S Jaishankar re-appointed External Affairs Minister


New Delhi

Bureaucrat-turned-politician S Jaishankar has been re-appointed the Minister of External Affairs in the Modi 3.0 government for a second stint as was widely anticipated much before the formal announcement of portfolios on Monday evening.

The former diplomat, who is largely perceived within the BJP as having successfully handled India’s economic and strategic interests in a highly volatile global landscape, is likely to continue with the country’s stated position of putting the interest of its own people at the centre while dealing with turbulent issues such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the escalating crisis in the Middle East.

The BJP’s alliance partners are expected to largely be in sync with this as foreign policy with the country’s core interest in focus, like continued purchase of cheap oil from Russia, has popular acceptance.

India’s `neighbourhood first’ policy would remain centerstage as the country fights China’s growing influence in the region. The presence of heads of states and leaders from seven neighbourhood and Indian Ocean region countries, including Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu who is seen as a Chinese ally, is a strong statement in that direction.

Even before taking over as the Foreign Minister in the new government, Jaishankar made it a point to meet all the visiting heads of States and stress the importance of strengthened bilateral relations.

“The visit of the leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for his third consecutive term is in keeping with the highest priority accorded by India to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and ‘SAGAR’ vision,” the MEA had said in an earlier statement.

Jaishankar, who served as the Foreign Secretary in the NDA government between 2015-18 and is known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has had a diplomatic career spanning close to four decades.

Challenges

His fresh stint as the External Affairs Minister is expected to be as challenging, if not more, as the first term, with Western powers, including the US and the EU, increasingly losing their patience with Russia because of its prolonged aggression in Ukraine and the possibility of increased third-country sanctions on those doing business with Moscow.

The escalation of Israel’s war in Gaza, and Iran’s direct involvement in it on behalf of Palestine, poses another major diplomatic challenge for India which is in the process of building greater economic ties with Israel but has an old ally and friend in Iran.

Another balancing act that would be difficult is the extent to which India would bend and align with the West to challenge China in ventures such as the US-led Indo Pacific Economic Framework.



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