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BJP Manifesto 2024: Decoding the foreign policy chapter of Modi's 'Sankalp Patra'

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By Aroonim Bhuyan

Published : Apr 14, 2024, 4:13 PM IST

Updated : Apr 14, 2024, 5:07 PM IST

The foreign policy chapter of the BJP’s manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha election stresses on issues like India’s role as the Voice of the Global South, permanent membership in the UN Security Council, global humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, fight against terrorism, and Neighbourhood First Policy. ETV Bharat takes a deep dive into the BJP manifesto’s foreign policy chapter and also compares it with that of the Congress.

In the foreign policy chapter titled “Modi ki Guarantee for Vishwa Bandhu Bharat” in its 'Sankalp Patra', the manifesto for the Lok Sabha election 2024 released Sunday, the BJP has promised to further consolidate India’s position as the voice of the Global South.
BJP Manifesto 2024: Decoding the foreign policy chapter of Modi's 'Sankalp Patra' (Source: AP)

New Delhi: In the foreign policy chapter titled “Modi ki Guarantee for Vishwa Bandhu Bharat” in its 'Sankalp Patra', the manifesto for the Lok Sabha election 2024 released Sunday, the BJP has promised to further consolidate India’s position as the voice of the Global South.

“We have established Bharat as a reliable, trusted and dependable voice globally in the last 10 years,” the summary of the chapter reads. “We have demonstrated Bharat’s independence of thought and action for the benefit of humanity. Our human-centric worldview has helped to be a consensus builder, first responder and a voice of the Global South.”

One of the biggest achievements for India during its G20 Presidency during 2022-23 was bringing the Global South to the high table of the inter-governmental forum. From the very outset of its assuming the G20 presidency from Indonesia in December 2022, India had said that it would be the voice of the Global South.

“We will further consolidate Bharat’s position as a Voice of the Global South by using the Prime Minister’s visionary 5S approach of Samman, Samvad, Sahyog, Shanti and Samriddhi (respect, dialogue, assistance, peace and prosperity),” the first of the 10-point chapter on foreign policy in the BJP’s manifesto reads.

It is worth mentioning here that at India’s initiative, the 55-nation African Union (AU) was made a part of the G20 during the intergovernmental forum’s annual summit in New Delhi on September 9-10 last year. During India’s G20 Presidency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised on integrating the priorities of the African nations, who form the majority of the Global South, in the Group’s agenda. The G20 comprises 19 countries and the European Union. Ahead of the G20 Summit, Modi had written to all the leaders of the member countries to make the AU a permanent member of the Group. This was accepted by all and the 55-nation bloc was included in the G20 on September 9.

After assuming the G20 presidency, India held a virtual summit of the Voice of the Global South (VoGS) in January last year. Around 120 countries attended the Summit that was held with the theme ‘Unity of Voice, Unity of Purpose’. Addressing the summit, Modi had said that the Global South has the largest stakes in the future.

“Three-fourths of humanity lives in our countries,” he had said. “We should also have an equivalent voice. Hence, as the eight-decade-old model of global governance slowly changes, we should try to shape the emerging order.”

Then, in November, ahead of its conclusion of the G20 Presidency, India held the second VoGS, again in the virtual mode. The objectives of the second summit were to disseminate outcomes of the G20 summit hosted by India and ensure sustained momentum for effective implementation of G20 decisions, with a specific focus on the interests of developing countries.

During the second VoGS, Modi also inaugurated the Global South Centre of Excellence or DAKSHIN, an initiative aimed at fostering collaboration among developing nations by serving as a knowledge repository and think tank. India also called for the five Cs for the Global South: consultation, cooperation, communication, creativity and capacity building.

India’s role in HADR efforts

The second point in the chapter on foreign policy in the manifesto states that the BJP “will further promote Bharat’s reputation as a trusted global partner and a first responder, continuing our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief programmes”.

India, it is worth mentioning here, has emerged as a significant player in global humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts, leveraging its growing economic and military capabilities, as well as its diplomatic outreach.

The Indian Armed Forces, comprising the Army, Air Force, and Navy, are crucial in providing HADR operations within the nation and across the globe. India has taken a proactive stance in deploying its military resources for rescue and relief efforts during natural calamities in neighboring countries and other regions. For instance, Indian military aircraft and naval vessels have been swiftly dispatched to carry out evacuation missions and deliver essential supplies during earthquakes in Nepal, Turkey and Syria and cyclonic events in the Indian Ocean region, demonstrating the country’s commitment to extending support in times of crisis.

India also actively participates in international platforms such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre). Additionally, India engages in bilateral and multilateral agreements with other nations to strengthen collaboration and enhance capabilities in disaster management, fostering a collaborative approach to addressing humanitarian crises and natural calamities on a global scale.

India’s HADR efforts also serve as a form of soft power diplomacy, enhancing its image and influence on the global stage. By demonstrating its commitment to helping others in times of need, India strengthens its relationships with other countries and regions, fostering goodwill and cooperation.

