THE HEADLINES AND the comparisons said it all. Soon after Narendra Modi left Germany for the next leg of his tour in Europe, newspaper headlines began suggesting that India was the new bulwark for keeping the Paris climate change accord ‘safe’. Even if one discounts the exaggeration in such claims, Modi’s staunch support for a global climate change mitigation accord is in plain sight. As the world ‘de-globalises’ and cooperation for vital international agreements dwindles, India has taken a principled stand.
Modi’s words in Berlin were not those of a woolly environmental activist but those of a head of a government who knows the art of optimising what is needed with what is desirable. India’s investments in green technologies, from solar to wind power, among others, are considerable. In fact the steep decline in tariffs for solar power now make it competitive with ‘dirty’ sources of energy like coal-based power.
Foreign policy has traditionally been a strong point with most Indian prime ministers. But very often the gap between the effort devoted on this score and the returns from it have displayed a considerable gap. One obvious reason for this, in the last two-odd decades, is India’s inability to deliver what its partners abroad have wanted. From liberalising the country’s FDI regime, safeguards for investment and generally, ending India’s infamous culture of red-tape.
In this Modi has marked a refreshing change. There are two reasons. For one, he has a parliamentary majority that allows his Government considerable room for policy maneuver. Two, the Government has pursued business-friendly policies with gusto. From devoting considerable effort to improving India’s Ease of Business rankings to ending the notorious ‘policy paralysis’ that gripped Delhi for the better part of a decade, Modi has tried hard to change things.
This has made India a credible partner for many countries in the West, one’s that are not excessively ideological about matters such as India’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. No longer are there complaints about India not doing enough to ease the troubles of those who want to bring money to its shores. In fact even as domestic investment growth is not doing too well, FDI growth has remained very robust. If Modi is being received well in Europe, that has strong reasons in India’s domestic politics.