Shaping Diplomacy for a New India


I am enormously pleased to welcome you all to this Panel Discussion on “Modi 2.0: Diplomacy for a New India” to mark the publication of special edition of India and the World magazine. At the very outset, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Mr Tirumurti for taking time off from his extremely packed schedule to accept this invitation to deliver the Keynote Address on an important theme which impinges on India’s development journey and the country’s foreign policy choices. I would also like to thank eminent panellists and ambassadors of Brazil and Algeria to accept our invitation on a short notice to enrich the discussion today with your insights.

To begin with, let me say a few words about India and the World magazine and our organisation TGII Media Private Limited. Driven by a highly qualified and motivated team of senior journalists, foreign policy experts and publishing professionals and seasoned designers, TGII Media Pvt. Ltd’s core areas of operations include: 1) Media II) Publishing III) Research/Consultancy IV) Advocacy

We at the India Writes Network and TGII Media launched India and the World magazine over two years ago at the IIC, with the objective of providing an agenda-free narrative and perspectives on global issues and developments, from India’s point of view.

By India’s point of view, we do not mean a nationalistic narrative, but are only underlining that given India’s growing international profile, its economic weight and expanding global engagements, the world has huge stakes in understanding India’s worldview and narrative.

And the narrative, as we all know, is becoming all the more important in the post-truth world of fake news and impresarios posing as savants. We have largely stuck to this self-imposed mandate of providing the Long View on key global issues, which transcend 24X7 media chatter and hysteria that obfuscates the picture, rather than illuminate it. As we move on from here, we will need your support and encouragement. To guide us on this journey, we have set up a Board of Advisers which comprise eminent diplomats and domain experts. These include 1) Amb. Kanwal Sibal 2) Amb. Anil Wadhwa 3) Amb. Gautam Bambawale 5) Amb. Anil Trigunayat 6) Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli 7) Mr Pranav Kumar, Trade Policy Head, CII.

Both the magazine and website www.indiawrites.org have carved a niche for in-depth analysis of international affairs. Eminent diplomats and experts have contributed to both online and print publications.

Navigating Multi-alignment

Now, let me now briefly unpack the master-theme of the panel discussion. We are meeting at a time when the old order and way of doing diplomacy and business is crumbling, but the outlines of a new order are at best nebulous. The only certainty, as they say, is uncertainty. Against this backdrop of sharpening rivalries between leading powers, India has chosen the path of multi-alignment which entails forging issues-based alignments with like-minded countries and major power centres, without getting into us versus them zero sum games.

The first few months of the second term of this government saw PM Modi holding summits with the leaders of the US, China and Russia. In fact, it’s not hard to visualise that on the same day, India’s leader can hold meetings with their counterparts from the US, China and Russia, and can still find time for some plurilateral meetings like RIC or India-US-Japan trilateral.

Modi 2.0: Implications for Foreign Policy

In a rapidly changing world and shifting equations among major and middle powers, how does an emerging country like India actualises its potential as a global power, not for the sake of geopolitical games, but for transforming the lives of over 1.3 billion people. In this regard, the spectacular electoral victory in the May 2019 elections has placed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a unique position to not only set the domestic agenda for India’s transformation, but to also spur India’s ongoing rise on the global stage.

The historic mandate has enhanced Modi’s global stature and looks set to positively impact India’s foreign policy choices and postures in the next five years. As PM Modi himself has indicated, the overarching thrust of the Modi 2.0 foreign policy will be to harness the network of India’s partnerships with major and middle powers to create a ‘New India’ by 2022, the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. He has promised a ‘New India’ to millions of Indians who have elected him with a bigger majority than before.

What does this spectacular mandate mean for India’s foreign policy and diplomatic practice? Can we expect a greater focus on economic diplomacy as the government goes all out to attract more foreign investment for upgrade and transformation of the country’s infrastructure? Can we expect development–focused diplomacy to gain greater prominence in days to come? Bolstered by a robust parliamentary majority, can we expect the Government to show more appetite for risks and display more muscular and strident posture vis-à-vis Pakistan and cross-border terror that continues to bedevil bilateral relations? (Is it time for India to have a coherent Pakistan doctrine rather than displaying an ad hoc attitude in case of another cross-border terror attack?) As of now, there are more questions than answers in this radically uncertain world order as we look ahead to map out the foreign policy trajectory of India under the Modi 2.0 dispensation and its ramifications for the world at large.

Diplomacy & Development

However, one can safely make some qualified assertions.

Forging robust and sustainable partnerships in technology, innovation and start-ups will be crucial to creating a New India, and making India count on the global stage. Doubling GDP to $5 trillion economy is not possible without a conducive international environment and supportive external partnerships. In other words, the domestic and the international will be intimately dovetailed in Modi’s ‘Mission New India’ project.

Given huge developmental challenges facing India, diplomatic outreach will get intertwined more closely with the larger project of national renaissance. In the next five years, the government has set ambitious targets to ensure water supply to 150 million homes, to build over 125,000 kilometers of new roads, and to build 20 million houses for the poor by 2022. As PM Modi said in his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last month: “All our endeavours, are centered on 1.3 billion Indians. But the dreams that these efforts are trying to fulfill, are the same dreams that the entire world has, that every country has, and that every society has. The efforts are ours, but their fruits are for all, for the entire world.” India’s success will, therefore, not just be of the people of this country, but of the entire world.

(This is the text of the opening speech delivered by Manish Chand, Founder-CEO & Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network & India & the World magazine, at the Panel Discussion on Diplomacy for a New India at the Nehru Memorial and Museum Library in New Delhi. Mr T.S. Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Affairs), Ministry of External Affairs, India, was the Guest of Honour at the function. The speakers included ex-diplomats, including Amb. Kanwal Sibal, Amb. Anil Wadhwa, Amb. Anil Trigunayat, H.E. Algeria’s Ambassador to India H.E. Hamza Yahya Cherif and H.E Ambassador of Brazil to India André Aranha Corrêa do Lago)