Narendra Modi surprised most observers with his energetic diplomacy in the first few months after his election in 2014 and with his engagement in foreign policy throughout his time in office. Most observers expected him to focus on domestic issues and to subordinate foreign policy to economic development. Yet Modi has been significantly more ambitious, promoting the idea of India as a ‘leading power’, seeking a greater role in global governance, aiming to markedly improve relations with neighbouring states, and pursuing deeper security ties with the US and Japan, in particular. Underpinning this effort, I argue in this paper, is an attempt to ‘reinvent’ Indian foreign policy – to give it an alternative grounding to the Nehruvian one dominant for most of the postcolonial period. This alternative springs from a Hindu nationalist worldview that Modi and those around him imbibed as members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This paper explores that worldview and aims to explain both why Modi has tried to reinvent Indian foreign policy and why – so far, at least – that project has failed.
About the Speaker
Ian Hall is Visiting Senior Fellow in the South Asia Programme at RSIS and Professor of International Relations at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. He is also Deputy Director (Research) of the Griffith Asia Institute, an Academic Fellow of the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne, and co-editor (with Sara E. Davies) of the Australian Journal of International Affairs. He has researched and published extensively on Indian foreign policy and on international relations theory.