Many self-styled ‘liberals’ in India and abroad virtually wept profusely after what was, unquestionably, the resounding victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The reaction of world leaders was quite different. Those warmly and personally congratulating Prime Minister Modi included: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the Monarchs of Bhutan and Saudi Arabia, leaders from South and Southeast Asia, besides Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister, together with Heads of Government from across Europe and West Asia. Imran Khan belatedly called Modi, with his usual homilies on ‘talks’.
These messages have set the stage for the conduct of our foreign and security policies, in the coming five years. Most importantly, the warmth of these messages strengthens those who have argued that India should maintain its ‘strategic autonomy’ by reaching out to all major powers. No foreign power should, however, be allowed to take India for granted. We have far too many ideologically inclined pundits from the Left in India, who would want us to forget all the serious differences we have with China, and become Beijing’s fellow traveller.
India is one of the very few countries which has avoided becoming a victim of ‘Trump Tantrums’. Modi is scheduled to meet the mercurial President at the G20 Summit on June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan. Trump will return mightily pleased from the meeting, if Modi fulfills his cherished desire of India importing Harley-Davidson, American motorcycles. It should, however, be our effort to work out modalities with the US, to stop hindering our arms imports from Russia, by its banking sanctions. We are, after all, also buying large amounts of American defence equipment. The meeting would also be a good opportunity to exchange views on Afghanistan and make our concerns known, and also to thank the Americans for their unstinted support for Balakot.
It is fortuitous that Japan’s Prime Minister, who enjoys a very warm personal rapport with Modi, is hosting the first G20 Summit, after our General Elections. Our relations with Japan have improved immensely. Japan is the largest donor for aid projects in India and joint venture projects are spread all over India. Moreover, our defence relationship with Japan is expanding steadily. The US, India, Japan and the Philippines held joint naval exercises on May 2-8, in the South China Sea, where China has used force to back its maritime territorial claims on the Philippines.
A possible meeting of Modi with President Xi Jinping in Osaka will provide a good opportunity for him to review relations with China, after their successful Summit meeting in Wuhan, when tensions over Doklam were successfully resolved. Given Beijing’s serious differences with the US over trade ties and American sanctions on China’s mammoth Huawei Industries, we could explore how ready China would be to invest in high-tech electronics industries in India. The Osaka Summit will be an ideal occasion for Modi to build further on what he achieved in his first term.