Modi’s Foreign Policy @ 365 : Course Correction

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

Foreign policy barely found mention during the election campaign of candidate Narendra Modi. Yet, during his first year in office Prime Minister Modi has emerged as one of the most dynamic leaders in the foreign policy realm. He has displayed a renewed sense of purpose and vigour with his participation in various bilateral, regional and multilateral summits. While economic engagement remains an important thrust of his foreign policy, he has also successfully used soft power, like promotion of democratic values, Buddhism, and yoga, and reached out to the diaspora to project India’s influence.  By most accounts Modi’s government has had a good year.

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However, despite the government’s foreign policy activism, several areas (such as West Asia and Africa) and issues (such as cyber security and climate change) of interest to India have not been addressed in any significant way. Moreover, despite a series of dramatic initiatives from the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy to the ‘Act East’ policy, systematic weaknesses, particularly in the foreign policy establishment, have seen very little follow through and investment. This is apparent in the case of both the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region. Additionally, there is still no overall foreign policy framework that connects the various initiatives; presently the parts do not add up to the sum.

What other lessons can be learnt about the government’s abilities and limitations from its first year? How can the Modi government build and sustain the foreign policy momentum of its first year? What changes does it need to make both at the centre and state level to pursue its objectives?

Taking advantage of the depth and width of expertise within Brookings on India, this Brookings India briefing book contains nine short opinion pieces from various scholars on different aspects of Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policy over the past one year. These pieces critically analyze Modi’s foreign policy agenda and offer recommendations and insights on the conduct of diplomacy in the years to come.

This briefing book is a compilation of essays from the IndiaGov@365 blog.