Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Policy Paper: Modi-fied Engagement: Will India's Reinvigorated Foreign Policy Change History?

Cleo Paskal has published a policy paper reviewing Indian Prime Minister Modi's foreign policy to date. Released by Le Centre d'études et de recherches internationales (CÉRIUM) de l'Université de Montréal and the Pôle de recherche sur l'Inde et l'Asie du Sud (PRIAS), the paper is available in English. 

The summary is below, and the whole paper can be found here.


In this time of shifting multipolarity, the reawakening of India has the potential to shape the global future. Since the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014, policy makers around the world have watched with interest, anticipation and/or concern to see what, if anything, would change in India’s previously lackluster foreign policy. Would it prove to be a global civilizational power? Would it be bogged down in regional conflicts? Would it offer a ‘third option’ for partners looking for engagement that is neither reliant on the West nor China?

There is enormous potential in India. While it has unquestionable domestic challenges, it is also fundamentally democratic, with a fast growing middle class, increasing formal education levels, an expanding English-speaking population with deepening access to the global economy, and a vast domestic market that can partially insulate the country from global economic shocks.

However, for decades (punctuated by brief exceptional periods), there has been a phalanx of impediments slowing India’s domestic recovery and, by extension, its options for global engagement. These include: corruption, ineffective economic policies, a barely post-colonial legal system, lack of political vision and drive, and a complacent, or at best, unmotivated civil service.

Modi was elected on a platform of tackling those challenges. His stated goal of achieving 10% annual growth combined with social policies to tend to the needs of the ‘last man in line’ is contingent on reinvigorating India’s economy. Reinvigorating the economy means not only handling those domestic issues, but also encouraging foreign investors to ‘Make in India’. Accordingly, foreign relations that encourage trade and investment have been one of Modi’s key priorities, and initiatives are very much led from the top.

Modi has been here before. He proved adept at handling foreign relations during his more than a decade as Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat (2001-2014). While denied a United States (US) visa in 2005, he continued to foster relations with the Indo-American Diaspora. Meanwhile, he worked with, among others, Japanese, German, Chinese and Israeli firms to develop Gujarat’s infrastructure, renewable energy, agriculture and tech sectors. He showed himself to be pragmatic and non-dogmatic about partners, focusing primarily on what he thought would be good for his state.

The question is whether that approach can be scaled up to the national level. So far, the results have been mixed. There have been some marked accomplishments, starting with the unprecedented attendance of almost all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders at Modi’s swearing in. Modi’s triumphant visit to the US in September 2014 was soon reciprocated by a visit to India by President Obama in January 2015. His visit to Canada (the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minster since 1973) resulted in important agreements regarding uranium sales and cooperation on the fight against terrorism.

There are lingering concerns, however, about whether the headline grabbing visits can evolve into long-term gains for India. The success of Modi’s personal drive for increased engagement depends in large part on effective follow-up. Bureaucratic support (or at least lack of obstruction) is necessary to unlock the engagement potential of wider India, including the business sector and civil society. So far, that facilitation has been somewhat hit and miss. The reasons for the
impediments are varied. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is comparatively understaffed, something Modi has tried to rectify by introducing the use of external experts drawn from academia, think tanks, and elsewhere. More problematic are those in the civil service keen on protecting their previously powerful and privileged positions and, in the worst cases, those engaged in active sabotage to cover past, or ongoing, misdeeds.

Many in the region, and beyond, want to see a stronger, prosperous and stable India. What would be good for India would also be good for most of its neighbors including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and others. Their stability and economies are tied to India’s. It would also be good for those looking for a supplement, if not an alternative, to increased Chinese engagement.

Many around the world are ‘waiting for India’. As, indeed, are Indians. After just sixteen months in office Modi’s much-needed re-creation of Indian foreign policy is still very much a work in progress.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Interview: Cleo Paskal on Background Briefing with Ian Masters talking about India's PM Modi's foreign policy

From Ian Master: "Then we go to London to speak with a specialist on India, Cleo Paskal, who is a visiting Trudeau Fellow at the University of Montreal’s Center for International Studies and a Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London. We discuss India’s Prime Minister Modi’s remarks to the U.N. today that were preceded by a trip to the Silicon Valley where Modi pushed his “Digital India” project and met with the leaders of the giant tech companies, many of which are headed by Indians or Indian Americans."

To hear the interview, click here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Interview: Cleo on the John Batchelor Show with Gordon Chang talking about Modi's foreign policy

Cleo Joined John Batchelor and Gordon Chang to talk about Indian Prime Minster's Modi's evolving foreign policy in the lead up to Modi's visit to the US.  You can hear the interview here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cleo Paskal Awarded 2015 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Visiting Fellowship

Cleo was awarded a prestigious Trudeau Visiting Fellowship. The Fellowship will help fund a 2-3 year research project into geopolitical, geoeconomic and geophysical changes (including effects of climate change, etc.) in the Indo-Pacific. In conjunction with the Fellowship, Cleo has been appointed a Visiting Trudeau Fellow at the Montreal Centre for International Studies (CÉRIUM) at the Université de Montréal.

For more on the Fellowship, click here.

For more on the CÉRIUM appointment, click here.