India’s diplomatic rollercoaster: Navigating India’s highs and lows in 2023 | India News

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In 2023, India experienced dynamic diplomatic moments characterised by both successes and challenges. The nation forged stronger ties with several countries, reaching new heights in diplomatic relations while facing significant strains with others. This pivotal year saw India play a crucial role in hosting and chairing summits of significant importance, culminating in the successful execution of the most significant event of the year.Here are some key diplomatic events of 2023 that defined India’s diplomatic journey:
Relations between India-Canada hit rock bottom
India-Canada relations were severely strained after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged Indian government’s involvement in the death of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whom India had designated as a terrorist. Nijjar was fatally shot in June outside a Gurudwara in Surrey, Canada.
Trudeau said that he had raised the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit in New Delhi. Following Trudeau’s allegations, Canada also expelled Pavan Kumar Rai, a high-ranking Indian diplomat and the Canadian station chief of India’s intelligence agency RAW.

Who was Nijjar

Dismissing Trudeau’s claims as ‘absurd and motivated’, the Indian government refuted the allegations made by Trudeau in the House of Commons. Subsequently, Canada’s expulsion of India’s diplomat prompted the ministry of external affairs to summon the Canadian envoy and expel a senior Canadian diplomat.
India emphasised its longstanding concern about Canada’s inaction on Khalistan extremism and expressed deep apprehension over Canadian political figures openly sympathising with separatists. Both nations issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens against travel to the other country. Additionally, India temporarily halted visa services in Canada, resuming them later in October.


In December, foreign minister Jaishankar asserted India’s responsibility and willingness to address concerns from any country, specifically referring to Canada’s allegations regarding the alleged involvement of ‘agents of the Indian government’ in Nijjar’s killing.
The allegations exacerbated existing tensions between the two nations, fueled by Canada providing refuge to Khalistan extremist members. This diplomatic row is expected to persist for the foreseeable future, requiring time to de-escalate.
Qatar sentences death to eight ex-Indian navy personnel, reduces sentence later
Eight former Indian Navy personnel, employed by a defense services provider company in Qatar, faced a year-long ordeal in the country after being detained on charges of espionage. The Qatari court initially handed down death sentences, which were later reduced, as confirmed by the external affairs ministry. The verdict from the Court of Appeal in the Dahra Global case acknowledged the reduction in sentences.
Since their arrest in 2022, the eight individuals who were working for a defence services provider company in Qatar endured solitary confinement without clear reasons provided by Qatari authorities.
In response to the amended sentence, India indicated that the country will explore the next steps in the case after consultations with the legal team and family members of the affected individuals.
India hosts G20 summit in Delhi
In a significant diplomatic triumph, India achieved a breakthrough at the G20 summit with the adoption of the New Delhi Declaration overcoming substantial differences in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. PM Modi announced the historic inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20.
PM Modi also launched the Global Biofuels Alliance and unveiled plans for an ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

G20 highlights

Engaging in several bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the G20 summit, PM Modi met with key leaders such as UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, US president Joe Biden, then-friend Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Italian prime minister Georgia Meloni.
The G20 collectively condemned all acts of religious hatred against individuals, religious symbols, and holy books. The summit, held under India’s presidency, marked a historic diplomatic success for the country.
Another year of strained ties with China
India’s strained relationship with China continued, which further worsened when China asserted its claim over parts of Arunachal Pradesh. Terming them as part of ‘Zangnan, the southern part of Tibet,’ China standardised the names of 11 places within the state.
While ongoing discussions aimed at resolving border tensions persisted between India and China, the latter chose to not attend this year’s G20 meeting held in Delhi.
On August 28, China’s ministry of natural resources unveiled a new national map, characterising it as a ‘standard’ map as part of an ongoing initiative to ‘rectify’ what it deemed ‘problem maps.’ This revised map notably delineates Indian territories such as Arunachal Pradesh and the Doklam Plateau within Chinese borders along its southern frontier with India. Additionally, it includes Aksai Chin within the western section.
India promptly voiced its dissent against the map, refuting Beijing’s claims and emphasising the lack of legitimacy in asserting control over Indian territory. Following India’s stance, countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam issued resolute statements, rejecting China’s released map as unfounded and baseless.
Twists and turns in relations with United States
In 2023, the India-US relationship commenced on a positive note when President Biden extended a rare official state visit invitation to Prime Minister Modi in June. During this visit, Biden engaged in over eight hours of discussions with Modi.

