News Overview 2015

What Does India Think? Collection of Essays Published

India is undergoing a transformation. Prime Minister Modi wants to put the country back on the path to economic success and reposition it in international politics with a number of reforms. The collection of essays What Does India Think? offers insight into the current mood and interests of the subcontinent. The publication, initiated by the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, was presented at a panel discussion in Berlin.

"Modi wants India to be taken seriously in world politics again." That is how Ashok Malik, senior fellow of the Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation summed up the foreign-policy ambitions of India’s prime minister in Berlin. Together with Happymon Jacob, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and François Godemont, director of the Asia and China program of ECFR, the Indian intellectual Malik presented the collection of essays What Does India Think? In it, 16 notable Indian authors draft a panorama of the current economic, political, and societal mood and interests in the country, where, parallel to the initiatives of the Indian prime minister, the internal opposition to the course of reform is growing; and indications of an increasing curtailment of societal freedoms in India are manifold.

Since Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014 after a landslide election victory, the subcontinent has redefined itself, according to the panel. On visits to Berlin, Paris, and London, Modi has been promoting economic collaboration and investments. His prominent "Make in India" campaign has made waves in European economic circles. Nevertheless, Godemont believes that the sea change in India has not manifested itself in European awareness, especially not in the EU. The strategic partnership between the EU and India in 2004 seems to have lost momentum, although there are numerous arguments for Europeans to take more notice of the developments in India and promote cooperation.

This is not only because India is currently the fastest growing economy in the world, and the EU is its largest trade partner; there are also common interests in terms of security policy, be it in Afghanistan, in the Indian Ocean, or in the fight against transnational terrorism, let alone India’s increasing significance for the future global governance architecture. It is still unclear which strategy India will follow in terms of foreign and security policy in the near future. Modi, who has completed around 30 state visits during his 18 months in office, is still keeping all options open. In India itself, however, there is now a tension-filled atmosphere that feeds on an upbeat economic mood as well as fear that the Hindu nationalist tendencies of the ruling party will intensify.

The study was preceded by a study tour of European politicians and journalists to Delhi and Mumbai with various discussions and meetings. The conclusion of Jakob von Weizsäcker, MEP and participant of the study tour: "India has left the station - and it is high time that Europe’s view of India left the station as well."

Listen to a recording of the discussion:

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European Council on Foreign Relations (Hg.)  What does India think?  Read and recommend