Astute readers will recall Betteridge’s law of headlines—an answer to any question in a headline is always no. India’s foreign policy—seen through its history, grand strategy, elites, and institutions—operates in an enduring and narrowly defined band of elite consensus, and therefore will likely not change under the new leadership.
Narendra Modi’s successful campaign focused on economic growth through reform, good governance, and courting of investment—he sold himself as a man who would make Indians forget about the disappointing growth and corruption of the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of Manmohan Singh. Modi has a track record as a proud Hindu nationalist, albeit a pragmatic one who recognized the foundation of India as inclusive and secular. During his campaign, he downplayed the earlier divisive communal rhetoric of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) and its spiritual well-spring, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) (a right-wing Hindu nationalist group Modi is a member of).
With the new Modi administration, will there be a dramatic reorientation of foreign policy and relations with China and the United States? As part of a sequel, this first blog post tackles this question by examining India’s history, grand strategy, and foreign policymaking institutions and inputs. Relations with China will continue to be marked by bilateral engagement (economically and diplomatically) and hedging (multilateral engagement and self-strengthening), both driven by India’s relative weakness. Modi’s energy and focus have brought new optimism in America, but the relationship will still be shaped within the contours of strategic autonomy, special sensitivity, and capacity constraints. This is a challenging relationship for both the United States and India—as proud and occasionally dissenting equals—to manage. The second blog post will further analyze these bilateral relationships under the Modi administration. (more…)Continue Reading →