New Delhi, April 30:
The Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy is more “vigorous” and “innovative” than the previous regime, the prime minister having visited 16 countries in 11 months, but there is a dire need for greater integration between foreign policy and defence, experts said.
Speakers at a ‘Review of PM’s Three-Nation Foreign Visit’ felt the Modi government’s foreign policy is a continuation of that of the previous Manmohan Singh government, but with some “tweaking” and “innovation” to highlight strengths.
Former Indian envoy Jayant Prasad, addressing the round table on Wednesday evening at India Habitat Centre, said: “Modi is not looking at India as a balancing power but as a potentially leading power, and whether or not he succeeds will depend on success on the ground.”
Modi visited France, Germany and Canada earlier this month.
Prasad said that India must do more to engage the European Union, and that the grouping “can play and has played a critical role” with regard to support for India, including in the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Modi’s proposed visit to Brussels, the headquarters of the 28-member European Union, was called off after the EU failed to respond with dates. The stand-off with Italy over the Italian Marines’ case is viewed as a spoiler.
Admiral Arun Prakash, former Chief of the Naval Staff, said India is among the highest arms importer in the world, while China in comparison has become a major arms exporter. “The leadership has missed the bus. You can’t call yourself a regional player when you import arms,” he said at the event organised by think tank Society for Policy Studies (SPS).
Prakash also said that defence deals were perceived as the “golden goose” by political parties and seen as “a source of political funding”.
He said defence deals should be handled by people with professional knowledge about the subject, which was lacking among the government officials tasked to draw up the contracts.
Strategic expert C. Uday Bhaskar, director of SPS, said that greater integration between defence and foreign policy was required and that a Joint Chiefs of Staff was as needed as greater interaction between leaders and policy makers.
Suhasini Haidar, diplomatic and strategic affairs editor, The Hindu, felt that the Modi visit had elements of “shock and awe”, and wondered “whether it helps to be constantly surprised”.
She said the uranium deal with Canada had been in the pipeline for some time. She termed it a “clean deal” with no clauses of liability or tracking,
She also said the 2006 Hannover fair in Germany, during which India was the partner country saw $1.6 billion worth investments made, but the April event has so far invited around $100 million worth investments. (IANS)