by Jyotika Teckchandani

The Modi government has attracted the considerable attention in the global affairs. There is an increasing global recognition of India’s assertive role in the international affairs.

PM Modi’s policy broadly operates within the foundational structure and principles of non-alignment; albeit in more realist manner and has been successful in protecting and securing India’s interest first. This policy is most visible and evident in the region of West Asia, particularly in relations with GCC, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

PM Modi will be on 4 days, 3 nation tour from 9th to 12th February to Palestine, Oman and UAE during which he will hold talks with the leadership in these countries on "matters of mutual interest.” This visit to Palestine also comes after Modi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on six-day visit to India between 14-19 January as the two countries marked the completion of 25 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

PM Modi’s visit is significant as he is the first Prime Minister to visit Palestine which has dispelled the considerable perception at the global and domestic level that India is ignoring the legitimate cause of Palestinian nationhood at the behest of Israel and Israeli lobby at the USA. In this context, it may be noted that India under the leadership of Modi has opposed the Trump’s administration declaration of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

PM Modi will be visiting Ramallah alone and not Israel, like the way he did last year when he visited only Tel Aviv, not Ramallah. As a visit to both these places is considered a customary stop for world leaders. In the past, President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had done so.

PM Modi is wedded to the doctrine of realism and he recognises the fundamental change that has taken place in the structure of International Relations in post-Soviet era. This demands that India must pursue a pragmatic foreign policy with centers of global powers. 

Since 1991 all prime ministers have diluted the ideological component of nonalignment and brought necessary pragmatism in its foreign policy by cultivating a strong relationship with all major powers of the world, such as Western European countries, USA, Israel, Japan, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In his upcoming visit, PM Modi will attend the World Government Summit in the UAE where he has been accorded “guest of honour” status. This is his second visit to the Emirates. PM Modi had previously visited the UAE in August 2015. Also, he will be visiting Oman, to strengthen cooperation in key sectors such as trade and defence.

The same trend has been pursued more rigorously under the dynamic leadership of PM Modi.

However, contrary to the critical perception, PM Modi has paid more attention in cultivating good relationships with the countries of West Asia than other regions and countries of the world. This can be seen from a number of visits that PM Modi has made to countries of West Asia particularly UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel as well as making the crown prince of Abu Dhabi as a republic day guest in 2017.

The underlying reasons behind PM Modi intensive policy in West Asia are the following:

1) India has a strong diaspora presence in this world, with the largest concentration in the Gulf countries.

The region contributes largest remittance which is critical for the stability of India’s economy. Seven million Indians live and work in the Arab region and sends back remittances between $35 and $40 billion annually.

2) India needs to acquire an uninterrupted supply of gas and oil and store at a time when the global price of oil and gas is very low

3) The region has a huge basket of sovereign wealth and they are looking towards India as a major destination country for their investment.

4) The region is a critical source of support to Pakistan. PM Modi has successfully exposed the terror face of Pakistan and has isolated it in the region.

However, at the same time, the Indian government is keenly aware of the Arab sensitivity on the question of Palestine and, therefore, he is successful in maintaining a diplomatic balance between Israel and Palestine. To conclude, Indian foreign policy has become more realistic, pragmatic in orientation and less concerned about ideological and symbolic actions.