When Narender Modi came into power in 2014, Modi doctrine was at the core of his foreign policy. “Connectivity project” was the overstretching theme, associated with his desire to push neighborhood ties little further. In 2014, Modi came in with extreme drive.
In just seven months, he made nine foreign visits and in just two years, he visited 36 countries. An incredible facet of his visits was that he was the first PM to visit many countries including Mongolia.
He came into the power with an agenda “neighborhood first” and in this direction, he took many initiatives like invited all the SAARC nation heads for his inauguration ceremony.
His first visit was to Bhutan and second to Nepal. He revisited his neighborhood ties doctrine in his second year as well. The third time, he visited Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar and in 2016 he visited the UAE to boost economic ties.
Among all these visits, the trips to the US were special ones. The visits aimed at enhancing ties with the US because that was the only country that could have helped India counterbalance Chinese rising influence. These visits also opened doors for other countries and institutions for him.
Unfortunately, Modi’s neighborhood agenda could not take place as was planned by him. During 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu, Islamabad was not willing to go along with the connectivity project, the reason that Sharif had serious domestic issues.
In 2016, the Indo-Pak situation reached to an all-time low, when Kashmir was blazing with anti – India sentiments owing to Burhan Wani’s death. The relations between these two arch-rivals led to the collapse of the 19th SAARC summit which was scheduled in Islamabad.
In 2015, the relations between Nepal and India severed following the proclamation of the new constitution that affected the interests of the Madhesi /plains people. The standoff strained the relations and deepened the crisis. Both the sides displayed utter firmness and then to the road blockade.
The bitterness grew further when New Delhi backed constitutional coup which led to a rupture in the CPN (UML) – CPN (Maoist) alliance in Nepal. These developments led to the substitution of K P Sharma Oli by Pushpa Kamal Dahal as Prime Minister of Nepal. These advances created deep fissures.
In Sri Lanka, New Delhi tried to help an alliance to defeat Mahinda Rajpakse, the man who defeated the LTTE and who became sacrilege for New Delhi owing to his links with China.
However, Modi did not pay any visit to Maldives because New Delhi’s relations with Maldives remain standstill following the dismissal of Mohammed Nasheed as President’s post. So the neighborhood ties formula proved a damp squib.
Despite Modi’s secular makeup and his extensive tour schedule to fasten mutual relations with neighbors and distant friends, the big failure in India’s ties relate to Pakistan and China. After 2014, Indo – Pak ties never got off the ground. Incidents on LoC and in Kashmir further aggravated the situations.
India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan may also suffer from this push back as Pakistan steps up its efforts to engage China, Russia and Iran on connectivity, offering them strategic maritime advantages off its shores which it had not in the past.
So far as the US is concerned, Modi failed to take up H1B visa issue with the Trump. This is a very critical issue and experts believe that if this issue is not handled properly, it can put India’s economic growth in miseries. Modi, however, has been successful in placing its case of terrorism in Kashmir as the behest of Pakistan before Trump. The successive visits, recurrent hug and colorful photo – ops have paid Modi well.
The US gave India what it was asking for so long. The US announced Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a specially designated global terrorist last month and subsequently last week the organization he was heading was also designated as a terrorist organization by USA. The announcement came as a breather for Modi’s foreign policy and of course with a pinch of success.
Though it could add a significant feather to the success of Modi’s foreign policy against the arch rival Pakistan, it is yet to be seen how Modi will encash this achievement at international stage since fragility of Kashmir situation continues to disturb New Delhi.