The Narendra Modi government has brought diplomacy at the forefront as India’s soft power has increased manifold ever since Narendra Modi assumed power. There were subtle signs right from the start given the fact that he invited the SAARC countries for his swearing-in ceremony. PM Modi actively participated in the important intergovernmental meetings where heads of states meet, such as the G20 summit, BRICS summit, ASEAN, UNGA meets. Ever since then, PM Modi has represented India with charisma and put forth India’s world view in a revised, ambitious form. From inviting all 10 ASEAN heads of states for Republic Day to responding to China’s intrusive, predatory diplomacy with soft diplomacy strengthened with empowering economic diplomacy, India has also flexed military ties with its allies like Japan, USA, Russia, France and allies in the neighbourhood, like Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar. Let’s take a look at how India has opened new diplomatic avenues since 2014.
Prime Minister Modi has focused specifically on tapping into the Indian diaspora community in order to project soft power around the world. Since Indians from this community usually have strong stakes in societies abroad, PM Modi organises events for the diaspora in various cities in the world (for example, in Brussels or Dubai) to deliver strong messages. Embracing over 25 million Indians, the diaspora could become “a core component of foreign policy initiatives” and “a vehicle of India’s soft power”.
India has aggressively pushed for cultural ties which are evident from the infrastructure projects that India has taken up in Afghanistan. From helping build the latter’s Parliament to building libraries and schools. When it comes to Indonesia, PM Modi recently announced a free 30-day visa for Indonesian citizens and invited the diaspora to travel to their country of origin to experience the ‘New India.’ He has also seemed to engage Sri Lanka through Buddhism and South Africa through Mahatma Gandhi.
To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think any nation has helped a nation develop in sports as much as India has helped develop cricket in Afghanistan. Cricket has emerged as a unifier for the war-torn country with India helping Afghanistan through various initiatives with the most prominent being allowing Afghanistan to play their international matches in Lucknow thereby making India Afghanistan’s cricketing home.
Bollywood has been a major rage in the world and PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia saw the conservative kingdom open up its cinemas to Bollywood movies.
India’s soft diplomacy was in full display as the world adopted Yoga with the United Nations celebrating ‘International Yoga Day’ on June 21.
ISRO on multiple occasions has made India proud and has been aggressively pursuing newer space ventures thanks to the backing from the Narendra Modi government. ISRO recently developed ASAT capabilities which effectively made India a space superpower. India has sought to leverage the immense potential of ISRO by helping out other countries with satellite launches. On February 15, 2017, ISRO launched 104 satellites on single launch by a PSLV-XL. 96 satellites were from the United States while the others come from Israel, the UAE, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
India has not deterred from helping out economically weaker countries by extending a line of credit which is a welcome break from China’s debt-trap diplomacy. India recently extended a $1 billion line of credit to Russia’s far east to counter Chinese hegemony in the region. Prime Minister Modi has aggressively focused on his neighbourhood policy and has developed close relations with all of India’s neighbour except for the revanchist state of Pakistan. In 2017, Bangladesh signed a $4.5 billion line of credit agreement with India for its infrastructure and social sector development. Keeping up with previous LoC agreements, Bangladesh will pay an interest rate of 1 per cent a year. It will have 20 years to pay back the loans, with a grace period of five years. India recently announced specific solar energy projects in parts of Africa in consultation with local governments and is seeking to ensure effective implementation of its Line of Credit of $1 billion.
PM Modi through his diplomacy has effectively positioned India as a global superpower and his efforts will have a lasting impact which will outlast his tenure as the Prime Minister.