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Mudda participants examine India’s foreign policy at the end of Prime Minister Modi’s three-nation tour in the Far East, most believe Modi diplomacy is going in the right direction

Saturday’s edition of Mudda examined India’s foreign policy at the end of Prime Minister Modi’s three-nation tour in the Far East. Participants were former diplomat JK Tripathy, journalists Atul Chandra and Govind Pant Raju, Congress spokesperson Omkar Nath Singh and BJP spokesperson Ashok Thakur. The show was anchored by Akshay Singh.

The opening remarks were Tripathy’s.  After India and China, they are the biggest economic powers. These three countries, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, are close to the United States and opposed to China. They have sent out a message that the two superpowers, India and China, must work together to improve the strategic balance in the region. This tour is also a subtle message against Chinese hegemony. The US is planning to bring CASTA, so this tour is also message to that country that we will not forsake our friendships with Russia, Iran or Asean, he said.

It is all hype and a manifestation of India’s tourism policy and tourism diplomacy, not amounting to much else, the Congress spokesperson said.

“I do not agree with Singh, as even symbolically, it is a powerful message. Indonesia will help India set up a port in the Indian Ocean which will be of great strategic value. It will help establish a trade corridor. Meanwhile, there is talk of cooperation between Malaysian and Indian airlines. The PM’s missile deal with Russia is also important as is India’s begging out of maritime exercises with Australia but agreeing to take part in joint air exercises. Today we need to create a multi-polar world and not a bipolar world. The US has isolated itself by sanctioning Iran and waging a tariff war with Europe. In this context, India’s policy is the right one,” Chandra said.

Raju felt that today trade and commerce is the most important of all ties. Militarism is no longer as important. A bipolar world is already a thing of the past. India has shown it can be equidistant from Palestine, Israel and Jordan and maintain ties with all. Today we are about to strike arms deal with Russia. India is also making the best of its cultural capital. Diplomatically, it is a fresh point of view.

Omkar Nath Singh said initially, India was a non-aligned country. But now PM Narendra Modi is always trying to balance his friendships between various countries. If he goes to Russia, he needs to follow it up with a trip of his defence and external affairs ministers to the US. Yet he was voted in as a strong prime minister, no less.

“It is a wrong interpretation of facts and intents. Relations do not change overnight. At the end of the day, China is a superpower. They did what they did in Doklam. So it makes sense to talk to the Chinese government to forward our national interest and establish a balance of power. To that extent, Modi has birthed a whole new foreign policy,” Thakur said.

Raju felt that China is not trustworthy. In the South China Sea region, as it has misbehaved with both Philippines and Malaysia. But today Beijing knows its commerce will take a big hit if it spoils its ties with New Delhi. Also, both have common cause vis-à-vis the United States. Hence there is room for cooperation and we should seize it. In that perspective, it makes sense to also develop ties with the Asean countries to balance its friendship with Beijing as Vietnam, Malaysia and other countries as they are continuously victimised by China. India has been successful diplomatically, especially on climate change as well as terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. So it won’t do too badly as far as China is concerned.

“China is all set to install a device to detect earthquakes and explosives in South China Sea. It is not leaving any stone unturned to increase its maritime dominance. So the Asean tour makes all the more sense,” Chandra said.

Five countries—Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Malaysia—are all against China. Japan is supporting India in its bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Also, China knows that the US is the biggest superpower. If it spoils its ties with the States, it will stand to lose trade. Hence it won’t squander away these ties by reacting to new friendships in the Far East, Tripathy said.

—Compiled by Sucheta Dasgupta

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