No balancing or containment for India. Position India in the leadership role in the world. This was the overarching message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to heads of Indian missions as he underlined the new template of proactive holistic diplomacy, which entails harnessing the global environment to enable India to play a leadership role, upgrading capacity to deal with new-age threats, promoting the country’s soft power and setting the tone for global climate change negotiations.
In an oblique critique of India’s hitherto defensive foreign policy, Mr Modi exhorted Indian envoys to shed “old mindsets” and help the country position itself in a leading role, rather than just a balancing force globally. The formulation will be specially scrutinised in China where the diplomatic-strategic establishment has often accused India of ganging up with the US and Japan to contain Beijing’s rise.
“The present global environment represents a rare opportunity, when the world is keen to embrace India, and India is moving forward with confidence,” Mr Modi said while inaugurating a four-day “Heads of Indian Missions” conference, which is themed “diplomacy with development. Around 120 envoys from Indian missions abroad have gathered in the Indian diplomat for brainstorming sessions on the future trajectory of India’s diplomacy, the first such meeting under the Narendra Modi government.
Taking a broad overarching view of India’s foreign policy priorities, the prime minister alluded to new “actors” and new “threats” to global peace and prosperity, and invoked the Indian ethos of “Vishva-Bandhutva” to underline that that India has a great responsibility in helping the world counter these challenges.
Mr Modi was specially eloquent on the challenges of global warming and exhorted the Indian diplomats that India must take the lead in countering this challenge, and also work towards a change in global attitudes towards the challenges of climate change.
Soft power and the Indian diaspora figured prominently in Mr Modi’s speech. He glowingly described the diplomats as “shining vibrant representatives” (tejasvi, jeevant anshpunj) of India’s glorious heritage and emphasised the role of “Heads of Missions” in projecting India to the world.
Being the first Indian leader to have 10 million followers on twitter, the social media-savvy prime minister also drummed up the increasing power of digital diplomacy. He asked Indian diplomats maintain digital libraries showcasing the best of Indian culture and keep regular contact with prominent individuals from other countries, who visited or planned to visit India.
There was robust common sense in Mr Modi’s counsel to Indian diplomats. He spoke about yoga, love of nature and developing a culture of “swachhta”—cleanliness. The prime minister has instructed the Indian envoys to prepare a compendium of best practices of Missions across the world and spreading them horizontally.
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