Modi and his diplomacy

By Prasoon Shukla (CEO & Editor-in-Chief, News Express)

The diplomacy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is paying dividends. Increasingly ostracized leader, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Modi at Hyderabad House, Thursday, marking the beginning of Annual India-Russia Summit. United States President Barrack Obama is arriving New Delhi on the occasion of Republic Day. In fact, both Moscow and the United States are looking to revitalize relations and foster economic ties with India. This is the Modi’s diplomatic success and such enthusiasm has probably never been witnessed earlier.

The dream of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to transform India into one of the most powerful nation in the world is assuming shape albeit slowly. Most of the world powers are eager to strengthen relationship with India be it United States, Russia, Japan or even China.

It is no fluke that when Prime Minister Modi invited President Obama to be the chief guest at the Republic Day ceremony next year, he readily accepted it. Shortly after receiving the official letter from the White House, Prime Minister Modi posted a message on Twitter to say, “This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over, invited President Obama to be the 1st US President to grace the occasion as Chief Guest.”

On Putin’s visit to India, America issued a cautious note saying – “ Putin’s visit to India would not cast a shadow on President Barack Obama’s trip in January, but now is not the time for business as usual with Russia.”

“I know there’s a lot of rumours, often of trade deals or economic deals, but let’s see what’s actually put into practice here,” US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters. In fact US and Russia relationship are tense over Russia’s aid to separatists in Ukraine. Inteational sanctions have been imposed against Russia. After being browbeaten over Ukraine at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Australia, Putin left before the event officially ended. But now, US should also understand that it can’t guide the world politics at the wish.

Of course, Modi is doing balancing act. Modi had reassured Putin that nothing had changed. “Ask any child in India who is India’s best friend inteationally, and they will tell you that it is Russia,” he had earlier said. But it is clear that the new decision makers in New Delhi say they are less interested in geopolitics than in jump-starting the economy as fast as possible. With its own economy swooning, Russia is unlikely to offer game-changing investment or trade agreements. And it is not the only world power vying for India’s attention. China’s president visited for two days in September, and President Obama will attend Republic Day celebrations in January.

Putin seeks ways to shore up his sagging economy and support with Cold War-era friend India, the wildly popular Modi — who just won Time magazine’s reader poll for “Person of the Year” — will be operating from a position of strength. The Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, quipped to reporters Monday that India was like “a rich fiancee with many bridegrooms.”

Putin’s visit comes at a time when the Russian economy is buffeted by Weste economic sanctions over Ukraine and falling oil prices that has led to a sharp fall in the trouble. Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin would unveil on December 11 a grand vision document to meet India’s energy needs and boost trade and investment ties across wide-ranging sectors including a deal on sovereign fund and in doing this, Modi has shown the courage to by-pass a recent veiled threat from US official of the risks of doing business with Moscow.

Modi has reassured Russian leader that the two countries’ historical ties remain important while keeping the U.S.-India relationship moving forward. “Modi will likely go heavy on the pro-Russia rhetoric, particularly by playing up the historical friendship between the two countries, while pursuing deals — such as energy ones — when the opportunity arises, while with the U.S., he’ll likely pursue deeper defense ties and a deeper overall relationship.

India’s Ministry of Exteal Affairs officials have stressed India’s decades-long association with the former Soviet Union and reiterated support for Russia as the country faces economic fallout from sanctions imposed by the West for Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March and Russia’s intervention in the conflict in Ukraine. Russia and India have ties dating to the Soviet era, when economic aid flowed freely to Indian leaders who sought healthy connections to communist leaders as Pakistan aligned itself with the United States.

“India is a reliable and time-tested partner,” Putin said recently. “Russia and India have a huge potential of bilateral trade and economic cooperation.”

The Kremlin has tried to play up new ties to Asia as a way of showing that Russia can survive sharply constricted economic relations with the West. But with recession looming, Russia’s economy tells a different story. The country is in the unfamiliar position of seeking more from India than it might have to offer in retu.

Military and technological cooperation is one of the most important aspects of the Russian-Indian strategic partnership.

In fact Russia needs India much more than India needs Russia. Modi is likely to push for greater economic investment and trade with Russia — as he has during visits with other allies — in energy and defense manufacturing.

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