7 PM |The new worry of depleting diplomatic capital| 3rd January 2020

Context:Depleting diplomatic capital post the recent events that took place in India.

More in news:

  • India has reached out to countries across all geographical regions to share its perspective on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens and emphasised that they are internal matters.

Diplomatic Capital:

  • Diplomatic capital refers to the trust, goodwill, and influence which a diplomat, or a state represented by its diplomats, has within international diplomacy.
  • According to political scientists, diplomatic capital is a kind of currency that can be traded in diplomatic negotiations and that is increased when positive ″social competences, reputation and personal authority” are portrayed.
  • Diplomatic capital is a complex combination of the goodwill the country has banked on over decades as a democratic, secular, stable power, bilateral transactions etc. that it can conduct in the present and the potential it holds for future ties in terms of economic and geopolitical strengths.
  • Diplomatic capital can be accumulated for example by economic cooperation and by contributions to the solution of international crises. 
  • It is strengthened when in other countries the sentiment prevails that the interests of a state or the diplomats representing it are aligned with their own interests.
  • Conversely, it can be squandered when a country engages in a confrontation, an armed conflict or a war, if that is perceived as unjust or at odds with the interests of others.
  • Diplomatic capital is also linked to the extent of enforcement of human rights.

Foreign Policy of the government between 2014-2019:

  • The three key pillars of the Modi government’s foreign policy – strong global image, effective big power diplomacy and neighbourhood-first approach.
  • PM Modi must be credited for building a strong rapport with Gulf countries through his ‘Link West’ policy. India’s relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and other countries in the region are on a strong footing.
  • Putting the past with United States, the governmnet forged an extra close relations with the Barak Obama administration that opened a new chapter in Indo-Pacific policy.
  • The friendship with US continued even after the change in power regime in US. The “Howdy, Modi!” event held in september 2019 was billed as one of the largest ever receptions of a foreign leader in the US.
  • Despite domestic sentiments against China, the government built a one of its kind infomal summit with China. Modi’s visit to China in 2018 followed by Xi Jinping visit to India in 2019 brings the two country closer.
  • After completing the Land Boundary Agreement, India and Bangladesh had worked hard on building connectivity, opening energy routes, trade and developing travel links.

Effects of recent events on the diplomatic relation:

  • The UN High Commission has also criticised the law by calling it “fundamentally discriminatory” and appears to “undermine the commitment to equality”.
  • Turkey in the West and Malaysia in East Asia are the only two prominent Islamic countries to have spoken out against India on Kashmir.
  • While Bangladesh and Malaysia have openly criticised the CAA, other countries like the USA, UK, France and Australia have issued travel advisories.
  • Bangladesh:
  • Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called off their visits to India following enactment of the controversial law.
  • Bangladesh questions about CAA that “If India’s motivation was compassion for the religiously persecuted, then why was the Modi governmnet so impervious to Ms. Hasina’s repeated requests for help in the Rohingya’s refugee issue?”
  • Japan:
  • The biggest immediate let-down from a global image perspective was the cancellation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit.
  • This was no ordinary visit, but one replete with political symbolism anchored in India’s North-East, right next China’s zone of influence in East Asia.
  • In fact, it was worked out in a way that Abe undertakes the India visit before he heads for China later in December
  • US:
  • The Democratic Party, under Barak Obama have been very supportive to the Indian Government. However, there were only three lawmakers from Democratic Party were present out of two dozen lawmakers at the “Howdi Modi” event.
  • Even out of five Indian-American lawmakers, only one attended the event.
  • In weeks that followed the “Howdy Modi” event, the State departments and several bipartisan committees have issued statements of concerns over continued detentions in Kashmir and the CAA. They held hearings in the US Congress and even inserted language on Kashmir into the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020.
  • Europe:
  • In the European Parliament, last september, there were also discussions on Kashmir.
  • It was followed by Indian government’s invitation to the far-right Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to visit Kashmir (October 2019) has annoyed Eorpean diplomats from various countries who have been denied similar access.

What can follow?

  • The United Nations and its affiliated bodies could provide a platform for India to be targeted. For instance, in December 2019, a suit by a relatively remote player, the Gambia, ensured that Myanmar’s top leadership was made to appear for a public hearing at the International Court of Justice at The Hague in connection with the Rohingya issue.
  • New Delhi’s breaking ties with Turkey and Malaysia for their comments at the UN on Kashmir could also lead to them vetoing India’s legitimate position at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), where India hopes to blacklist Pakistan for terror financing.
  • The US congress can effectively block defence sales to India or pursue sanctions on the S-400 missile system purchase from Russia.
Text Box: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations, with the membership of 57 states, covering four continents. The OIC is the collective voice of the Muslim world to ensure and safeguard their interest on economic socio and political areas. The OIC has Institutions, which implement its programmes. Its Headquarters is in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Text Box: US Commission for International Relogious Freedom:
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties.
  • The US Commission for International Relogious Freedom (USCIRF) has already recommended sanctions to be considered for Home Minister Amit Shah and other officials. It must be remembered that it was the USCIRF that first recommended a visa ban against Mr. Modi, as Gujarat Chief Minister, in 2005. To date, he remains the only individual world wide sanctioned under the US’s International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
  • Bangladesh has been defending India at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. If Bangladesh feels India’s actions to be religiously discriminatory, then it is just a matter of time that the other Islamic countries, specially Arab countries may speak up against the Indian government.


India has reached out to countries across all geographical regions to share its perspective on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, and emphasised that they are internal matters. Ministry of External Affairs have adopted a two-pronged strategy, as apart from reaching out to a number of resident ambassadors and high commissioners based here, Indian envoys abroad engaged with capitals in different countries. The government must ensure that the hard earned diplomatic capital is not wasted and work towards making India stronger on the international platform.


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