Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frantic foreign tours have been a topic of animated debate in the country with some analysts terming this a flight from difficult domestic reality. People’s expectations from his government were as huge as the massive mandate they gave him and his party to run the country.
But instead of taking on domestic problems head on, the Indian prime minister with his boastful assertion of having a 56-inch chest kept boarding on Air India One for places all over the world — from Fiji and Seychelles to Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention great powers the US, Russia and China whose leaders he has been meeting rather more frequently.
So much so, that Modi began to be seen more in the company of world leaders than his colleagues in India or at least that was the impression gaining ground.
Of course, he was raising and joining issues and putting forward Indian viewpoints. His approach to world politics that India would not be cowed down by aggressive assertions of world powers nor will it try to browbeat smaller nations but meet both on equal footing has been a rather bold proclamation as far as Indian foreign policy was concerned.
Two and half a years down the line, political theorists and analysts are awakening to the fact that Modi’s frequent foreign tours were not an escape from difficult Indian reality but a part of the groundwork for an aggressive rebuilding of the economy and lifting up of sagging national morale — the job he wanted to undertake in the later part of his tenure as the prime minister.
Sreeram Chaulia’s book ‘Modi Doctrine: The Foreign Policy of India’s Prime Minister’ is an exhaustive account of how Modi pursued and led a distinctly bold and clear foreign policy, which stemmed from his unflappable belief in the fact that India’s time on the world stage has come and it needs to assert its preeminent role in world politics.
Regardless of the fact that India looked clumsy with red tape and excessive government regulation in areas of business and commerce, India also offered a great hope to the world with its steady economic growth and a huge talent pool of its youthful population besides being one of the biggest and most attractive markets.
Modi has used India’s attractiveness to sell his foreign policy principles that India is ready to do business with the world on equal footing where national interest is of paramount concern.
In response to many questions being asked about the rationale of Modi’s single-minded approach to pursue a foreign policy marked with aggressive outreach and contact-intensive, Chaulia, who is a distinguished academic of international fame and Professor and Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, writes that the current book is an effort to delve “into the mind and method behind Narendra Modi’s avatar as India’s diplomat-in-chief.
It argues that under his able watch, India is heading toward great power status in the international order.” Chaulia’s book clearly sides with Modi and finds merit in his single-handed moulding of Indian foreign policy.
Among the five chapters and an epilogue, the chapter titled ‘Leading Power vis-a-vis the Great Powers’ is especially interesting as it tries to assess how Modi has dealt with leading world powers US, Japan and China at a time when influence of US as the leading world power is on the wane and China is aggressively moving to replace US in the pecking order of world powers.
The book’s foreword has been written by Shaurya Doval, who is a director of right wing think tank India Foundation and managing director of Singapore-based investment company Zeus Caps. The book never once encounters a demerit in the formulation of Modi’s foreign policy or its execution.
The fact that Modi Doctrine completely bypasses the role of India’s foreign minister in the articulation of India’s foreign policy has never once bothered the author in the entire book is something that makes one think about the genuineness of the author’s arguments.
Putting forward his suggestions as to how Modi Doctrine can further be fined tuned, Chaulia writes in the epilogue, “Keep doing what the Modi Doctrine has already accomplished, i.e. avoid a let up in the intensity of what the BJP calls Samvaad or regional and global engagement.
Naysayers who taunt Modi for overdoing foreign policy and neglecting domestic issues must be ignored because they are the negative energies that have no ken for the intrinsic linkage of global and local, and they had crippled India’s march to great power status in the past.
On the whole, the book is an early attempt to provide a theoretical base to PM Modi’s excessive focus on course correction in India’s approach to its foreign policy. It tries to catch an early trend and fancies to ride on Modi’s popularity in India and abroad and falls somewhere in between the academic and the current affairs genre.
The book would disappoint those who are looking for some strong talking points or sensational revelations as it remains engrossed with Modi and his charisma.