Friends or foes? As India gears up to talk to the West, meet the architect of its new ‘India first’ foreign policy

While the US and India currently enjoy historic levels of economic and defense cooperation, the two nations have locked horns on a range of issues, prompting New Delhi to chart its own course in pursuit of national interests.

As India awaits two major events in its political calendar, a visit from US President Donald Trump next week and a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and EU leaders in Brussels next month, it is tempting to see the burgeoning superpower integrating itself into the Western fold. Especially given the multibillion-dollar arms deal Modi and Trump are expected to ink during the US leader’s visit.

But to assume that New Delhi has decided to wholeheartedly embrace the West would be wrong.

Far from bending the knee, New Delhi has begun to pursue independent economic and foreign policies, a move largely unappreciated in the West. India’s Foreign Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is one of the chief architects of these policies, yet few have picked up on the hints he’s dropped on the doorsteps of Europe and the US.

Shooting from the hip

Jaishankar’s exchanged the life of a diplomat with that of a politician at the insistence of Modi last May. Just a few short months later, India had rewired the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Dr. Jaishankar has been shooting from the hip since.

When US Senator Lindsey Graham appealed for a “democratic” resolution to the Kashmir crisis during the recently-concluded Munich Security Conference, Jaishankar fired back with a fitting retort.

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