Edited Excerpts from an interview.
What do you think of Modi’s foreign policy so far?
It’s pathetic! He does not understand foreign policy. India is not a policeman of the world and it should not aspire to become one. You have to become a conversationalist. You cannot have a one-way conversation. Every leader sells a dream about their country abroad. For example, Malaysia has a thing called “second home in Malaysia”. We do the same by saying, come make in India, come invest in India. But, frankly, if you have a one-way conversation, to what extent would they be interested?
What people are interested in is India as a market. That is our strength. They are not interested in anything else. So, will you explain to them why they should come to India? You come to India to invest in India or to export from India. To this day it is not very clear what Modi means when he says ‘Make in India’. He, too, is relying on the Indian market as an opportunity, but that has been happening since two decades.
The critics of the erstwhile Congress government argue that Modi has been more robust in engaging with the West than the Congress had been? They believe that the UPA was scared of China and Russia.
But can you really ignore Russia? Even America cannot do that. Can you ignore China and Japan? Can you go to China and pretend that there is no Japan? Wouldn’t you have to find a balance between Japan and China? Can you go to Vietnam and pretend that there is no China?
The world today is a very complicated place. But Modi sees it in simplistic terms. It is all about me, mine and the way I think. That is not the way you deal with the world. The world needs very tough negotiations. To deal with the world means to engage in a lot of give and take. But Modi’s focus is elsewhere. So far he has failed to notice that just as the West sees India as a market, India sees the African continent as a market. But we have paid no attention to the markets in Africa. Even though our strengths in Africa are greater than China’s. We share historical ties with that continent — traditional bonds of history and heritage. In the Middle East, too, we have a strong presence. But you don’t go to the Middle East to meet Indians. You have to go there to speak to the Arabs, but Modi has only spoken to the Indians.
The Middle East wants to know what is happening with Iran and Saudi. What will be the future of Turkey and Egypt? How to deal with the ISIS challenge? They want to know when will Palestine become a reality. Has Modi ever spoken on these issues? What is his foreign policy then?
What has been Modi’s biggest failure so far on the foreign policy front?
It is his inability to understand the world. He does not understand anything beyond Gujarat. He does not even understand India. That is apparent from the results in Bihar. What would they know of the world who don’t even know India?