India: Building the Foundations for Robust Global Engagement

Title of an oldish paper (Apr-2015) by WPS Sidhu of Brooking India.

There is little doubt that if there is some policy taken really seriously by Indian PM, it is foreign policy. The kind of interest that has been generated over the various foreign tours of Indian PM and several discussion (a lot of hype though), has been seen after a long time in Indian policy.

The paper is a brief on the things needed to make this agenda more meaningful and result oriented:

While Mr. Modi’s personal world view and its effect on India’s foreign policy is difficult to discern, India has considerable potential to establish itself as a more influential player on the world stage. In order to prioritise India’s contribution to developing international regimes related to climate, cyber, energy, food, outer space, trade, non-proliferation and water, Mr. Modi should consider taking several short-term and medium-term steps.

In the short-term, Mr. Modi should appoint a number of special envoys on important issues with necessary diplomatic skills and political respectability to represent Indian interests in international fora. The government should continue to engage with think tanks, and institutionalise mechanisms for external experts and foreign policy officials to interact on pressing policy matters. Mr. Modi should further appoint a foreign affairs advisor who will be the point-person offering expert advice to the Prime Minister. Finally, communicating the government’s vision to India and the world will be of critical importance.

In the medium term, expanding the size of the foreign policy establishment, publishing regular strategic vision statements, enhancing centre-state cooperation, creating an international diplomatic training forum, and revamping the foreign policy planning process are all essential if India is to build the necessary foundations to engage more actively in international fora.

The author though misses a crucial point. There is way too much emphasis on PM and his policies. The idea should instead be to institutionalise the whole foreign policy business so that things continue. It should not be the case that things lose out as PM/Govt is out of power sometime in future..

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