Narendra Modi, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate for prime minister in India’s upcoming general elections, has normally been quite reserved on matters of foreign policy. That changed last week when Modi publicly called for China to abandon its “expansionist attitude,” referring to India’s ongoing territorial disputes with China in Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
At a rally in Pasighat, in the Indian northeast, Modi came down hard on China. “No power on earth can take away even an inch from India,” he said, adding that “China should give up its expansionist attitude and adopt a development mindset.” The speech appeared to be a broad attempt to bolster his credentials as a tough leader and a nationalist. “I swear by this land that I will not let this nation be destroyed, I will not let this nation be divided, I will not let this nation bow down,” he added.
Until now, the most Modi had offered in the way of a concrete vision for Indian foreign policy was his idea of allowing Indian states greater autonomy in pursuing relations with foreign states for economic ends. Modi argued that allowing this sort of foreign policy federalism would lead to more efficient economic outcomes than allowing New Delhi to navigate economic deals on behalf of Indian states. That vision stemmed from his own experience as the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. Under Modi’s leadership, Gujarat has seen economic growth above the Indian average for the most part of the last ten years.