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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid