Modi’s RSS roots, travels stand him in good stead on foreign policy, says new book

According to Prof Sreeram Chaulia’s new book, Modi’s ‘India First’ policy is not to be mistaken with insularity like US president-elect Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ move


Sreeram Chaulia, an author and professor, says Narendra Modi is ‘endowed with the quintessential Gujarati streaks of entrepreneurship’. Photo: Reuters
Sreeram Chaulia, an author and professor, says Narendra Modi is ‘endowed with the quintessential Gujarati streaks of entrepreneurship’. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have surprised many with adept handling of foreign policy since he took office in May 2014.

But Sreeram Chaulia, author of a new book titled Modi Doctrine: The foreign policy of India’s prime minister is of the view that this was natural given his many (though little known) visits to foreign countries as a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or RSS in the past decades.

Chaulia, a professor of international relations at the Sonepat-based O.P. Jindal Global University, in his book released late on Tuesday says given that Modi is “endowed with the quintessential Gujarati streaks of entrepreneurship, seafaring psyche and outgoing personality” it is hardly a surprise that Modi has rescripted India’s foreign policy the way he has since assuming office.

Chaulia notes in his book that former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had deputed Modi (seen as a confidante of the then prime minister), to travel to countries like Malaysia and Australia for diplomatic and party work. And even prior to this, he had undertaken many trips to countries like the US—all of which moulded his thinking and attitude towards diplomacy.

According to Chaulia, Modi’s “India First” policy is not to be mistaken with insularity—as is the case with the US president-elect Donald Trump’s “America First” approach. “It means India will negotiate hard, India will also push its interest in the context of a liberalised world,” said Chaulia in introductory remarks at the launch of his book in New Delhi.

Laying out the specifics of the so-called “Modi Doctrine,” Chaulia said that “Under Modi (unlike with previous prime ministers), India is been seen as thinking big, mentally prepared to be a global player”.

Under this doctrine, “India has moved from being a rule taker to a rule maker,” he said adding that New Delhi was now endowed with a “supreme sense of confidence.”

An example of this and Modi’s risk taking nature was India’s bid to get a seat in the elite Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) that sets the rules for trade in global nuclear commerce. “Nobody becomes a great power by free riding,” Chaulia said. India had announced its bid in May and a meeting of the NSG in June had disagreed on india’s admission on the grounds that it was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Another meeting earlier this month too did not agree in India’s favour.

Among some of the terms coined by Chaulia are “rescue diplomacy” referring to India’s evacuations’ exercises from Yemen last year, “diaspora diplomacy” referring to Modi’s outreach to the people of Indian origin in countries he has visited, “G2B” or government to business which refers to Modi’s contacts with the business communities for various countries and lastly “G2P” which refers to the prime minister connect with the people of the country he visits – ie business people or parliamentarians.

Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at the London-based Kings College, who was present at the book launch, agreed with Chaulia’s analysis of a “Modi Doctrine” being crafted that abandons many of India’s previous positions like non alignment for example. “India is engaging the world today on very different terms compared to the past” Pant said adding that Modi was redefining India’s place in the world as a “regional power” casting aside its position of a “balancing power.”

More From Livemint