India After Election

There is a consensus in India that strategic partnership should be built with Russia. And there is no political force in India that is opposed to strengthening it. That's why nobody should think India's relations with Russia will be negatively affected by any means under Narendra Modi's government.

Domestic policy

Indian National Congress was in power in the federal centre for past 10 years. If your party remains in power for too long, it becomes unpopular. So there was a very serious anti-establishment feeling in the country. The Congress government was beset with corruption scandals; there were price rises, inflation... All these reasons contributed to Congress' unpopularity, and the only party that could take advantage of this anti-Congress mood was the Bharatiya Janata Party. And for the first time they have won a very clear, absolute majority in parliament.

As far as the domestic economic policy is concerned, I would like to highlight one thing, that there would hardly be any big change in the policy that is being implemented in the country. India's corporate sector had supported Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party. They had financed the party’s campaign, so they have big hopes that Modi will continue the current economic policy, which is more or less akin to a neo-liberal economic policy. On this account, we are not expecting anything from this government. But Narendra Modi has definitely generated a lot of hope and expectation in the country. He spoke about his Gujarat model and some people think it would have been implemented at the federal level (Gujarat is one of the states that was ruled by Narendra Modi in the last 10-12 years). But the Gujarat model is a myth. All economists in the country, and outside the country, who have studied Gujarat properly, understand that Gujarat is not a state which is more prosperous than the rest of India in terms of socio-economic development.

During his first speech, when he accepted the position of prime minister, he said he stands for the poor, he is the first representative of a poor family who became the prime minister of India, so his government will be the government of the poor and for the poor. We don't know, actually, if he will really try to solve the problem of the poor people, if he will keep to his word, or try to support India's corporate sector. That now remains to be seen.

Modi is dubbed as a Hindu nationalist, so what will his policy be towards minorities? If you go by the speech he made on May 20th, it seems he will not play the Hindutva card at all. Most likely he will try to keep Muslims pleased, to appease them, so that they keep silence. He will go on, perhaps building temples, raking up old issues connected with religion, and all that. So this could have very serious repercussions for a country like India, which is multi-religious and multi-ethnic.

He also spoke about the civil code which is a controversial issue in India. The civil code gave certain concessions to Muslims. Modi talks about a uniform civil code. If this concept of a uniform civil code is implemented, then it would also bring about negative repercussions for India's unity, and particularly for India's Muslim minority.

Foreign policy and Russian-Indian relations

Modi's neighborhood policy will be a little strong and could be a little aggressive. During the election campaign he had not made many announcements, except on Pakistan. Narendra Modi has made certain statements which indicate that India's policy towards Pakistan could be very strong, but the atmosphere of dialogue between India and Pakistan is also possible. The same applies to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

In the United States Narendra Modi was declared persona non grata after the incident that took place in his home state of Gujarat in 2002. During the riots more than 1,000 people were killed, particularly members of the Muslim community. So Modi was declared persona non grata on the grounds of violations of human rights. This status has not been changed so far. But India's relations with America will not be affected negatively by this fact. Obama already had a talk with Modi after his victory in the election. And the exchanges between the American leader and Modi were very pleasant. Moreover India has a big diaspora in the United States, which has a great influence on BJP and its election campaign. I don't foresee any big change in India's policy towards America and think that deep relations, pragmatic relations, between two countries will continue.

As for the Russian-Indian relation, BJP has very checkered, long history in its foreign policy towards the Soviet Union and Russia. BJP, during Soviet times, was very much against the communist system, and they were very critical about the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty that was signed in the year 1971. In 1977, for the first time the Indian National Congress lost power in India, and there was a new coalition government headed by Moraji Desai, and BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the foreign minister of India in this government.

During their election campaign, both the soon-to-be Prime Minister Desai, and his soon-to-be foreign minister Vajpayee, had said that India's policy of non- alignment is not genuinely non- aligned. It is tilted towards the Soviet Union as a result of this friendship treaty. And they were saying that one of the first major steps would be to annul the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty. After they came to power in 1977, they realized the importance and significance of this friendship, and changed their stance very quickly - Moscow became the first world capital to be visited by the new Prime Minister Desai and his Foreign Minister Atal Bijari Vajpayee.

There is a consensus in India that strategic partnership should be built with the Soviet Union and Russia. And there is no political force in India that is opposed to strengthening it. That's why nobody should think India's relations with Russia will be negatively affected by any means under Modi's government. Moreover, India's strategic partnership with Russia, which has been developed over the last 14 years – The Declaration of strategic partnership between India and Russia was signed in the year 2000, when Atul Bijari Vajpayee, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was the prime minister. The importance of this declaration was highlighted in the President Putin’s message to Modi. And Modi has also made some statements regarding his policy towards Moscow. First of all, he had said that Indo-Russian relations are time-tested. He made this statement referring to Russia in particular. So this means there will be continuity in India's strategic partnership with Russia, and there is nothing that can suggest that this relationship will be negatively affected or weakened under Modi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party was instrumental in developing very meaningful, productive relations with Israel. India didn't recognize Israel for a very long time. But BJP was always in favor of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, and they have been lobbying for strengthening these ties. From this angle, this can have some implications for Russia also since Russia had almost a near monopoly over supplying military hardware to India. But during the last 20 years, after the Soviet Union’s breakup, a big chunk of these military hardware supplies to India is being taken over by Israel. We can expect a strengthening of ties with Israel, as a result of which Israel might get more defense contracts from India. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.