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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Modi can see India through global turbulence – foreign minister

The country’s top diplomat underscored the growing importance of foreign policy for Indians as the general election is in full swing

India needs “experienced, sober, practical, grounded but courageous leadership” that can make important decisions in turbulent times, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar asserted.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Jaishankar suggested that India’s response to recent global crises – be it the pandemic, terror attacks or regional conflicts – has been firm and practical. The top diplomat attributed this to Modi’s leadership. “He’s actually the guy who’s going to see you through the stormy period; that you need a very firm, steady, experienced pair of hands on the tiller as we navigate these turbulent waters,” Jaishankar said.

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The diplomat then went on to cite a series of recent events where the Modi administration showed resolute leadership skills in the face of global challenges. They included the decisions to purchase oil from Russia despite mounting Western pressure, as well as the evacuation of Indian citizens, mainly students, from Ukraine in 2022 at the outbreak of the hostilities there.

Modi, according to Jaishankar, made calls to his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to secure a safe route for Indian diplomats to be reached and evacuated to safety. According to Indian media, over 18,000 Indian nationals were evacuated from the country.

Modi is running for the top political post in the country for a third straight term during the parliamentary elections, which began on April 19 and will continue until June 1. Both Modi and Jaishankar belong to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Nearly a billion people are eligible to cast ballots, making it the largest exercise of democracy in the world.

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Going ahead, the Indian leadership will have to continue to make decisions that are in the country’s interests, Jaishankar said. He also noted that foreign policy has become one of the important factors shaping the opinions of voters, while suggesting that the ruling party has given much more space to foreign policy in its election manifesto than ever before.

Being the world’s most populous nation and fifth largest economy – but the globe’s fastest growing one – India has also managed to make its voice on the global stage more assertive. It has not just advocated for its own causes but for those of the Global South. In 2023, India hosted the G20 leaders in New Delhi and managed to extend the permanent membership in the elite grouping to the 55-state African Union. It was lauded by foreign leaders for reaching a consensus on the G20’s final communique, which does not mention Russia in relation to the Ukraine conflict.

Read more: Bollywood plays its part in India election season dominated by Modi

Despite continuing scrutiny from the West, including warnings of possible sanctions, New Delhi is expanding diplomatic and trade ties with countries that it considers vital to its own interests – including Russia and Iran. At the same time, the Indian leadership has been increasingly pushing back strongly against criticism from its partners, mainly in the West, for what it considers “interference” in its internal matters.