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Modi’s Third-Term Foreign Policy Looks the Same

Modi’s Third-Term Foreign Policy Looks the Same
New Delhi’s relations with the West—and especially Washington—are likely to stay the course.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have returned for a third term, but for the first time in his career, Modi was unable to win outright. He and his party must now rely on coalition partners, notably two regional parties: the Telugu Desam Party and Janata Dal (United). The reality of a coalition government will undoubtedly limit Modi’s domestic agenda, but it is unlikely to alter India’s approach to foreign policy. The BJP’s partners have minimal interest in foreign-policy issues, giving Modi and his team a free hand to pursue their agenda on the global stage. As a result, India-U.S. relations should not shift markedly—and certainly not until after the U.S. elections in November. The election result is also likely to assuage some concerns about India’s democratic decline, which has been a source of tension between India and some of its Western partners. India’s main opposition parties all seemed to agree that India’s Election Commission managed the machinery of elections—specifically the safety of voters and the counting of votes—more or less effectively. The major portfolios in India’s foreign-policy establishment will continue to be led by the same ministers, suggesting that Modi’s foreign-policy priorities will remain intact. The United States and India are expected to continue their deepening ties in the defense sector, and the coalition government may even make India a more attractive market for U.S. investment. However, the chance of India modifying its nuclear liability law now seems less likely. These two likely impediments, although frustrating for foreign investors, must be seen as the cost of doing business with an emerging power that just restored some of its democratic credentials. Despite India’s many idiosyncratic features, the United States—as well as other Western powers—wants to partner with the country now more than ever. It is far too consequential a market, too crucial to breaking supply chain bottlenecks, and too important a player in perhaps the world’s most strategically fraught neighborhood.