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The unpredictability of modis doctrine

In June this year, an American official spoke about the “Modi Doctrine”, just after Prime Minister Narendra Modis visit to U.S. A few months later, Sushma Swaraj, Union External Affairs Minister, launched a book, The Modi Doctrine: New Paradigms in India s Foreign Policy, summarizing the doctrine as India first, Neighbourhood first and engaging with global powers and Diaspora.

Certain goals like shifting countries  stance from non-alignment to a U.S. partnership began during the tenure of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee; maritime partnerships with Australia, Japan, Singapore, and the U.S. as a response to China s aggressiveness in the South China Sea started a decade back in 2007. The focus on Indian Diaspora goes back further.

What has been different in Modis foreign policy is the element of “unpredictability”. Right from his swearing-in ceremony in May 2014  when he invited South Asian leaders to  swing moment  with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Gujarat in 2014, to the Republic Day invite to U.S. President Barack Obama, in 2015, and surprise stops in Lahore and Kabul last Christmas.

The most unpredictable has perhaps been the engagement with Pakistan. Attempting to restart dialogue with Pakistan and paying a surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015 after cancellation of talks following Pathankot attack to announcing 3 strikes on Pakistan in 2016 and for the first time moving away from countries  traditional policy of non-interference, signaling an activist policy towards Balochistan s freedom movement, the relation between India and Pakistan was impulsive at best. Then came Uri attacks and surgical strikes, instigating international isolation of Pakistan and boycott of the SAARC summit in Pakistan.

But it is time to reflect on Modi governments unpredictable policy. Accompanied by law of diminishing returns, such a policy reaches a stale point where the shock value of wears off, and both adversaries come to “expect the unexpected”. With the Trump s election as US President, a dividing Europe, and an unstable dollar, the world environment is changing to unpredictable and such a scenario, predictable policy is going to attain more returns.

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