News / Asia

No Immediate Foreign Policy Shifts Expected for India's Next Government

No Immediate Foreign Policy Shifts Expected for India's Next Governmenti
X
May 15, 2014 8:00 AM
After a record turnout for the world's largest exercise in democracy, Indian voters are expected to hand a defeat to the governing Congress Party, which has held power for the past decade. Results of the balloting are to be announced Friday. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in New Delhi takes a look at the ramifications a shift in government could have on relations with India's neighbors Pakistan and China.
It is widely expected Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat and flag bearer of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is going to form India’s next government.

Results of the balloting, carried out in nine phases spanning more than a month, are to be announced Friday.  

After a record turnout for the world's largest exercise in democracy, Indian voters, according to numerous exit polls, will hand a defeat to the governing Congress Party, which has held power for the past decade, paving the way for a BJP-led alliance to have a second opportunity running the government.

Modi is regarded as an autocratic conservative Hindu, who favors the privatization of publicly held sectors of the economy. But his legacy was stained by deadly anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat on his watch 12 years ago. That led the United States to effectively blacklist Modi during the current and previous U.S. administrations due to human rights concerns.

With no foreign policy track record, though, it is uncertain how he might alter India’s international relations after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decade at the helm.

No part of that riddle is more critical than Modi’s approach toward Pakistan, the Muslim-majority neighbor carved out in the 1947 partition of the subcontinent at the end of British rule.

After their initial 14-month clash on the battlefield over the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, which began barely two months following partition, India and Pakistan fought three more wars and each has developed nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

And they continue to dispute control over the divided Kashmir region in the north.

Of all of India’s states, Gujarat shares the longest border with Pakistan. But trade across the two countries' 2,900-kilometer border remains tightly restricted.
 
x
Gujarat’s leader was widely viewed during the national election campaign as ignoring Muslim voters and “so if you use that analogy you could have Modi simply ignoring Pakistan, making no special gesture,” says Manoj Joshi, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.

Some other political analysts predict relations with Pakistan, both economic and diplomatic, could improve if Modi becomes prime minister, as it did under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first BJP prime minister, between 1998 and 2004.

Pakistan’s pragmatic prime minister Nawaz Sharif “will be interested in improving commercial ties, he’s very pro-business” as is Modi, notes political pundit Ajoy Bose. But Bose cautions if India is a victim of another terrorist attack traced across the border to Pakistan, then all bets will be off.

“In which case Mr. Modi would be under tremendous pressure from hardliners in his party.  And also for his own image, because he can not afford to look like a wimp and would have to respond in very extreme terms.  So that’s where the danger lies,” warns Bose.

India, the world’s largest democracy, also has a border dispute with the only country having a larger population, China.

Beijing is offering to help build and finance nearly one-third of India’s infrastructure development.

That is an offer any Indian government can hardly refuse because voters are expecting a fundamental transformation of their lives, according to Joshi.

“So with China from the economic side I see, probably, enhanced engagement, though Japan is very much there as a competing figure in terms of investment and also we do not have disputes with Japan whereas we have this huge border dispute with China,” he explains.

Some analysts here blame both New Delhi and Washington, each distracted with other pressing issues, for what is widely viewed as maladroit bilateral diplomacy in recent years.  They argue the relationship should be much better as the two democracies have no fundamental clash of interests and many shared concerns.

"We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India's next administration to make the coming years equally transformative,” said President Obama in a statement this week. But the White House and a similar State Department comment avoided mentioning the name of any party or individual.

There are hopes that the not insubstantial number of businesspersons with Gujarat roots among the three million Indian-Americans could be a bridge between a Modi-led government and American officials.

“This relationship needs some love right now,” Sanjay Puri, chairman of the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, told the Associated Press.

Puri organized trips by senior BJP officials to the U.S and hopes the White House will quickly extend an invitation to visit to India’s next leader.
 
  • A woman holds a sari printed with a portrait of Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a garments shop in Mumbai, May 14, 2014.
  • Gujarat state chief minister and the prime ministerial candidate of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi, flashes victory sign in Gandhinagar, May 13, 2014.
  • A polling official marks the finger of an elderly man with indelible ink before he casts his vote in Kunwarpur village, Uttar Pradesh, May 12, 2014.
  • Indian election officials seal an electronic voting machine after the closing of a polling center in Kunwarpur village, Uttar Pradesh state, India, May 12, 2014.
  • A woman displays the indelible ink mark on her finger after casting her vote at a polling station in Kunwarpur village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 12, 2014.
  • A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Varanasi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, May 12, 2014.
  • Voters get their names checked at a polling station during the final phase of the general election in Varanasi in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, May 12, 2014.
  • Hindu studnets wear Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or the common man party, caps and wait for the arrival of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal during an election rally in Varanasi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, May 9, 2014.
  • Kashmiri women display the indelible ink mark on their fingers after casting their votes in Sheeri, about 60 kilometers north of Srinagar, India, May 7, 2014.
  • Women line up to cast their votes outside a polling station during the seventh phase of India's general election at Howrah district in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, April 30, 2014.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Arjun Hardas from: India
May 15, 2014 7:24 PM
Factual error Mr Herman. Rajasthan, not Gujarat, has the longest border with Pakistan. The Rajasthan - Pakistan border is 1037 kms vs Punjab's 533 kms and Gujarat at 507 km.

by: John
May 15, 2014 7:54 AM
To me the obvious policy for the US (and India) is to avoid the megaphone diplomacy about human rights etc and just let each other misgovern themselves in peace. They, and indeed everyone else on the planet, are perfectly capable of stuffing up their affairs without anyone else's assistance.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs