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NEW YORK, Jun 20 (APP):Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds himself isolated as neighbouring countries have remained silent in the wake of India’s misadventure on the contested border with China that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, according to American media reports.

“If (Modi) thought he could count on the public support of neighbours as he faced his most significant foreign policy challenge as India’s leader, he was mistaken,” a New Delhi datelined article circulated by Bloomberg, a New York-based international news agency, said.

“Amid a serious escalation of tensions with China following the first fatalities along their contested border in more than four decades, a surging epidemic and an economy heading for recession, the silence of India’s traditional regional allies and partners like Bangladesh and Nepal has been deafening,” wrote Archana Chaudhary and Bibhudatta Pradhan, who work for the agency, in a joint article.

It said that Modi, who has long built an image of a strongman, said, faces “the task of lowering tensions with China at a time when Beijing has the upper hand in its neighbourhood.

With rising domestic anger that has led to calls for a boycott of Chinese goods and the termination of government contracts with Chinese companies, Modi needs to walk a careful line between the brewing nationalist fervor and seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis with Beijing.”

The article said, “The worsening conflict may push the prime minister, who has relied on his personal equations with world leaders to manage relations, to re-evaluate India’s economic and security priorities…
“Modi’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy, which helped settle border disputes with Bangladesh and smoothed ties with Sri Lanka and Bhutan in his first term, has frayed in his second term.

His government’s focus on driving a hard-line Hindu nationalist agenda has alienated some traditional standbys and has made long-time trade and security partners uncomfortable.

“While Modi has been in touch with leaders in the neighborhood since the latest border crisis with China began on May 5, the only expressions of condolences and concern so far have come from the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged both the countries to exercise maximum restraint,” it added.

The seeds of the current border crisis and the unraveling of some regional partnerships, according to Bloomberg, were likely sown last November, when India released a new map, months after changing the constitutional status of its portion of Kashmir and carving the Himalayan Ladakh area — a region of strategic importance nestled between western Tibet and Azad Kashmir — as a separate federally administered region.

It said, “The map had angered Beijing and elicited protests from Pakistan and Nepal. In May, as the stand-off with Chinese troops simmered, ties with Nepal took a turn for the worse over India’s construction of a border road.

The relationship was already under some strain after an economic blockade in 2015 blamed on the Modi administration pushed Kathmandu’s communist government under Prime Minister K.P. Oli closer to China. Since then Nepal’s legislature has approved a new map demarcating a mountain pass and areas it says India claimed when it built the road despite repeated objections.”

“New Delhi’s ongoing refusal to hold substantive talks on the disputed border has not helped either,” Ian Hall, professor in international relations at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, and author of ‘Modi and the Reinvention of Indian Foreign Policy’ was quoted as saying. “There is no doubt that Beijing has worked hard to build a closer party-to-party relationship between Oli’s government and the Chinese Communist Party, in parallel to conventional diplomatic links.”

Modi also has Bangladesh offside, the article said. A scheduled visit by A.K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, was postponed late last year amid nationwide unrest following implementation of a new religion-based law that fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“India has been exploring multilateral economic and political ties outside of its neighborhood the current tensions with China may hasten that process of rethinking its strategic priorities.

“Since March, India has stepped up participation in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific group of nations, which includes Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Vietnam. Its also part of the so-called Quad collective of democracies — along with U.S., Japan and Australia that are now presenting a united front on regional security issues, a move Beijing has criticized.The group is also seeking more maritime engagement at a time when China has been asserting its presence more forcefully in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.

“But even with attempting to win over new alliances against Beijing’s regional aspirations, the relationship with China India’s second-largest trading partner with current two-way trade of $87 billion — isn’t one New Delhi can wish away.

“The optimistic view is that the tragic loss of life will incentivize both governments to energize their efforts to resolve the border dispute,” Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at MIT and author of ‘Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict,’ was quoted as saying.

“The pessimistic view is that China has no intention of relieving the pressure that it is putting across the entire Line of Actual Control and that this is a long way from being over,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, Ajai Shukla, a former Indian army office and a military analyst, noted in an article to The New York Times that following Monday night’s “debacle”, it took New Delhi a full day to release statements acknowledging it.
“In sharp contrast to the bellicose Indian statements that follow attacks by Pakistani militants, the Indian government’s reactions were mild, almost careful not to offend China,’ Shula noted.

“Only on Wednesday did Mr. Modi discover his voice and declare that ‘peace-loving’ India would ensure that the deaths of its soldiers would not go in vain, he wrote.

“India’s foreign minister, who rarely holds back in railing against Pakistan, was restrained in his criticism of Beijing and agreed with his Chinese counterpart to ‘cool down’ tensions on the ground ‘as soon as possible.’ The reasoning was underlined by Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a spokesman of Mr. Modi’s party, who argued on television that the confrontation was ‘with China, not with Pakistan’.”