New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is proactive and marked by “greater confidence, more initiative and stronger determination”, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said on Friday, even as Congress leader Shashi Tharoor slammed the government’s “incoherence” and “amazing yo-yo like” Pakistan policy.
Speaking at the launch of noted foreign policy analyst C. Raja Mohan’s new book “Modi’s World, Expanding India’s Sphere of Influence” here, Jaishankar said Modi’s foreign policy “signals different times”.
“It speaks of greater confidence, more initiative, certainly stronger determination and obviously express the growth of our capabilities” over the years to a “larger footprint and a more intensive one”.
Jaishankar, who took over this January after incumbent Sujatha Singh was asked to go, said the initiatives, including neighbourhood first policy, Act East, helping out neighbours in times of distress and visiting countries not visited for decades, all amounted to being more proactive.
“The world is beginning to believe that we mean business, whether in business or otherwise, and as we proceed it is time to perhaps reassess our ability to drive a lead on global issues and be active and nimble, rather than neutral and risk-averse,” he said.
He said in the helping out during disasters, including in Nepal and the integrated tours of countries, could not be called “diplomacy as usual”.
“A neighbourhood policy that puts a premium on connectivity, on cooperation; and when required one that is both reasonable and firm; a China policy that triangulates security interests, economic cooperation and international politics; a nuclear initiative that has been put back into the active terrain.”
He said there is “forward movement with the US, France and Russia, and work in progress with Australia and Japan”, while implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh and the connectivity understandings have been “game changers”.
“A coherent Indian Ocean strategy is under implementation; visits to even nearby nations after decades and impending summits of the Pacific islands and the African states represent a different mindset,” Jaishankar said.
The “impression of India being somewhat easier for business has started to make an impact,” he added.
“And personal chemistry has emerged as a powerful tool in our diplomatic kit.”
However, Tharoor, who is chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, said Modi’s foreign policy was mere continuity of the UPA government.
He said that “Modi should be applauded for having abandoned the BJP’s position”, which the party took while in opposition and all the initiatives the Modi government has taken, including implementing the historic Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, were all initiatives of the Congress-led UPA.
Tharoor said it was not just continuity “but a reversal of BJP policy; which is a good indication that foreign policy is different when you are sitting in South Block and when you are sitting in Gandhinagar”, taking a jibe at Modi’s term as Gujarat chief minister.
He held Raja Mohan had been “far too generous in praising the government for a whole lot of things done by predecessors”.
Tharoor said Modi has been to 24 countries “at last count”, but noted he has been leaving a positive impression with his tours which needs to be acknowledged.
He also commended him for attempting to leverage India’s soft power, including yoga, which he has long been advocating.
He said the International Yoga Day, celebrated on June 21, was an attempt to get India some sort of international benefit, but slammed the “tacky effort” by the prime minster to get the event into the Guinness World Records. He said that the “tackiness apart” there was “much worth acknowledging” in the effort.
Tharoor said the “one disturbing development” in the government’s foreign policy was “the onset of appalling incoherence” and the Pakistan policy was “amazing yo-yo like”.
Adopting a sarcastic tone, he said it was leading to a “perception that the government does not really know what it wants tot do with Pakistan; and considering when in opposition they had a very clear idea of what the government should not be doing, this incoherence needs to be pointed out”.
He said the incoherence was present in the position on Palestine too.
“The incoherence in these two areas causes some legitimate confusion, and that is dangerous, and particularly a government noted for such decisive leadership should show some surefootedness in foreign policy,” he said, in another jibe.