Permanent membership in the UNSC

The third point in the foreign policy chapter of the BJP’s manifesto reiterates India’s demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. “We are committed to seeking permanent membership in the UN Security Council to elevate Bharat’s position in global decision making,” the manifesto states.

India’s demand for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is a long-standing aspiration driven by the country’s growing global influence, economic prowess, and significant contributions to international peace and security. India is part of the G4, also comprising Japan, Germany and Brazil, seeking permanent seats in the UNSC.

India’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat has garnered support from several countries, including the US, the UK, France, and Russia. However, it faces opposition from China, Pakistan, and a few other nations, citing concerns over regional rivalries and the potential expansion of the UNSC’s permanent membership. Despite the challenges and opposition, India’s pursuit of a permanent UNSC seat remains a significant diplomatic priority, driven by its growing global stature, commitment to multilateralism, and aspirations to play a more prominent role in shaping the international security landscape.

India’s role in global fight against terrorism

India’s role in the fight against the global scourge of terrorism has been mentioned as another priority in the BJP manifesto’s foreign policy chapter. “We will continue our efforts to create a consensus among all members of the United Nations on the Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism and other such efforts to combat terrorism,” it states. “We will build upon the success of the ‘No Money for Terror’ conference to develop better coordination on countering terrorism financing.”

The Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) was introduced by India in the UN way back in 1996. The treaty intends to criminalise all forms of international terrorism and deny terrorists, their financiers and supporters access to funds, arms, and safe havens. Having been the victim of cross-border terrorism for long, India realised the threat it poses to international peace and security long before other major world powers.

However, the fact of the matter is the CCIT has been hanging fire all this while. Countries and international organisations have not been able to come on the same page about the definition of terrorism.

In 2022, India hosted the third No Money For Terror (NMFT) Ministerial Conference. During the conference, Prime Minister Modi strongly asked for avoiding any ambiguity in dealing with terrorism and also warned against nations that use terrorism as a tool of foreign policy.

The NMFT conference was started in 2018, as an initiative of the French government, to specifically focus on cooperation between countries to choke terror funding. In 2019, the conference was held in Australia. It was to be held in India in 2020 but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2022 conference held in New Delhi was attended by delegates from 72 countries and 15 international organisations. India urged the international community to take cognizance of threats emerging from regime change in Afghanistan, as the last one had led to 9/11 attacks. India stressed that the international community should never ignore terrorists’ safe havens or their resources and it is important to expose the double-speak of those elements that sponsor and support them.

Neighbourhood First Policy

The manifesto also reiterated the Modi government’s commitment to the Neighbourhood First Policy. “We will continue being a trusted and responsible partner in the subcontinent, promoting regional cooperation and ensuring stability and prosperity,” the manifesto reads.

India’s Neighbourhood First Policy is a strategic foreign policy initiative aimed at strengthening and prioritising relations with its immediate neighbours in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. This policy was formally articulated when the BJP-led NDA Indian government came to power in 2014 and has since been a central pillar of India’s regional diplomacy.

The Neighbourhood First Policy primarily focuses on India's immediate neighbours, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives in South Asia, as well as Myanmar in Southeast Asia. These countries are considered vital for India's regional interests and strategic depth.

India and Bangladesh share a close bilateral relationship. Following her reelection in January this year, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to make her first official bilateral visit to India following the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. India is also a close development aid partner of both Nepal and Bhutan.

India is a major development aid partner of Sri Lanka. With grants alone amounting to around $570 million, the overall commitment by the Government of India is to the tune of more than $3.5 billion. Demand-driven and people-centric nature of India’s development partnership with Sri Lanka has been the cornerstone of this relationship. Grant projects cut across sectors such as education, health, housing and industrial development.

However, a niggling problem in the bilateral relationship is about fishermen from both countries poaching in each other’s waters. However, what remains to be seen is how the BJP, if returned to power, will go about repairing ties with the Maldives. India-Maldives ties are at an all-time low following the election of Mohamed Muizzu as the President of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation in November last year.

Muizzu had won last year’s presidential election on a pronounced anti-India plank. He ran an ‘India Out’ campaign in which he called for the withdrawal of some Indian military personnel present in his country. These personnel, numbering less than 100, are primarily involved in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation. After Muizzu made a formal request to withdraw these military, the process of replacing them with civilian personnel from India is currently on. Muizzu also adopted a series of anti-India and pro-China foreign policies ever since he assumed office.

Strengthening maritime vision

The BJP manifesto also stressed on the importance of collaborating with countries in the region for maritime security and growth. “We will continue being a trusted and responsible partner in the subcontinent, promoting regional cooperation and ensuring stability and prosperity,” it reads.

India’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean, termed Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), was unveiled in 2015, reflecting the nation’s growing awareness of the paramount importance of maritime security, shared maritime resources, and regional cooperation. Through the SAGAR initiative, India aims to deepen its economic and security ties with its maritime neighbours, while concurrently assisting them in enhancing their maritime security capabilities.

