May 19, 2014

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Modi

Does India’s new prime minister actually have a foreign policy?

The following article originally appeared on Foreign Policy on May 19, 2014. An excerpt is below. The full text is available here.

Narendra Modi is set to be India's next prime minister after an election won conclusively by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The combative chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, he has often been written off as a novice on foreign affairs. Commentators in India and abroad have dismissed him as having "little foreign policy experience," and consider him unlikely to change the "broad contours of Indian foreign policy" -- which have traditionally involved steady, balanced relations with several partners. Others paint him as a "hardliner," given his right-wing base, or have generously over-interpreted portions of his party's election manifesto that have implied changes to India's nuclear posture.

Yet few actually listen to what Modi himself has said about his foreign policy. He has delivered at least three speeches dedicated to international affairs and security since having been anointed his party's prime ministerial candidate in September, and discussed the subject in several interviews. But this has been largely ignored by New Delhi's cognoscenti. (For his part, Modi dismissed much of the speculation about his foreign policy as anuman, or conjecture.)