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Despite contention over not inviting Ukrainian president Zelenskyy to the summit, President Biden made the journey to New Delhi, participating in the summit for G-20 leaders in September.
Throughout the year, there was an unprecedented surge in high-profile visits from top US officials to India and vice versa. Cabinet-level figures such as treasury secretary Janet Yellen and secretary of state Antony Blinken made multiple trips.
India too granted approvals for historic multi-billion-dollar deals, including the purchase of commercial aircraft from Boeing and the resolution of a long-pending armed drone deal with General Atomics.
However, the year concluded on a somber note as the department of justice filed an indictment in a New York federal court, revealing a plot to harm a US national on American soil. While the separatist Sikh leader was not explicitly named, media reports identified him as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the leader of Sikhs for Justice. In response to the US indictment, India established a high-level commission to thoroughly investigate the allegations.
Jaishankar’s visit to Russia, meeting Putin and the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and calling Russia ‘a time-tested partner’ came amidst stalling relations with the US.
New strides in diplomacies: PM Modi’s bilateral visits and new embassies

PM Modi with world leaders

PM Modi undertook diplomatic journeys to 11 countries, showcasing a comprehensive global engagement strategy. Amongst these were visits to all three Quad nations; a participation in the Group of Seven (G7) Summit held in Hiroshima, Japan, a stop in Sydney, Australia, and a significant state visit to meet with US President Joe Biden. PM Modi also met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Hiroshima, the first time since the Russia-Ukraine war commenced.
PM Modi embarked on a historic tour to Papua New Guinea, marking the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the Indo-Pacific nation.
Further extending India’s diplomatic reach, the Prime Minister visited Egypt, attended France’s Bastille Day military parade as the chief guest and engaged in bilateral talks in the United Arab Emirates as part of COP28. PM Modi additionally also pitched to host 2028 edition of COP.
To strengthen India’s global presence, India also inaugurated new embassies in Paraguay and Lithuania. Additionally, India activated its consulate in Seattle and unveiled plans for a mission in Latvia.
Election of pro-China leader in friendly island nation
In a development that will possibly have implications on India-Maldives diplomacy, Mohamed Muizzu, perceived to have pro-China inclinations, secured the position of the eighth president of the Republic of Maldives. His victory in the September presidential election was accompanied by a pledge to revise the Maldives’ ‘India first’ policy and a commitment to reduce the small Indian military presence, consisting of around 75 personnel.


Prime minister Narendra Modi with president of Maldive Mohamed Muizzu at COP28

Shortly after his election, Muizzu formally requested the withdrawal of Indian troops from the island nation. Confirming this development, President Mohamed Muizzu announced in December that the Indian government had agreed to pull its soldiers out of the Maldives. This move potentially strains the bilateral relations between the two nations.
Extending a helping hand in times of crisis
Southern Turkey and parts of Syria were rocked by a massive earthquake, resulting in significant loss of life and extensive property damage in the affected region. Responding swiftly, India initiated ‘Operation Dost’ to assist the countries affected by the earthquake. The operation, named ‘Dost,’ which translates to ‘Friend’ in Hindi, garnered attention, particularly when an image of a Turkish woman embracing an Indian female military officer went viral during the relief efforts.

Turkey India help

In addition to its efforts in the earthquake-stricken region, India demonstrated support to its neighbour by assuring the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and played a pivotal role in helping Colombo secure a substantial USD 3 billion bailout package.
India also extended support to Nepal, which recently experienced a devastating earthquake claiming over 150 lives. India dispatched 11 tonnes of emergency relief materials and additional aid to assist the victims.
Bringing Indians back to home sweet home
India launched Operation Kaveri to bring back Indian nationals from war-torn Sudan. The evacuation involved transporting Indians from various locations in Sudan to the capital city of Khartoum, from where they were then airlifted back to India.
India also initiated ‘Operation Ajay’ in response to the escalating conflict in Israel. Over 1200 Indians were safely brought back as tensions flared up due to Hamas militants’ attacks on Israel starting October 7. The conflict between Hamas and Israel persisted, resulting in numerous casualties.


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