Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have his hands full during his current visit to the US as there are multiple agendas to pursue. With the geo-political balance greatly disturbed by the US retreat from Afghanistan, there are many forces eager to fill the vacuum. India is working to find a permanent place in the United Nations Security Council for itself, Japan, Brazil and Germany; as well as introduce some important reforms in its functioning. Apart from his planned address to the United Nations General Assembly, Modi will also be taking part in the meeting called by US President Biden of the recently constituted Quad. This will be a start to deciding exactly what role this organisation will play and how it intends to contain China’s expansionism. It was earlier expected it would grow in this direction organically but that has been put in question by the formation of the new security grouping, AUKUS.
Modi will also have to refashion the bilateral relations with the US. His planned meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris and President Biden will indicate in which direction the wind is blowing. There will have to be an immediate understanding on the situation in Afghanistan and on how much support India will get in fighting terrorism. It must not be forgotten that the Democratic establishment will still be smarting from Modi’s close relations with Donald Trump. It is hoped that pragmatism will overcome that barrier. Any attempt to raise the leftist agenda out of ideological compulsions would not be appreciated. Hopefully, the US will have learned its lesson in this regard, having failed in its own war against the Islamic fundamentalists.
Equally important is the planned interaction with business leaders. They need to be convinced that India, with all its complexities, is the ideal long term investment as compared to the toxic relationship with totalitarian systems like China. The best and profitable way to counter China and other uncivilised forces is through bolstering India’s economy. The rest it can do on its own.
And, of course, there are global issues that confront all of humanity, which will be raised by Modi during his UNGA address, such as a united battle against Covid-19 and climate change. The developed countries’ approach has been prescriptive rather than participative. This naturally has to change and India can play a significant role. How far Modi succeeds in his mission will shape foreign relations for some time to come.