In 2014, when Narendra Modi was elected as the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, the world watched in expectation as to how his foreign policy would be. He has brought a new vigour to India’s foreign policy, strengthening and renewing ties with old friends, while also making new friends across the globe.
For example, he has strengthened India’s ties with Israel, France, United Kingdom, Japan, United States of America, and South Korea, and also initiated and built relationships in West Asia (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel) and with New Zealand and Australia.
In light of the dynamic equations that countries share, it becomes important for nations to not only choose their friends with care, but also sustainrelationships in view of events that have a butterfly effect across the globe. PM Narendra Modi has struck the fine balance of continuing relations as well as cultivating fresh ties, which will prove strategically significant in the medium and long-term. The 21st century will be characterized by the proactive, ambitious and innovative diplomacy with the underlying theme of ‘India First’.
India’s agile diplomacy is marked with the policy of ‘Acting East’ and ‘Looking West’.
- India’s relationship with Iran went through a perceptible shift when the historic Chabahar Agreement was signed by the Prime Minister on his visit to Iran.
- It was a new beginning when PM Narendra Modi was conferred Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor, Sash of King Abdulaziz Sash. When the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited India, he increased the quota for Indian Haj pilgrims to 2 lakh and agreed to release 850 prisoners lodged in Saudi jails.
- When the Prime Minister visited Doha, Qatar in 2016, he pushed for economic ties in the hydrocarbon sector. Moreover, while he shared a meal with those working in Doha and addressed the NRIs at an event, he invigorated the diaspora with new lease of energy, assuring them India was there to care for them and their concerns.
- India consented to the Ashgabat Agreement which is concerned with transit and transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. This has helped India diversify its connectivity within the region.
- PM Narendra Modi visited Australia for G20 Leaders' Summit at Brisbane in November 2014, followed by bilateral visit. When Prime Minister Turnbull visited India during April 2017, initiatives related to defence and strategic partnerships in the field of energy and education were discussed along with MoUs on cooperation in combating international terrorism and transnational organized crime. In January 2018, India became a part of Australia Group, an export control regime that aims to prevent proliferation of biological and chemical weapons.
- Prime Minister of New ZealandJohn Key visited India in October 2016.India’s support for New Zealand’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council was appreciated by him. Apart fromthe announcement on amendments to the bilateral Double Taxation Agreement, India and New Zealand agreed upon increased cooperation in defence and security.
- The first ever visit of Indian prime minister to Israel brought freshvigour to the Indo-Israel relations. PM Narendra Modi’s trip to Israel was a watershed moment in India-Israel relations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India in 2018 and signed multiple MoUs in areas of space technology, cyber security, oil and gas production among others.
- India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with The United States of America. At the 2+2 meet, India and the US signed the Communications, Compatibility Security Agreement (COMCASA). It enhancesIndia’s defence capability and preparedness.
- PM Narendra Modi’s equation with the Russian President Vladimir Putin is of geo-strategic importance.India will soon begin inducting the first squadron of the advanced S-400 Triumf surface to air missile systems from Russia.
- Relations with Palestine remained warm. PM Narendra Modi was conferred ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine' after his visit to Palestine.
After the cowardly terrorist attack in Pulwama and the subsequent air strikes by India, all major global leaders stood in solidarity with India. This was an evidence of the strength of India’s diplomatic initiative and the impact of PM Narendra Modi’s personal efforts to strengthen relations with the world. Time and again, he has gone out of his way to ensure India’s strategic interests with global peers are preserved. India’s soft power coupled with strong relationships across economic, defence and strategic domains has helped the country emerge as aforce to reckon with.