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Foreign Policy Positives In Modi Regime Visible, Says BJP’s Vijay Chauthaiwale

In a conversation with BW Businessworld’s Suman K Jha, Chauthaiwale talks about the event and other foreign policy challenges.

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Vijay Chauthaiwale, in-charge, Foreign Affairs Department, of the BJP was instrumental behind organising PM Narendra Modi’s hugely successful Houston meet with the diaspora. In a conversation with BW Businessworld’s Suman K Jha, Chauthaiwale talks about the event and other foreign policy challenges.

Excerpts:

PM Narendra Modi’s recent Houston Meet was a huge success. What went behind it? What is the significance of an event like that?

Houston visit was a part of PM Modi’s overall US Agenda. I would say his entire US visit was successful -- Houston being part of it.

He did several engagements – including close to 20 bilaterals, and the UNGA speech on climate change and terrorism.

In Houston, of course, it was the biggest Indian diaspora gathering ever, much bigger than Madison Square Garden. It also shows the presence of a vibrant diaspora in the southern part of USA, especially Texas. Another important aspect was that representatives from all 50 states of USA attended.

It shows the affection for PM Modi and the affection for India by these members of India diaspora.

PM Modi has been addressing such meets all around the world. What does it say about India as a growing power, and PM Modi?

I think PM Modi has always seen Indian diaspora as part of his developmental agenda.

The Indian diaspora is very prosperous. They are law-abiding citizens of the countries. They are contributing to the local economy, local philanthropy and local social service. So the enormous contribution of Indian diaspora can be leveraged not only for the benefit of India but also for bilateral relations.

And that is how PM Modi looks at these events, and that is part of this engagement.

In the last six years of the Modi Govt, what have been the major foreign policy shifts, you think?

Of course, there is a shift. Foreign police is part of a continuum and it’s also changing, based on external environments and domestic requirements and other commitments and convictions.

For example, we initially extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan, but when we realized that it’s not ready to give up terrorism as an instrument of state policy, we took a firm stand and said terror and talks cannot go together. Never in the past had we had surgical strikes or Balakot-like strikes. So, these are the changes.

On Israel, no Indian PM ever visited Israel in spite of the fact that India - Israel ties were formalized more than 25 years. Previous governments avoided it only because they thought that is going to hurt their domestic vote bank. 

But the beauty of Indian foreign policy today under PM Modi’s leadership is that while we have strengthened our relations with Israel, it is not at the cost of our allies in the Gulf.

In the present era, do you think foreign relations is more of a function of economic engagement and trade relations?

Economy and trade are definitely an important part of the any foreign policy initiative, but at the same time national security makes a part of it. Soft power too is important. For example, Yoga has got nothing to do with trade or economy but now it has got so much importance globally. For India, national interest is supreme and the deciding factor.

Do you think there is a disconnect in some cases, like the RCEP negotiations, where foreign policy and economic interests don’t necessarily converge?

I agree with you that deliberations of RCEP are contentious. It is a very complex agreement. There are issues on agricultural products. There is an issue of trade deficit we have with China, and the natural apprehension that dumping of very cheap goods and will hurt Indian manufacturers. There are concerns about the India agricultural sector, and the India dairy sector. And these apprehensions are partly genuine and partly due to lack of an understanding. But at the same time, India cannot remain isolated or be a restricted economy. So we will have to ensure domestic interests are also taken care of while ensuring that we become part of the global economy.


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