Statecraft is best pursued without attaching emotions. Modi could have clearly delayed going to the US? Yes. Would it send a message to the US? Of Course Yes! But what is important is not the public messages that press and readerss discuss when it comes to the interests of the state.
The insult to India by way of La Affair Khobragade and Visa Refusal is there. It is not going to go away. As the leader of the country, Modi had a choice. He could have clearly indicated that he remembers the insult to India and to him personally by not going to the US or agreeing to meet the POTUS by not accepting the invitation immediately and wait for the completion of Obama Presidency. Bear in mind, he has very clearly stated that acts against individuals will not decide on relations between sovereign states. He obviously does not see the insult to bear on relations indefinitely.
He clearly wants to establish a road map and trajectory for India that will put firmly on a path of relative security and strength that will guarantee and underpin a growth model that will be comprehensive. No more compartmentalized vision of a India as an economic power, like the “Japan Model”, that I used to refer. That was a vision pursued by the likes of Manmohan Singh. That era has ended.
The first steps of Modi in the realm of strategic affairs and foreign policy is clearly indicating to a vision of India that will take its place as a comprehensive global power. I have always maintained that National Security is essentially multi-dimensional. I have written and presented in the past this aspect of National Security as a composite, dynamic and evolving set of goals. In its essence, National Security is about protecting and promoting National Interests, which by themselves are inherently dynamic and evolving.
How are these National Interests defined and envisioned? It has to be a natural extension of National Strengths across five dimensions, Military, Geo Political, Socio-Cultural, Economic and Science & Technology. In each of these dimensions we will have National Aspirations and this has to be viewed in the context of National Strengths.
It is this integrated view that will help envision a set of National Goals and National Interest and to pursue them would be the basis of our National Security agenda. Foreign diplomacy and geo-political realities must dictate a set of options. Capabilities in these dimensions will not ensure achieving of National Interests or Goals. An integrated well crafted pursuit of National Interests that combines all the five dimensions alone will help achieve our agenda. It is also important that the National Interests are well defined and clear.
Given the above, this watershed election has given an opportunity to the GoI to recalibrate the National Vision of what India wants. Unfortunately, in our democracy, foreign policy is not an election issue. The reason for this is very clear. The general population trusts the GoI of whatever dispensation to pursue a policy of continuity in our foreign policy. In this two principal axioms were considered inviolable by any government.
(i) Strategic decisions and options of India will be decided only by India and by Indians. There can be no dilution of this principle for any of the strategic decisions to powers outside India – be it super powers or any multi-lateral arrangement.
(ii) Indian independence to exercise its strategic decisions and options will never be compromised. No inducements, threat of force or coercion will be accepted to infringe on this right and India will pay any price to defend this independence.
Till the advent of Manmohan Singh government, all previous governments have never compromised on these fundamentals, no matter what the odds.
I believe that the dilution on the above principles will be stopped and their sanctity will be restored. This is the continuity part of our National Security strategy and the foreign policy that we adopt will be within the boundaries of these principles. There is no change in this from Modi government. It will only be a reassertion of these inviolable postulates.
The change will be in the tone, tenor and grammar of how we conduct ourselves. That is in large part dictated by the Vision and Goals we will have. This government has indicated very clearly that they are not thinking of a five year mandate but are laying out a plan and vision for India for a much longer time frame. The change will be seen in the comprehensive vision of India that straddles all the five dimensions mentioned above.
While that clarity in thought is essential in forging a path ahead, it is also a demand of statecraft that one must have a clarity in the path to be taken to reach or realize the Vision. It has to be a reflection of a good understanding of the current situation across all the five dimensions in relation to that vision. The lens of realism must be applied without sentimentality. The realpolitik nature of the World must be studied and opportunities seized so that the path to the vision is traversed.
I believe that the initial steps taken by Modi government signals an understanding and intent. It is a call for action. There is a Unity in Purpose and Clarity in Thought on what needs to be done. It is in this context one should look at things and decide. Modi has exercised a choice here. He is pursuing a plan of action that will call for engagement with the pre-eminent powers of the world and that includes the USG.
I do not think he is under any illusion, nor is he looking at things from a transactional point of view. It is merely an acknowledgement to reality that he needs to engage.
What is more important is the agenda that is getting unveiled slowly. The ramifications of which will be far reaching. Is he likely to make all the decisions in this journey correctly? Probably not. There will be a few missteps. What is more important is that there is a plan and there is an approach to realize the plan that is based on unsentimental and objective assessment of the situation. Even more importantly, the plan that is there is clearly to achieve a comprehensive Vision of India.
The signals are there for those who care to read them well.
As usual just a ramble, take it for what it is worth.