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

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora