The stature of M.J. Akbar as a journalist is so high that this article will not be able to make an estimation of it. So, let us come straight to the point. Akbar was inducted into Modi’s Cabinet in Tuesday’s reshuffle. Later in the evening he was appointed as the Minister of State for External Affairs – one of the four most important ministries of the Indian Government.
With his appointment, Akbar becomes the second MoS in the External Affairs Ministry – the first being former Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh.
That two ministers of state are now handling External Affairs alongside Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj shows the heightened interest India is giving to foreign policy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been on a whirlwind tour of many countries ever since he assumed power. Through each of his foreign trips, Modi strengthened India’s relations with the countries and secured unprecedented diplomatic ties with each.
His critics will never admit this but Modi has achieved more in the foreign policy arena in two years than his predecessor did in his 10.
But it would have been immensely difficult for the Prime Minister to present India’s points before the world without the able Sushma Swaraj. Her work as the External Affairs Minister has been applauded by experts and also by the hoi polloi on social media. Swaraj’s work as foreign minister is on par with some of the best names who handled the ministry since India’s independence. Yet every critical ministry needs more expert hands for a smooth and effective handling. One such hand is of Gen V.K. Singh.
Gen V.K. Singh proved his mettle during Operation Raahat in 2015. Gen Singh was deputed by PM Modi to command the operation.
His expertise as a former army chief and understanding of strategic matters helped India script one of the greatest successes in history of evacuation. The Indian Armed Forces were able to evacuate over 5,600 people, including foreign nationals, from strife-torn Yemen – a feat praised widely by the international press.
MoS External Affairs Gen V.K. Singh (in black cap) addressing the press during Operation Raahat in Yemen. TOI
But India has been increasingly trying to build stronger diplomatic and strategic ties with West Asia (Middle East) with an eye in the East, where a South China Sea tangle is on for many years. This calls for increased all-round attention which is bound to put a strain on the MEA. Since India has been reaching out to an increasingly high number of countries in both the East and the West, the External Affairs Ministry would obviously be needing more hands, and who better than the well-read, highly admired and experienced Akbar. Akbar’s own knowledge of foreign affairs is critical for the Modi government at a juncture when India has built solid ties with Afghanistan, ensured a future of strategic, diplomatic and economic prosperity with Iran, built unprecedented ties with UAE on global terrorism, and strengthened its relations with Saudi Arabia. With so much of focus in the neighbourhood and a grappling game with China on the international arena, never has India been so outward and offensive in its foreign policy.