During the three years of Modi regime, India has steadily gained in stature before the world community and has been recognised as the pivot of security in South Asia, a contributor to the stability of Indo-Pacific region and a strategic partner of the US in the fight against the new global terror that invoked Islam for its motivation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has successfully implemented the policy of “nation first” to establish strong mutually beneficial bilateral relationship with the US, Japan, Israel and Russia in the spheres of economy, technology and procurement of Defence equipment. India has, in recognition of the new world order resulting from the termination of the Cold War and the advent of the Age of Information, expanded its outreach to other nations as well, to explore cooperation in the areas of energy, infrastructure and transport and has rightly shed any hangovers of the days when “non-alignment” was an ideological prop. Progress of development is steady, considering how an all-pervasive corruption was eating up the state resources earlier and the call of “sabka sath sabka vikas” has helped to mitigate the ill effect of communal politics that was played in the name of economy of the minorities.
While India shines outside of its territory the decline of performance of the state governments in the areas of maintenance of law and order, handling of the rising sectarian politics and dealing with the continuing unwillingness of the elected representatives to shed “VIP culture” is a cause for concern. Prime Minister Modi and the Union Home Minister were strongly against these impediments to democracy. Unsatisfactory law and order, though a state subject, tends to detract from the national image abroad so assiduously built by the regime's foreign policy and security initiatives. Centre’s oversight on the appointment and delivery of the DGP and the Chief Secretary, who head the State Police and the State Administration respectively, has to be strengthened. This is a valid reform outside of politics and quite implementable as the Centre recruits and trains the officers of All India Services, assigns them to the states to provide leadership to these functions, and keeps track through the Department of Personnel of their performance and reputation.
Coming back to the distinct rise in the geo- political standing of India in terms of a recognition of its potential to join up with the global efforts to counter threats to world peace, it is worth reviewing some specific pointers to what Modi government has achieved over the recent months. The first and perhaps the most important is the creation of a highly productive Indo-US grid amid the uncertainties of the initial weeks of the Trump Presidency. The solid behind-the-scene work of our National Security Advisor and the Foreign Secretary laid the turf for an extremely gainful meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump at Washington. Modi was the first foreign dignitary to be extended a red carpet welcome by Trump. Modi’s White House dinner with the US President was also quite impactful. The Modi-Trump joint statement sealed the friendship between the two leaders, put India on the global map as the closest strategic partner of US in Asia and unambiguously declared their resolve to have the fullest cooperation in the spheres of both economy and security.
A remarkable outcome of the visit was that President Trump expressly condemned the ongoing cross border terrorism against India and called upon Pakistan to bring the culprits of 26/11 and Pathankot to justice. To coincide with the visit the US-listed Syed Salahuddin, who had been working with Hafiz Sayeed of Lashkar- e-Toiba to direct the activities of the militant wings of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, as a “specially designated global terrorist”, thereby putting an end to the American approach of making a distinction between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists”. Trump thus addressed a prime Indian concern, which even the Obama administration had refused to care about. Intelligence coordination between India and US on Islamic terrorism 'across the spectrum' has consequently been pushed up to a new level.
Further, India has now emerged as an important partner of the US and Japan in working for the security of the Indo-Pacific maritime region against the aggressive designs of China. Also, in the context of the present destabilisation of Afghanistan India has secured an unequivocal recognition from President Trump, as a crucial player in the execution of the American strategy there and as the sheet anchor of South Asian security at large.
Trump has described US and India as “responsible stewards” whose partnership will ensure freedom of navigation, commerce and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region and keep the area peaceful and stable. Modi’s successful handling of foreign relations has put India in the centre of the effort of major global powers to check the destructive fallout of Sino-Pak military alliance. This will help India also to counter the threat from China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that has cut through POK – a territory belonging to India as a part of the integral state of J&K. The Modi-Trump joint statement clearly stated that economic connectivity could not be at the cost of sovereignty and national interests of other countries. The firm handling of Doklam issue by India has yielded a good outcome illustrating the country’s new strength.
President Trump has shed the ambiguity of the Obama regime on Afghan issue and while clearly administering a warning to Pakistan against providing safe haven to Islamic terrorists operating in Afghanistan, highlighted the importance of the role of India in bringing about speedy economic development of that country for the larger interest of South Asia’s security. Since President Trump has left it to the Pentagon to take decisions on Afghanistan, India should be watchful against the reappearance of the old habit of US Generals to feel too empathetic towards Pak army. India’s national security and diplomatic establishments have to carry forward India’s enhanced role in South and Asia Pacific regions in particular.
Time has come for India to embrace a bigger responsibility of working for world peace in collaboration with friendly powers and at the same time safeguard its geo-political stakes while being in active pursuit of the global commons.
(The writer is a former director, Intelligence Bureau)