Turkey Beats India, China Pips USA In Global Diplomacy Index But Modi’s Magic Gives Delhi Its Best Rankings

If diplomacy happens to be one of the most important levers of global influence, then by attending the just concluded 50th G-7 summit in Italy as a special invitee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have further strengthened the perceptions that India under his leadership is increasingly becoming an active global player. 

Incidentally, this was Modi’s first overseas trip soon after renewing his electoral mandate for the third consecutive term in office. In fact, it was Modi’s fifth consecutive participation at the G7 Summit.

If anything, a special invitation to the Indian Prime Minister by hosts of the G-7 summits in recent years reflects the recognition of India’s increasing importance by the seven leading nations of the developed world.

According to Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, India’s regular participation at the G7 Summit clearly points to increasing recognition and contribution of the efforts that New Delhi has been consistently making to resolve global challenges, including those of peace, security, development, and environment preservation.

“India’s participation at this G7 Summit acquires particular salience in the context of India’s recently held, not so recent, presidency of the G20, where India took a leading role in building global consensus on a number of contentious issues. As you are also aware, India has so far organized two sessions of the Voice of the Global South Summit, which have been aimed at bringing the interests, priorities, and concerns of the Global South on the global stage. At G7 also, we have always brought the issues of Global South to the forefront”, Kwatra points out.

Undeniably, the pace and scale of Indian diplomatic activity has picked up consistently over the last 10 years under Modi. So much so that “the 2024 Global Diplomacy Index” released by the Australia-based Lowy Institute has brought out that India, which “historically underinvested in the size of its diplomatic network relative to its demographic and economic weight,” has evolved to now become among the fastest growing diplomatic networks in the world.

With a total of 194 diplomatic posts, India has jumped to the 11th rank in the Index — ahead of Canada, Spain, and South Korea. It has opened as many as 11 new posts since just 2021, most of them in Africa.

At a time when India has been trying to position itself as the voice of the Global South, the report says that over 75% of new diplomatic posts opened by India since 2021 were in Africa. In addition, Indian missions in Lithuania and Cabo Verde are in the process of being set up, and the country is also preparing to open a mission in the strategically located island country of Timor-Leste, positioned between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Incidentally, this year’s key findings of the Global Diplomacy Index include:

1. Superpowers neck and neck: China is ahead in Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific, while the United States has the edge in the Americas, Europe, and South Asia. But overall, China holds the number 1 rank, followed by the U.S. at number 2.

2. Middle powers rising: Türkiye and India have rapidly expanded their diplomatic networks in a more multipolar world. And here Türkiye is well ahead of India. In fact, Türkiye’s rank is at 3, overtaking traditional diplomatic heavyweights Japan and France. Operating 252 posts, it has steadily expanded its network in the Middle East and Africa.

3. India ranks 11th globally, though it has done very well in recent years to overtake many established global powers. India’s diplomatic footprint is most pronounced in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and it is represented in every country in Asia, Eastern Africa, and the Indian Ocean Region.

4. Asia in focus: Japan, with the 4th rank, is a global diplomatic heavyweight, while Indonesia leads its diplomatic network among Southeast Asian countries.

5. The price of war: Russia’s war in Ukraine has come at a heavy cost to its global diplomatic reach; its present rank has come down to 6th.

6. Hosts with the most: European cities top the list of the busiest diplomatic capitals (France at number 5, Italy, the U.K., Germany, and Italy with 7th, 8th, and 9th positions, respectively.

Indian Clout Grows Under Modi

Be that as it may, coming back to India once could point out significant progress in the field of Indian diplomacy under Modi. This has been particularly visible in four areas, areas that continue to hold opportunities but with some challenges now for the Indian Prime Minister.

First, ever since he assumed office as the Prime Minister in 2014, Modi’s proactive outreach with the Indian Diaspora, estimated by a recent study by the United Nations to be the world’s largest at 18 million, has reached great heights, if his massive rallies in places raging from Madison Square to Sydney, Suva to Dubai, and London to Houston were any indication. For Modi, the color of the passports does not matter as long as a person has blood links with India.

He brought the Diaspora closer to India by merging Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, making the cardholder equal with Indian citizens in every respect, and saving the right to vote and contest elections.

This is in sharp contrast to the situation under India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was of the view that the Diaspora must not expect anything from India, that they should be good citizens of the countries of their adoption, and that they must fully identify themselves with these countries.

In fact, Nehru had abolished the Ministry for Overseas Indian Affairs in 1947. It was only when the BJP came to power in Delhi under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998 that India’s Diaspora outlook changed.

The Vajpayee government talked of the ‘Great Indian Family’, launched the PIO card scheme, organised the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on 9th January, and gave out Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards and so on. Modi further promoted this policy, which under him, may be summed up in terms of 3 C’s—‘connect’ with India, ‘celebrate’ their cultural heritage and ‘contribute’ to the development of the homeland.

