Home » Modi at the G7 Outreach Summit: A Shift in India’s Foreign Policy?

Modi at the G7 Outreach Summit: A Shift in India’s Foreign Policy?


Shortly after being sworn in for his third consecutive term, India’s Prime Minister Narnendra Modi made a significant statement by attending the G-7 Outreach Summit in Italy on June 14. While India’s quest to become a developed country by 2047 and third-largest economy by 2027 pushes it to engage with countries beyond the region, Modi’s participation hints at a major overhaul of India’s traditional foreign policy.

While the presence of leaders from Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles at the swearing-in ceremony for Modi and his cabinet on June 9 hinted at continuity in India’s “Neighborhood First policy,” Modi’s attendance at the G-7 gathering less than a week later has a lot of messaging that needs decoding.  

India is not a member of the G-7, a grouping of the world’s leading democratic economies, Modi has previously attended G-7 summit meetings as a guest in 2019, 2022, and 2023. This trip underlined India’s continued interest in partnering with the grouping, while also highlighting some important shifts occurring in Modi’s third term.

The G-7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – are among India’s leading trading partners. With the economy as the foundation of New Delhi’s desire to shift from a regional leadership role to a global one, India needs to engage with the West, which is embodied in the form of the G-7. 

At the same time, the West sees a stronger India as vital to countering Chinese and Russian influence in developing countries. India’s growing tech, trade, and defense partnerships with the United States and France, including jet engines and fighter jets, highlight the West’s commitment to strengthening ties with New Delhi – despite India’s possible ambivalence on the Ukraine war. 

At the same time as building up its ties with the West, India is positioning itself as a voice of the Global South. New Delhi wants to reclaim its role as an important middle power – something that it was able to achieve through its leadership of the non-alignment movement (NAM) during the Cold War era. 

However, the shapers and believers of the NAM, including India, have shown a new faith in strategic minilateral, conditional alliance systems in dealing with a looming China threat and alliances between authoritarian regimes, including China, Russia, and North Korea. 

Unlike any other major power, the challenges China poses to India are more immediate. China’s territorial expansion into Indian territories along their disputed border brings a sense of urgency to New Delhi’s strategic considerations. The intensity of China’s threats compels India to seek robust alliances and reinforce its stance against authoritarian regimes, necessitating a pragmatic and proactive foreign policy approach.

As a result, despite its delicate relationship with Russia, India wants the West to support its stance against Chinese aggression on the border. Brussels, on the other hand, expects India to join the democratic alliance in condemning Russian military aggression in Ukraine and China’s bullying of Taiwan.

Many traditional strategic thinkers in India are appalled by the shift in New Delhi’s relationship with Moscow. While honoring and maintaining historical ties is important, achieving new goals requires forging new partnerships, and India is moving along those lines.  

The “no limits” partnership between Russia and China holds significant implications for India. New Delhi now realizes the consequences of its strategic silence, which weakened its ability to counter China’s increasingly assertive regional positioning and influence. This situation underscores the need for India to reassess its strategic alliances and adopt a more proactive stance in regional and global dynamics.

Therefore, Modi is pushing India to emerge from its historical hesitations in making tough calls. His third term has already highlighted this shift.

Modi directly responded to Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te’s congratulatory message on Xi (formerly Twitter), saying, “Thank you @ChingteLai for your warm message. I look forward to closer ties as we work towards mutually beneficial economic and technological partnership.”

A public exchange of greetings of this sort between India and Taiwan at the top leadership level was impossible to envision a few years ago. Even a discussion in Taiwan would raise alarms in the South Block, which saw it wise not to needle China. 

After the exchange of tweets, a rattled China issued a formal protest over Modi’s post and made it clear Beijing “opposed any form of official interaction between the Taiwan regional authorities and countries that have diplomatic relations with China.” However, with India having serious stakes in Taiwan and the region regarding economic and technological ties, maintaining peace in the region is Delhi’s utmost goal. 

Modi’s “thank you” to Lai not only acknowledged cooperation with Taiwan but hinted at “closer ties” in the economic and technological sphere in the future. The booming cooperation in the semiconductor sector, along with the recent agreement facilitating the employment of Indian workers in Taiwan, places New Delhi and Taipei on a promising track for future-centric cooperation.

Alongside his direct comment on India-Taiwan relations, Modi’s attendance at the G-7 summit made a similar breakthrough on Ukraine. Modi’s handshake with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was followed by a tweet stating, “India is eager to further cement bilateral relations with Ukraine. Regarding the ongoing hostilities, [Modi] reiterated that India believes in a human-centric approach and believes that the way to peace is through dialogue and diplomacy.” 

India also sent a high-level delegation to participate in the Summit on Peace in Ukraine held in Switzerland on June 15-16. 

Unlike Taiwan, India’s engagement with Ukraine has been more public, with Delhi hosting high-level delegations from Ukraine since the war began. But India remained undecided about sending a delegation to the summit, which was strongly opposed by Moscow, until the very last moment. Its participation was only confirmed through Zelensky’s tweet thanking Modi for sending one. 

With Russia and China absent from the summit, any tangible outcomes are unlikely, but India certainly saw the value in playing a role at the talks.

Change in India’s strategic thinking on Ukraine takes into consideration global trade and supply chain disruption. Beyond that, the illegal recruitment of Indian citizens in the Russian Army has left New Delhi worried. 

On June 12, India’s foreign secretary confirmed that India had requested the Russian authorities to return the remaining Indian citizens fighting on the frontline against Ukraine. Two Indian citizens have already lost their lives fighting for the Russian Army.  

This situation underscores India’s direct stakes in the Ukraine conflict, where the safety of its citizens becomes intertwined with broader geopolitical dynamics. It highlights the evolving challenges India faces in balancing its international obligations with the protection of its citizens abroad amid global crises.

Therefore, as New Delhi balances its historical ties with the West amid a drastically changing global order, its proactive stance on global issues signals a confident stride toward reclaiming its role as a significant middle power on the world stage.

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