrorism, the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has helped India’s global clout expand exponentially.
There have been some disappointments as well from China with Pakistan but these have been overtaken by gains on a more robust global engagement.
In 2018 a more strident India will need a swifter Response and more creative ideas to expand and strengthen its diplomatic influence.
Work on India US Confluence
The Indo US relations has intensified with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump forging a good chemistry. That has translated into US putting Pakistan on notice. The Defence partnership is booming and Trump’s America first and Modi’s make in India have found a common thread. In 2018 the two countries need to get this relationship into a delivery mode. Prime Minister Modi must get Donald Trump on a state visit to India and that should pave way for a new paradigm of India US relations. We must make it clear that terrorism directed against India is a cancer for all countries including the US as it also affects US economic interests in India and the region.
Expand India’s humanitarian Diplomacy
In the age of social media and more awareness about global issues India must ensure that Indians abroad and those who engage with India, travelers and visa seekers are welcomed and with a humanitarian angle. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has become a global icon of India’s humanitarian outreach to kids and for those in distress that has created a positive sentiment about India. Indian missions and the Indian foreign office must create awareness around it, and Indian missions and Envoys must become the first outpost of a welcome that tourists will await in India when they come to the country.
The other part of the humanitarian diplomacy is India’s outreach to countries in need, so far we have done it in India’s strategic neighbourhood but we must extend beyond this.
For our global aspirations we must be seen as a country which stand with the have nots of the world. We must engage and spread our global goodwill diplomacy.
Climb the Chinese Wall
After the resolution of the Doklam standoff and the Talks of the special representatives on boundary negotiations, while the two sides have breached the wall of mistrust. Priority needs to be attached to mending fences with China. Both countries have economic stakes in a better relationship with each other. They have the potential of cooperating on global environment and sustainability issues and on multilateral forums.
However the Chinese leadership has to be given a strong message that they are dealing with a new India and not a vanquished of 1962, India must continue to ensure that China’s attempts to block sanctions against terror masterminds at the UN is checked. The Chinese understand the huge economic stakes in India, and Chinese cussed approach on the terror issue and on boundary negotiations should be tied to economic access for Chinese companies in India.
Consistent policy to isolate Pak sponsored terrorism
One of the misses has been to effectively tackle Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Even though Surgical strikes was a bold move by the Government it lacked effective followup. In 2018 a sustained campaign is required to get Pakistan on a global sanctions regime. Unless the military establishment in Pakistan feels the pain it will not change its policy on terrorism. Successive governments have let down the victims of 26/11 attacks which remains unresolved. Not everything can be settled with Pakistan through diplomatic means but a calibrated policy of sustained pressure and coercive diplomacy is required with Pakistan.
Active Engagement with East Asia
India will play host to the ten ASEAN leaders for a summit and as the chief guests for the Republic Day celebrations. The active East Asia policy is important for economic and strategic standpoint and is important for regional balance in Asia where India can be a pivot. From countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore India must focus on a sustained economic and political engagement. Economic ties will create a synergy between India and East Asia. Security and defence cooperation must form the central nervous system of this partnership as ensuring secure sea lanes of communication to curb sea piracy, and ensuring closer partnership to fight against terrorism is a key ingredient of engagement with East Asia. India’s active engagement with East Asia will also check China’s hegemonic rise in the region, and is important to strike a strategic balance in the region.
A softer touch for the neighbourhood
From Nepal, Sri Lanka to Afghanistan and Bangladesh India needs to work on a policy of soft engagement working on cultural similarities and creating a goodwill amongst these countries. China’s rapid cheque book diplomacy especially in Sri Lanka and Nepal needs to be countered not necessariliy through infrastructure development but through skill development helping these countries create a robust IT infrastructure and let Indian companies manage it. What is also required is to ensure that promises are kept and are projects and commitments do not get stuck in bureaucratic red tapism but we need to be proactive to reap strategic gains. A region specific public diplomacy initiative needs to be carried out directed at the young people in these countries to bust the anti India propaganda and to create a goodwill for India.
Engaging Russia and Europe
Russia is an old friend of India and we shouldn’t forget old friends, it is crucial for India in Afghanistan and is an important energy and defence partner. We must not let this slip away from the radar and engage with Russia for deeper economic and defence cooperation. While EU and India will have their divergence of views, we should continue to work and get innovation, skill development and aerospace into the gamut of our relationship with our leading partnerships in Europe, France, Germany and UK. As we develop greater economic partnerships, countries like UK need to be told firmly that if continues to harbor India’s fugitives like Vijay Mallya this will impact bilateral relationship.
Diplomacy for a new India
As India’s global canvas grows it has to adapt its diplomacy to newer tools of modern day statecraft not through archaic mean of merely diplomatic notes and state visits but factoring to a social media and internet age. Indian diplomacy in 2018 needs to get more domain experts create a strategy using digital and social media to engage with young people as diplomacy and foreign policy are also about creating public diplomacy perceptions, while deal making and back room negotiations will continue to be the backbone of modern day diplomacy. India must learn to act and think like a leader.