By Ashish Dwivedi:
Armed with thumping majority following the electoral battle, Narendra Modi is now in supreme command. The first indication of this was seen when contrary to his campaign rhetoric he invited SAARC leaders for his swearing-in ceremony. The move left his supporters and detractors in daze alike and it has been interpreted in many ways ever since. The initiative of the PM-designate is surely an audacious move and will have far reaching consequences and probably provides a glimpse of his foreign policy for the coming years.Â The invitation to Nawaz Sharif and Sheikh Hasina is particularly is important since it goes against the fiery poll rhetoric of the BJP leader where he promised a tough stand against Pakistan and has fiercely opposed Bangladeshi migration.
As a diplomatic manoeuvre, the invitation to the Pakistani PM seems a masterstroke at first glance which has the potential to redefine Indo-Pak relations, strained in the wake of a non-responsive Pak establishment in bringing about the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice and recent border skirmishes. Since Nawaz chose to accept the invitation, it will usher a new era of dialogue at the high level which has been on the backburner for quite some time now. Had he declined the invitation, it would have given the Indian establishment the perfect excuse of ‘we want to talk but are not sure who calls the shots’ and India would have gained diplomatic leverage in the international community, further underlining the leadership question in Pakistan.
Strangely enough, the right-wing leaders have always proven to be better at dealing with Pakistan. Modi seems to carry forward the legacy of AB Vajpeyee in initiating peace process with Pakistan. Despite the jingoistic rhetoric and RSS inspired militant nationalistic ideology, BJP’s approach towards the neighbours has been pragmatic and constructive, contrary to UPA approach mired with confusion and myopic vision.Â The invitation which has been accepted by Nawaz Sharif has already garnered positive responses from international community, especially the US. Seen in the larger geo-political context, the overture gains even more significance as it would help diffuse the apprehensions of Arab world regarding Modi’s anti-Muslim and BJP’s Israelophile image.
Another invitation that has created furore domestically is the one forwarded to Sri Lanka’s Mahindra Rajpaksa which has not gone down well with the Tamil parties. Here too Modi seems to have scored major points. The relations between the island nation and India have not been the best in recent times; a major setback was Manmohan Singh skipping the CHOGM meet last year. For securing India’s interests in the Indian Ocean and to counter China in the naval region, where the Dragon is spreading its vicious wings and has replaced India in terms of infrastructural investment in Sri Lanka, amicable relations with Sri Lanka assume strategic significance. By Inviting Rajpaksa, Modi has already initiated a new chapter in the Indo-Sri Lankan relations leaving behind the ghosts of the civil war.
One thing is very clear from the PM-designate’s bold move. He has a well-rounded understanding of the dynamics of South Asian relations and the region is going to occupy central space in his foreign policy initiatives. From the outset his policy presents itself as an inclusive regional policy driven by economic considerations with pragmatic approaches rather than a nationalistic rhetoric.
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