The ex-envoys also highlighted efforts by ‘experts’ to gloss over China’s policies, motives and hostility towards India

A group of former Ambassadors of India has raised concern at the manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policies are being relentlessly criticised, including by those who were at the helm of the country's foreign and security policies in the past.

In an article published in The Indian Express on Thursday, members of the Forum of Former Ambassadors of India stated that those faulting the Modi government’s foreign policy for the seemingly serious departures from the past miss the clear continuities in key areas under the UPA and the NDA governments.

Arguing that the BJP government under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made India nuclear and engaged the US government in strategic discussions to resolve the nuclear issue, they said that this eventually led to the India-US nuclear deal under PM Manmohan Singh’s government.

The article has been authored by former Indian diplomats Kanwal Sibal, Shyamala B Cowsik, Veena Sikri and Bhaswati Mukherjee.

The former Indian Ambassadors recalled that India’s dialogue with Pakistan broke down under the previous government and the impasse endures.

The policy to engage Russia as a tried and trusted friend even as India develops new partnerships has not undergone any change, they noted.

Noting that important openings towards the conservative Gulf States created by the UPA have been greatly broadened by the NDA, the forum members said, PM Modi’s excellent personal equations with the Saudi rulers and the Gulf potentates is a remarkable achievement.

The Modi Government has paid far more attention to its neighbours than the previous government, with PM Modi making frequent visits to their capitals, they suggested.

It has focused far more than its predecessor on maritime security in the Indian Ocean and on acquiring the required capabilities to better ensure this, the ex-ambassadors of the forum said.

Similarly, ties with ASEAN continued to be cultivated, the Forum members mentioned.

Referring to the 16th India-EU Leaders Virtual Summit in May, when all the 27 leaders were present, they noted it has been agreed to resume negotiations, blocked since 2013, on a Free Trade Agreement, an Investment Agreement and one on Geographic Indicators.

Separately, an Enhanced Trade Partnership Agreement has been signed with post-Brexit UK, said the forum members.

Where PM Modi has imposed his thinking and personality more markedly at the international level is in the active wooing of the Indian diaspora where he has been able to galvanise them with his oratory and his message of confidence in India’s future, they pointed out.

According to the former Indian envoys, of concern are the efforts by ‘experts’ to gloss over China’s policies, motives and hostility towards India.

To argue that China occupied part of the Doklam plateau in Bhutan because India cried “victory” after checkmating them is to not only to deny the government credit for standing up to China, but actually project it as a mistake in giving China an excuse to implant itself more firmly on the plateau, they said.

If the UPA government down played the Depsang incident, calling it an “acne” on the beautiful face of India-China ties and engaged in behind the scene discussions, why is the Modi government being accused of dishonesty by avoiding jingoism and pursuing quiet but intensive diplomacy on the far more sensitive and dangerous eastern Ladakh confrontation, the former Indian envoys asked.

Highlighting that India continues to participate actively in international fora, be it the G20, invitations to G7 meetings, those of BRICS and SCO, they added that India under PM Modi has initiated many alliances and coalitions.

The critique that the BJP’s foreign policy is being used for domestic political purposes is superficial. No country builds a firewall between its foreign and domestic policies, the former Indian diplomat’s forum added.
All governments leverage foreign policy for a variety of domestic ends, be it economic welfare, security, responding to public expectations, boosting popularity at home, and so on, they said.

The Forum of Former Indian Ambassadors, regretted that at a time when the country is battling the ravages of the pandemic, instead of solidarity with the government, the critics are heaping blame on governance failures of the Modi government and joining with foreign lobbies traditionally biased against India to diminish the PM’s image at home and abroad.

They urged that in moments of such national calamity, let’s be united and not give our external enemies, who remain the same regardless of who is in power, the space to tarnish our image and damage our national interest.
Read the full article in The Indian Express