National Security Advisor in the Manmohan Singh government Shiv Shankar Menon has praised PM Narendra Modi’s handling of foreign policy, saying he had been able to project India’s stand more “vigorously”.
In an interview to Karan Thapar for Headlines Today TV channel, Menon said the Modi government had shown “ingenuity and creativity” in dealing with Pakistan. He also talked about a growing “strategic congruence” in India’s relationship with the United States.
Asked whether the Modi government was carrying forward foreign policy gains made during Manmohan’s tenure, Menon said, “Absolutely, and he is doing it… probably projecting it more vigorously. Certainly there has been much more activity,” he said.
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Menon said the Modi government had gained from the fact that India’s stature in the international community was on the rise, thanks to its resurgent economy. “…the world is looking towards India. They expect you to step out, and you need to step out much more as well. The net result has been good for the government, of course good for Modi because he is the face of India…and good for India’s foreign policy,” he said.
Menon, also a former foreign secretary, said the criticism of Modi government for his handling of Pakistan had been a “bit unfair”. He said the perception that there was flip-flop on whether to talk to Pakistan or not was incorrect. “These are tactical things… whether you talk today, whether you postpone it, whether you go to them or they come to you…if we look only through the tactical prism then there will be one day euphoria one day despair,” he said.
He added: “You don’t measure a patient’s temperature every 10 minutes and keep changing the medication. You know the disease and you need to address the causes. The causes from our point of view are terrorism and the state sponsored angle to it,” he said.
Menon said the Modi government had worked differently on the Pakistan policy as compared to the previous government. “It hasn’t laid out any vision (as Manmohan Singh had done) against which you can measure their success or failure. I think they are still feeling their way through,” he said.
“But it has shown great ingenuity and creativity if you look at the formation of the government in J&K for example. If you are willing to do that internally, and if you are ready to show the same flexibility with your neighbours, not just with Pakistan… I think there is hope,” he said.
On relations with the US, Menon said it must not be seen as an effort to build a counterweight against China. “For me, the strategic congruence with the US is a big step… Our interests are not identical. We are not allies, we are not clients. We are not claiming that our interests are identical but there is this congruence. But there is congruence with Chinese as well,” he said.
“Frankly, there are interests (with the US) that are congruent and include the Chinese as well. So it does not mean necessarily that every time you assert a common interest with the US, it is somehow going to offend the Chinese,” he said.