Last month, the NDA government led by PM Narendra Modi completed three years in power, which amounts to 60% of its current tenure. Therefore, this is a good time to analyse the kind of approach that this government has taken towards foreign policy issues.
In 2014, after a gap of three decades, a majority government had come into power and therefore it was expected that it would not have the headache of satisfying its coalition partners while taking bold decisions. Indeed, a "bold move" was seen when to the surprise of many, Narendra Modi called his counterparts from all SAARC countries to participate in his oath-taking ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan. This marked the start of his "Neighbourhood First" policy. He stated the importance of cooperating and having a cordial relationship with all the neighbours which would be mutually beneficial for everyone in the region.
In the neighbourhood
Three years since then, though, a lot has happened. Indo-Pak relations have seen a roller coaster ride. From inviting Nawaz Sharif to PM Modi's oath taking ceremony to Modi paying an impromptu visit to Pakistan on Nawaz Sharif's birthday, from the Pathankot attack to Uri Attack, from Pakistan backed terrorism in Kashmir valley to the LoC surgical strikes, the list goes on. Meanwhile, China is making headway in wooing India's neighbours. Clearly, "Neighbourhood First" is turning into "Neighbourhood Lost."
India's relations with its immediate neighbours have been a matter of concern while its engagement with the outside world has been improving.
India doesn't have the economic capability to invest as much as China in the economies of its neighbours. Therefore, China's attempt to gain a "geo-economic" as well as "geo-strategic" advantage over India is working.
The last three years will be remembered for the frequent foreign visits made by the Indian Prime Minister. Since assuming office in May 2014, Modi has made 56 foreign trips, starting from in June 2014 with Bhutan. A large section of foreign policy analysts and media believe that these foreign visits are highly required for India to make its "presence felt" as an emerging power in the international system. They also suggest these trips are necessary for Modi to build a "personal equation" with other leaders and thus accrue political and economic benefits for the country. India's entry into the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) has been widely attributed to the current government's robust efforts in the field of diplomacy.
Russia—a fraying friendship
Russia, once considered to be India's all-weather ally, seems to have been drifting away and tilting towards Pakistan. Writing on this issue, India's strategic expert C Raja Mohan said, "As Russia conducts its first ever military exercise with the Pakistan Army... Delhi has to reckon with the prospect that Russia might not necessarily remain India's best friend forever. Rethinking Russia's position in India's strategic calculus will be heart-wrenching for many in Delhi."
A Chinese impasse
India's relations with China have not shown much improvement in the last three years. China's Silk Road diplomacy has successfully wooed India's neighbours, most of whom are participants in China's "One Belt One Road" Project. India decided not to be a part of this project as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), which is claimed by India as its own territory. CPEC is definitely a headache to India's policymakers as this gives both Pakistan and China a strategic advantage over the sensitive region of Kashmir.
Allying with America
Prime Minister Modi has invested significant effort into building India's engagement with the US, and he has already paid four visits to America since assuming office. Setting out a new vision for the future, he proclaimed that finally Indo-US ties had "overcome the hesitations of history" The eminent strategic analyst Harsh V Pant seems to agree that much headway has been made:
"From resolving the prickly issue of civil nuclear energy cooperation to significantly upgrading defence cooperation, and in arriving at a common understanding on a range of international issues, Indo-US relations seem to have reached an 'extraordinarily good place."
To sum up, India's foreign policy is in a transitional phase where new friendships are being made while old ones seem to be drifting away. India's relations with its immediate neighbours have been a matter of concern while its engagement with the outside world has been improving. Increasingly, India's stature in international relations is increasing as the country is making concerted efforts to be a part of all the major groupings in the world.