To achieve this objective, India has committed to collaborating on the exchange of information, coastal surveillance, infrastructure development, and capacity-building efforts to strengthen the maritime capabilities of its regional partners. Furthermore, SAGAR underscores India’s dedication to safeguarding its national interests and ensuring that the Indian Ocean region becomes an inclusive, collaborative, and law-abiding maritime domain, where international laws and regulations are upheld and respected by all stakeholders.

India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor

The manifesto also promises international connectivity through the proposed India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor. “We will facilitate the international movement of trade and services through Bharat by boosting connectivity to Europe via the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor,” it states.

On the sidelines of the G20 Summit held in New Delhi last year, Prime Minister Modi and US President Joe Biden jointly announced the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). The IMEC is a planned economic corridor that aims to bolster economic development by fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Persian Gulf and Europe. The IMEC comprises an Eastern Corridor connecting India to the Gulf region and a Northern Corridor connecting the Gulf region to Europe. It will include a railway and ship-rail transit network and road transport routes. On September 10, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was unveiled during the G20 New Delhi Summit by the governments of India, the US, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, and the EU.

However, the proposed corridor has now come under threat due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Nevertheless, last month, the Union Cabinet approved the Inter-Governmental Framework Agreement (IGFA) between India and the UAE on cooperation for the empowerment and operation of the IMEC.

Mineral security

The eighth point in the foreign policy chapter of the BJP’s manifesto stresses on strengthening of mineral supply chains. “In our endeavour to secure mineral resources for Bharat, we will work to establish collaborative partnerships across the globe,” it states. “Through these partnerships, we will integrate ourselves in global supply chains, and develop mining, processing and related technologies while prioritising sustainable development practices.”

India has taken a proactive approach to strengthen its domestic supply chain through a series of initiatives aimed at increasing domestic exploration and implementing reforms in the mining sector. These efforts include the establishment of the National Mineral Exploration Trust in August 2015 to boost domestic exploration activities, as well as multiple amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act in 2016, 2020, 2021, and 2023 to introduce much-needed reforms in the mining sector. However, despite these measures, India’s demand for critical minerals essential to meeting its ambitious 500GW renewable energy target is expected to remain heavily reliant on imports in the medium term.

In a strategic move, India has released a list of 30 critical minerals, with the aim of developing a robust value chain centered around these resources. Currently, the demand for most of these minerals is primarily being met through imports. Notably, the demand for at least 10 minerals, including lithium, cobalt, and nickel, is entirely dependent on imports. Additionally, a recent analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has revealed that only 15 countries possess 55 percent of the seven key minerals crucial for the transition to clean energy: cobalt, copper, graphite, lithium, manganese, nickel, and rare-earth elements (REEs). These findings underscore the supply chain vulnerability associated with critical minerals, which are vital for the clean energy transition.

The Ministry of Mines has actively engaged with resource-rich countries for access to critical minerals as well as domestic exploration and auction of critical mineral blocks. A joint venture company namely Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) has been incorporated with the equity contribution from three Central Public Sector Enterprises, namely, National Aluminum Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd with the objective to acquire critical mineral assets abroad to ensure consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to Indian domestic market.

Last year India joined the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP) led by the US. This partnership aims to enhance cooperation in securing the supply chain of critical minerals for the member countries by facilitating investment in identified blocks of these minerals in resource rich countries.

Diplomacy and diaspora

The last two points in the foreign policy chapter of the BJP’s manifesto talks about expanding India’s diplomatic network and further strengthening ties with the Indian diaspora. "We will further expand the network of our missions and diplomats to pursue the global interests that have been secured by Bharat’s unprecedented rise in the global order,” it states.

“We will fortify our connection with the Bharatiya diaspora, actively involving them in Bharat’s progress and providing unwavering support during their times of need, thereby enriching our mutual cultural and economic ties.”

BJP manifesto vs Congress manifesto

Like the BJP’s manifesto, the main opposition Congress’s manifesto released earlier this month also states that the party, if elected to power, will ensure that India will work to “coordinate positions with other countries of the Global South on vital issues”. It also mentions the fight against terrorism, expanding India’s diplomatic network and good relations with India’s immediate neighbours as the party’s priorities. However, the Congress manifesto gives specifics about how to deal with each country in India’s neighbourhood in South Asia.

However, what is missing in the BJP manifesto and finds mention in the Congress manifesto is how to deal with China and Pakistan, countries with which India currently has strained relationships. According to the Congress manifesto, India will restore status quo ante on its borders with China. As for Pakistan, the Congress manifesto states that India’s engagement with its western neighbour “depends fundamentally on its willingness and ability to end cross-border terrorism”.

On the other hand, what are missing in the Congress manifesto and find mention in the BJP manifesto are the issues of India’s demand for permanent membership in the UNSC, role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, maritime security and growth, international connectivity, mineral security and ties with the Indian diaspora.

Read More

  1. Lok Sabha Election 2024 | Highlights of BJP's 'Sankalp Patra': UCC, One Nation One Election, 'Prosperous Bharat'
  2. Lok Sabha Election 2024: Congress Calls BJP Manifesto a 'Bundle of Lies', 'Silent on Unemployment'
Last Updated : Apr 14, 2024, 5:07 PM IST
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