Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone the extra mile to foster great ties besides renewing existing relations with many countries. The incumbent government’s foreign policy, despite its huge positives, has faced a few setbacks in its efforts to spread its wings over South East Asia. There has been very many positives in the foreign policy of the NDA government: what is good about the present policy is there for everyone to see, what we will talk about it here is how it could be made better and where we didn’t get it right.
Everything seemed to be going in harmony until the earthquake in Nepal last year. The over interference of Indian media caused an anger among the Nepalese. The recent departure of the Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli is being seen as vindication to Delhi’s foreign policy. Instead of offering better trade facilities to Nepal by offering cheap port, road and rail connectivity for imports, India was more concerned over Nepalese government in addressing the Madhesi demand for equal political rights.
By blocking the main trade route, India gave Oli a good opportunity to shame India. This was also seen as Nepal’s opportunity of going into more friendly terms with China. As per Nepali reports and the public sentiment, they viewed this as a matter of internal discussion outside the purview of other countries. The strain in Nepal’s relations have been unprecedented, Nepal has always been a country India has maintained cordial relations with. Normalcy has to be restored sooner than later before China pounces upon the opportunity.
The Indo-Sino border dispute is a long-drawn issue of concern. In 1958, the Chinese side had sent in a delegation for negotiations with India and both sides had agreed not to send troops into the area but had avoided a discussion on a final settlement of the Barahoti ground. The sources said that ever since this agreement, ITBP, which mans the 3,488-km Sino-Indian border from Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast, had never entered the area with arms. The Chinese troops have since the reported incursion returned even as apprehensions persisted that they may be taking undue advantage of the agreement of 1958 by pushing their soldiers into the area which they recognize as ‘Wu-Je’. Few days ago India had rejected visa extension of three Chinese journalists. Many believe this to be India’s way of taking revenge against China for its opposition to India joining NSG.
India- China relations post economic liberalization has largely been based on the economic trade between the countries; the huge bilateral trade between India & China meant that all other outstanding issues though it existed never took center stage, as both countries felt they had something to lose economically if other issues took prominence. Can we say the same today? The NSG issue (debatable if the all out effort was required at all), the ouster of Chinese journalists, border incursions have all become talking points. What will be the effects of these on the economic trade, only time will tell.
Srilanka always had dilly dallied between India and China. India did get the upper hand before we lost it. Sri Lanka has visibly moved towards China for economic perks even as India has doled out huge aids for various infrastructure projects.
The Way Forward
Foreign policy is a very niche issue that should not be debated politically nor advertised publicly unless otherwise there is a successful breakthrough. Foreign policy is never decided by mass public opinion and should never be. However, both during the Congress and BJP regime, mass public opinion has been allowed to influence decisions contrary to what might appear as the best decision. Policy makers should go back to the drawing board and see where they got it right and wrong and re-evaluate the media strategy with respect to foreign policy.