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Options before India: Modi's 'please all' foreign policy failed to rope in neighbours

By NS Venkataraman*
During the last six years, the Government of India, with Naremdra Modi as Prime Minister, has been following a “please all” foreign policy. In fact, Modi tried to please every country, including China and Pakistan, even though both these countries have not concealed their hostility towards India.
While Modi visited China several times and received the Chinese Prime Minister two times extending lavish welcome to him, he also visited Pakistan to attend the marriage function in the family of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Shariff. This visit to Pakistan caught everyone by surprise.
Modi visited a number of countries and personally participated in several international conferences and tried to create an image of friendly and forward looking India.
This “please all” policy cannot be faulted, though there could be different views as to whether it has succeeded and went on expected lines. What is obvious is that this policy and approach is being challenged by a hostile China, a hostile Pakistan, and now a hostile Nepal.
China has not let anybody in the world in doubt that it has the ambition of emerging as the world’s super power at any cost, with least regard for overall peace and harmony in the world. It has also become crystal clear now that in the march towards the goal, China appears to think that subjugating India is necessary to ensure that India is not be in a position to challenge its supremacy in Asia.
As China appears to be uncompromising in its objective, one can see that Modi’s “please all” foreign policy has failed with regard to China, and consequently with regard to what at present look like satellite countries of China -- Pakistan and Nepal.
China is bent upon subjugating India and is threatening military conflict with India and inventing reasons to provoke such conflicts. This scenario has created a compulsive condition for Modi to drastically change his “please all” foreign policy. India is now left with no alternative other than stand up to China, Pakistan and Nepal. This is an unenviable situation for the Indian government.
In the last six years of the Modi government, the primary objective has been to promote economic, industrial and social growth of India to alleviate the poverty conditions and to improve India’s economic and social status in the world.
For this to happen, peaceful relations with neighbouring countries is necessary to ensure that the resources would be primarily spent to achieve economic and social targets and less on military empowerment.
Unfortunately, China does not appear to be any mood to allow such a scenario, and India now has no alternative other than confronting it with grim determination. Hope for friendly relations with China in the next few years is nothing short of a Utopian expectation.
In this scenario, the option before India is to firmly align itself with USA and West European countries as well as those countries which are concerned about China’s expansionist policies. Such alignment is considered necessary for India to checkmate China.
Of course, the primary focus would be on building alignment with the USA, which is the only country now that has the strength and capability to stand against China on its own.
Many observers feel, Trump is an unpredictable person and he may soften his stand towards China in the event he wins in US elections
However, with the US Presidential election in the offing, there is a certain element of uncertainty about the future policies of the USA towards China and India.
The US Presidential candidate for democratic party Joe Biden has already criticized India severely for what he called as human rights violation by India in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Obviously, he has an element of hostility in him towards India. 
While Trump has been acting against China, one is not sure as to whether he would be reelected. Many observers warn India that Trump is an unpredictable person and he may soften his stand towards China in the event he wins in US elections.
While doubts persist about the future policies of the USA towards China, perhaps it would still be good for India to have strategic alliance with the USA, just like several other countries such as Japan, South Korea, Israel and West European countries.
While Prime Minister Modi has been laying stress on a sort of close relationship with the USA, the fact is that it has not been a strategic alliance so far. India has been buying arms from Russia on a large scale. Surely, the USA would not like this, particularly when India expects support from the USA in confronting China.
In the present conditions, Russia is unlikely to criticise China to help India and at best it can only be lip support to India.
No doubt, both India and the USA are free democratic countries and share common interests in several spheres. In the USA, there is a significant population of Indians and of Indian origin. While there could be minor irritants in the relationship between India and the USA from time to time that have been overcome, friendly relations appear to have stood the test of time.
Facing an aggressive Chinese government with territorial ambition, India has to necessarily develop strategic relations with the USA. This has to be done without any ambiguity. Even in the event of change in policy of the USA towards China after the US election, it may not be in the interest of the USA to allow China to subjugate India.
The fact is, the USA and India need each other, and development of a strategic relationship between India and the USA may prove to be a win win situation for both the countries.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai

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