The biggest and some might say the scariest weapon in India’s arsenal is its economic power and since India has started to emerge as a superpower, it has started to act like one too. India is well on its way to emulating what all major superpowers do when certain countries try to rile them up unnecessarily.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad have already started feeling the heat of India’s wrath after the anti-India rhetoric mired with Pakistan’s line on Kashmir at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
It was evident from the very beginning that they both will be put under duress by the ruthless PM Modi led government and according to a TOI report, it very well seems to be the case. New Delhi has started to leverage its market and economic muscle to retaliate against the two for their outrageous public statements on Kashmir as well as support to the terrorist state of Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The economic sanctions have become the “silver bullet” of Indian foreign policy now, as they are cheaper and more effective in compelling adversaries than traditional military power. USA and China time and again use this strategy to strong-arm the smaller nations. The ongoing tariff war between the two countries can be a substantial example of it. On 15th October, Trump had sanctioned heavy tariffs and stopped the 100 $ billion trade deal negotiations owning to Turkey’s rendezvous in Syria and its skirmish with the Kurds.
The developments amount to a paradigm shift in India’s diplomatic channels where India now increasingly flexes its muscles in international affairs. Erdogan and Mohamad by their sudden vile anti-India rhetoric had invited a firm Indian response and it seems like they are about to be served the sucker-punch.
Apart from slamming Turkey for its invasion in Syria and cancelling PM Modi’s visit to Ankara, the Government of India has put on hold a USD 2.3 billion shipbuilding (Indian Navy) contract which was to be awarded to Turkish company. India has already taken action against Turkish defence company Anadolu Shipyard that builds support ships for the Indian Navy, barring it from the huge Indian defence market.
In addition to Turkey’s open support for Pakistan, it appears Turkey is building ships for Pakistan’s navy as well. Media reports have quoted Indian defence ministry officials as saying that this made the Turkish firm a security threat. Turkey can be jolted severely as India remains its second-largest trading partner in the Asia Pacific, Several Turkish companies have been heavily involved in business in India including the Celebi Aviation Company which has bagged massive contracts to run India’s airports. Nonetheless, with recent developments, India has indicated that any agenda detrimental to India’s strategic and national interest will be met with swift and diligent diplomatic actions.
The Malaysian Prime Minister too seems to have tread the wrong path by taking Pakistan’s side on the Kashmir issue and showing utter disregard for India’s territorial sovereignty. India has leveraged its economic might with reports indicating that India may restrict Palm oil imports from Malaysia, which could devastate the South Asian nation’s economy.
Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India’s total edible oil imports. India buys more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. About 96-98% of palm oil consumed by India is imported. But the reports have quoted industry representatives saying that Indian importers and refiners are moving palm oil purchases from Malaysia to Indonesia. India is the world’s largest buyer of palm oil. The government is willing to play the long game and is waiting for Malaysia’s reaction.
As a result of these reports, Mahathir Mohamad has already gone soft on the issue and promises to handle the issue through diplomatic channels after pressure from Malaysian media. The palm oil industry is one of the biggest employers in the Southeast Asian country of 32 million people and India’s move to restrict its exports will have widespread ramifications for the country.
Faced with serious consequences, Kuala Lumpur and Ankara would have to take weighty measures so as to woo India back and the start would be to stop supporting the nefarious terrorist neighbour state (Read: Pakistan). Otherwise the new India led by Narendra Modi is not afraid of being on the front foot and taking control of the proceedings. It is important to understand that these steps taken by India show a marked yet tectonic change in India’s foreign policy.