Modi’s active cultivation of the Indian Diaspora has provided India a huge advantage in taking India’s relationship with major countries, particularly the United States, to a higher level. Indian-Americans happen to be one of the most high-profile ethnic groups in America.

Secondly, Modi is arguably the first Prime Minister of India who has been proactive (much against India’s not-so-palatable record of always being a country that ‘reacts” to international developments) in leading the “Global South”  and setting goals pertaining to “Climate Change.” Modi has played a lead role in initiating “Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure,” “Global Biofuel Alliance,” and “India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.”

File Image: Modi and Macron

Importantly, he has also been involved in raising or creating global outfits. Most of the international institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank or the International Monetary Fund that we see are the creations of the so-called victorious leaders of World War II.

Viewed thus, Modi will be remembered for launching the International Solar Alliance (ISA) along with the then French President Francois Hollande in November 2015 at the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-21) in Paris.

The alliance was formed to promote solar energy in 121 member countries and mobilize over $1 trillion of investment in its deployment at affordable costs. About 90 countries have signed the ISA’s Framework Agreement, and of these, more than 70 have deposited their instruments of ratification.

Thirdly, along with former U.S. President Donald Trump and late Japanese Premier S Abe, Modi has played an immense role in making the construct of the “Indo-Pacific” a geopolitical reality.

Today, the Indo-Pacific as a political and economic entity has gained global recognition, but until four years ago, many leading countries—particularly the European powers, ASEAN countries, and Russia—were hesitant to even use the term “Indo-Pacific.” Instead, they were more comfortable using the geographic term “Asia-Pacific.”

All told, the Indo-Pacific region (IPR) is a geostrategic construct rather than an established geographical notion. Modi’s contribution, along with Trump, Abe, and Morrison (former Australian PM), has been significant in building this construct.

Fourthly, though Modi’s innumerable critics brand him as communal and anti-Muslim, the Prime Minister has been able to emerge as the most popular Indian leader ever in a vast and essentially Muslim region of the Middle East (West Asia).

PM Modi with world leaders at the @G7 Summit in Italy.

Except for Kuwait, he has traveled to almost all the important countries in the region, including Iran and Israel. Modi has been honored with the ‘Order of Zayed,’ the UAE’s highest civilian award. Significantly, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now India’s “strategic partners” with close military ties.

Unlike any of his predecessors, Modi has been able to play a balancing role in the Middle East among the Arabian Gulf, Iran, and Israel. All his predecessors were afraid of the “Muslim factor” in the region and within the country. Therefore, Modi’s acceptability in the region is not a small credit for a person with his “anti-Muslim” image that his detractors have been relentlessly nurturing.

However, it is argued that while Modi seems to have succeeded in maintaining a balanced position on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, his emphasis on India’s strategic autonomy and in not taking sides on the War in Ukraine and maintaining close ties with Russia have upset the Western world that has stood behind him in dealing with threats from China. Western leaders do not seem happy with Modi’s position that dialogue and diplomacy are the best options for the restoration of peace in Ukraine.

However, the biggest challenge for Modi as he begins his third term is dealing with the cracks that now seem to have appeared in his huge support base abroad. That is the Indian Diaspora, which, in turn, has played a significant role in improving ties with the Western world in general and the U.S. in particular.

Modi’s domestic critics, including political opponents, now have succeeded in getting support from the foreign media, think tanks, and NGOs in sowing the seeds of division in the Diaspora in the names of castes and religions.

Modi is now perceived to be promoting exclusive Hindutva, which is anti-minorities, against religious conversion, and upholder of the so-called Brahmanical order where there is no place for the “low born” Dalits. Promoters of these divisions are becoming increasingly hostile and aggressive. So much so that there are now calls by the other sections of the Diaspora to criminalize ‘Hinduphobia.’

  • Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda is Chairman of the Editorial Board – EurAsian Times and has commented on politics, foreign policy, and strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. 
  • CONTACT: prakash.nanda (at) hotmail.com
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Prakash Nanda
Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda has been commenting on Indian politics, foreign policy on strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He has been a Visiting Professor at Yonsei University (Seoul) and FMSH (Paris). He has also been the Chairman of the Governing Body of leading colleges of the Delhi University. Educated at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he has undergone professional courses at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Boston) and Seoul National University (Seoul). Apart from writing many monographs and chapters for various books, he has authored books: Prime Minister Modi: Challenges Ahead; Rediscovering Asia: Evolution of India’s Look-East Policy; Rising India: Friends and Foes; Nuclearization of Divided Nations: Pakistan, Koreas and India; Vajpayee’s Foreign Policy: Daring the Irreversible. He has written over 3000 articles and columns in India’s national media and several international dailies and magazines. CONTACT: prakash.nanda@hotmail.com