Unfazed Ram Madhav says India’s neighbours never been happier with us
Even as China continues making inroads in countries traditionally considered as India’s bastion, Ram Madhav said that Modi’s policy was being lauded in the neighbourhood
India has abandoned its big brotherly attitude towards its neighbours in favour of sovereign equality while engaging with them, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) General Secretary and one of the key architects of the foreign policy of the Narendra Modi government said on Wednesday.
“We have abandoned the big brotherly approach of the previous governments,” said Madhav, during his opening remarks at the launch of a book, Neighbourhood Initiatives of the Modi Government: Challenges and Road Ahead, in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The remarks by Madhav come amid growing criticism of the government’s foreign policy by the opposition parties, particularly over its failure to check the rising influence of China in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, once considered India’s backyard.
But Madhav struck a different tone altogether.
“This government believes in the principle of sovereign equality while engaging with our neighbours. We don’t believe that the neighbourhood is our own backyards,” he said at the event, attended by distinguished academics and former high-ranking members of the armed forces among others.
He admitted that there was a “significant departure” in the foreign policy of the Modi government when stacked up against previous governments.
The author of a four-page resolution on India’s foreign policy under the BJP in 2015, Madhav expressed confidence that “India’s neighbours have never been happier with our government.”
Madhav said at the book launch function that panchamrit- samman (dignity), samvad (dialogue), samriddhi (prosperity), suraksha (security) and sanskriti evam sabhayata (cultural links) – were five pillars of foreign policy of the current government.
The influential ruling party leader argued that immediate neighbours must see the benefit of pursuing relations with India.
“As part of this government’s policy, we want our neighbours to pursue their own policy with other countries as well. We want to share the fruits of our growth with them, In the same way, we want these countries to share the fruits of their progress with India,” he said.
He, however, cautioned that India’s neighbours must also “respect India’s strategic concerns.”
The Director of New Delhi-based think tank India Foundation, Madhav said that the current government had been successful in “de-hyphenating” India’s relations with other countries with respect to third country.
“When former secretary of state Hillary Clinton used to visit India, it was considered important for her to make a stop in Islamabad in order to balance US’ relations with both India and Pakistan.
Going on to state that China’s growing influence was the single most significant foreign policy challenge facing India, Madhav said, “With China, India has used pro-active diplomacy with strong on ground posturing which has resulted in better relations between India and China”
This approach was part of the Cold War mentality of ours,” said Madhav, adding that the Modi government didn’t follow the hyphenated policy.
Going on to state that China’s growing influence was the single most significant foreign policy challenge facing India, Madhav said, “With China, India has used pro-active diplomacy with strong on ground posturing which has resulted in better relations between India and China.”
“We are trying to make sure that there won’t be a conflict between our two nations,” he said.
Foreign policy expert Dhruva Jaishankar, a fellow at Brookings India, who was also among the speakers, said that China playing a bigger economic and political role in the neighbourhood presented India with a major challenge.
“There is a growth of nationalist sentiment in some of the neighbouring countries, which is anti-India in nature at times,” he added.
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