Home Contact Us  

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4468, 28 May 2014

India and its Neighbourhood

Interpreting Modiís Diplomatic Signalling
Manish Dabhade
Assistant Professor, Diplomacy & Disarmament, School of International Studies, JNU

Even as analysts, Indian and foreign, were busy contemplating the meaning of the rise of Narendra Modi in India, the Prime Ministerial designate - now Prime Minister - surprisingly announced that he had invited the heads of States of all SAARC countries for his 26 May swearing-in ceremony being held in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Modi’s first diplomatic initiative, what diplomatic theory would call “diplomatic signalling,” should be seen at three levels of analysis. At first, it signifies an attempt to reduce the political and diplomatic apprehensions about Modi himself. Modi had rattled many in the region and world capitals by his aggressive, nationalistic stance on a range of domestic and international issues during his election campaign. This diplomatic initiative seeks to send a message that Modi means business; that he would be a responsible player in the international arena.

At the second level, Modi is demonstrating to the region, India’s neighbourhood, that it holds the utmost importance, a place of primacy, in India’s foreign policy calculus. It has been largely understood now that India’s rise in the world as a great power cannot happen unless it gets two related policies right. First, India’s success globally is predicated on its continued economic success, so it needs to get the growth rates going again. For this, India’s neighbours, in Modi’s view, could and should be the ‘natural’ economic partners. India now trades more with other countries in Asia than its immediate South Asian neighbours, and this needs to be actively rectified. Second, a State not at peace with its neighbours is not taken seriously in its claims to be a great power, and a natural claimant for the UN Security Council permanent seat whenever it happens, as desired by India.

At the third level, Modi and his foreign policy ideologues see this diplomatic engagement of South Asia as a counter to China’s rapid rise, forceful assertiveness and the real domination of Asia in all international spheres, not just in South Asia, but also in East Asia, where India has true economic, political and diplomatic interests. India, like many States in Asia, including Japan and the US, had hoped that increasing economic integration with China would make it a “responsible stakeholder” in the US-led international system, beneficial to most Asian States, including India. But over the last few years, China has become aggressive not only with its neighbours, like Japan and Vietnam, but also with India as witnessed in the frequent border clashes initiated by China at some levels. It is exactly due to this Chinese behaviour that many States in the region have responded favourably to the US pivot to Asia, and many rightly hope that India would also be a willing partner in the US-led attempts to control and engage, but maybe not contain at this moment, China. Also, significantly, India’s security would face grave challenges after the ongoing withdrawal of the US-led international security forces from Afghanistan. An early, stable engagement with the South Asian neighbours would provide a shield against the negative implications, especially for the Modi-led government, who would be seen as a strict enforcer of Indian security interests in the region.    
India’s strategic elite, the largely Delhi-based foreign policy analysts and retired diplomats, seem, however, divided on this Modi initiative. Some have called it too early and naive, in the sense that there would be no foreign minister or national security advisor to guide the PM into engaging this very significant set of leaders. Many have, however, welcomed this step, calling it a diplomatic coup. They contend that it would significantly shape the Indian trajectory in its rise as a great power in Asia and beyond.

While Modi’s diplomatic initiative could be truly very innovative and signal the importance of the new Indian government to the leaders of South Asia, it needs to be managed sensitively, and extreme caution must be exercised in the way it is seen here and in many South Asian capitals. To begin with, some hardliners in the Modi party are keen to use this opportunity as a ‘test’ to see which leaders would attend the swearing-in ceremony. This must be avoided, especially with Pakistan, in which regard some voices have emerged stating that Modi has reached out to Pakistan, but if the PM decides not to come, it would show his reluctance and/or lack of political power to engage India and especially Modi. One Indian analyst went ahead and saw Modi with a China-like Middle Kingdom complex which is leading him to treat India’s neighbours as vassal States that need to pay tribute to the central power. This was and could be reflective of hardline views in some South Asian capitals as well, which need to be dispelled by the incoming government.

Diplomacy, the art and the science, should be carefully articulated and implemented. It has to be patient, and process and purpose-driven. Narendra Modi should carefully use his initiative to make the countries of South Asia his equal, sovereign partners in his larger national and international schema.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Shreya Upadhyay,
"Modi-fying Indo-US Relations," 28 May 2014
Wasbir Hussain,
"Foreign Policy Challenges for Modi," 22 May 2014
PR Chari,
"India-Pakistan Relations: Modiís Options," 19 May 2014
Sushant Sareen,
"Modi-fying India-Pakistan Relations," 19 May 2014

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
North Korea's Nuclear Test: Lessons for International Politics

Indo-US Nuclear Deal: New Realism

UPA's Foreign Policy: A Critique

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.