New Delhi, 14 July-2014, Rajeev Sharma : This is going to be the most serious foreign policy lesson as well as a challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he embarks on a trip to Brazil on Sunday to attend the sixth Brics summit in Brazil.
Why the Brics summit is Modi’s first major diplomatic outing
PM Narendra Modi with Saarc leaders. AFP.PM Narendra Modi with Saarc leaders. AFP.
Modi is no longer a bunny in foreign policy as he began his prime ministerial tenure on 26 May on an unprecedented diplomatic outreach to eight countries, including seven Saarc leaders. After that he visited Bhutan, his first foreign bilateral visit.
But now he is getting into more serious diplomatic business. In Brazil, he will be sharing the diplomatic high table for the first time. He will not only be meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time during the Brics summit but will also be holding one-to-one meetings with the rest of Brics leaders. He will be the first Indian PM to interact with the entire Latin American leadership under one roof in one go.
Besides, Modi will be scoring a diplomatic first by meeting all the other eleven Latin American world’s leaders on one single platform as Brazil’s President and the host Dilma Roussef, has invited the leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela. All these leaders will be in Brazil and Modi is slated to meet them all in Brasilia.
Thus, Modi is headlong into the highest international diplomacy during his trip to Brazil. Here is a brief run-down of Modi’s diplomatic outreach that is in store for him in Brazil.
Modi’s very first bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Brics summit would be with Chinese President Xi Jinping whose foreign minister happened to be the first foreign dignitary to touch base with the new Indian government. The meeting is expected to take place on 15 July.
China is a country which Modi personally admires a lot and wants to emulate the Chinese growth story. Modi is particularly enamoured of the Chinese breathtaking accomplishments in the infrastructure sector. Also, Modi is highly appreciative of the Chinese achievements in the manufacturing sector where India has been a laggard over the years.
The Modi government has already unveiled its plans to give the Chinese an industrial park in India. Therefore, Modi will be all too ready to further cement India’s economic and business ties with China.
At the same time, Modi is well aware of the fact that China is the number one security and strategic threat to India, given the high-decibel Chinese military incursions into Indian territories which have not stopped after Modi took over as the Indian prime minister. Therefore, Modi’s agenda with Xi Jinping would be to hammer out a solution wherein China does not needle India with its frequent military incursions till the boundary dispute is settled between the two Asian giant neighbours while the economic engagement and people-to-people contacts between India and China are put on next gear.
The Chinese President is likely to visit India later this year on a bilateral visit and the window for this is most likely to be in November-December. Modi’s prime mission objective in his meeting with Xi would be to convince him of the need for plucking the low-hanging fruits that are available to India and China while keeping contentious issues like the boundary dispute on the back burner till a lasting solution is found.
Russia has been the most trusted strategic partner of India for decades and also a major contributor to the Indian defence. But of late, the Indo-Russian relationship has been sliding downwards as the United States has already nudged past Russia in becoming India’s largest weapons exporter.
Modi will have to do a fine diplomatic balancing act with Russia and keep Moscow strategically engaged with India. This is easier said than done. Both India and Russia have to rediscover each other and reboot their bilateral relationship.
Putin would inevitably be lending his ears to Modi’s plans in the immediate future for achieving this strategic objective. Modi’s biggest diplomatic test would be to ensure that Russia is not only kept in the loop but also intensify cooperation with India’s most trusted friend.
The Russian president is scheduled to visit India later this year for the next Indo-Russian annual summit. Modi’s main task would be to take the Indo-Russian strategic partnership to the next level even though lucrative Indian defence contracts have of late been drying out for Moscow.
Times have changed significantly and India now has robust diplomatic, strategic and economic ties with the far-away South American continent.
The importance of the Latin American nations for India can be deduced from the fact that India has a trade of $42 billion with Latin America, a figure that has the potential of breaching the $100 billion mark in near future.
Moreover, Latin America, which is home to 600 million people, has a combined GDP of almost five trillion dollars.
India is increasingly depending on Latin America for imports of hydrocarbons and this region is already accounting for an impressive ten per cent of India’s hydrocarbons import basket.
Obviously, Modi will have a lot of talking points when he engages with Latin American leadership in Brazil.
Editor’s note: The writer is Firstpost Consulting Editor and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha