Is Narendra Modi’s foreign policy “risk-prone”, “reckless” and unduly “personalised”? These questions and these expressions have been heard repeatedly. Recently they were raised after the August 15 reference to Balochistan. Earlier they followed the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) plenary in Seoul and found mention in analyses of Modi’s high-octane international visits.
How valid is such criticism? The answer requires reflection. True, some of the criticism has come from those politically opposed to Modi and congenitally or even hereditarily hostile to anything he does. Yet, some misgivings have come from veteran diplomats who have served India honestly and purposefully in the past. Many are agnostic to Modi, some may even be sympathetic. Why are they nonplussed?
Part of it is a caution born of years of seeing things done in a certain manner and using certain protocols – and it must be said that manner and those protocols often worked to India’s advantage. Part of it is an inability to understand the instincts of a competitive politician who tends to approach any political engagement — domestic or international — with a transactionalism and a horse-sense assessment of immediate and long-term implications, calculating the appropriate mix in his head.