China to be a focus of India's BJP party

China to be a focus of India's BJP party

China to be a focus of India's BJP party

Updated 14 April 2014, 14:45 AEST

India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's manifesto released a week ago is light on foreign policy detail.

It's been a week since India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party released its campaign manifesto.

The document has a heavy emphasis on economic growth and trade, but offers little glimpses of what the wider world might expect of a BJP-led government.

Research associate in the international security program at the Lowy Institute Danielle Rajendram told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program there's a great deal of unknown on how the BJP might handle relations in the region.

"Foreign policy hasn't featured prominently in this election campaign, which has instead, focussed on issues of economic growth and governance," he said.

"What we can tell about Narendra Modi's foreign policy is that economic growth is going to be his main priority, and this will weigh very heavily on his foreign policy decision-making."

Mr Rajendram says relations with Beijing are likely to be a top priority of a Narendra Modi-led government.

"China will be a really important economic partner for India, and despite the fact that Narendra Modi has made some strong statements with regards to territorial incursions in disputed territories, from China, Modi has also during his time as chief minister, made four separate state visits to China and has built up economic links between his state and China," he said.

"I believe that he is unlikely to jeopardise the economic opportunities of engagement with China, regardless of his tougher stances on territorial disputes."

Mr Rajendram says South East Asia will also be a focus.

"Well, I think we can expect that in order to balance against China's influence in the region, the next government regardless of whether it's led by the BJP or the Congress, will continue to pursue India's 'Look East' policy, of engagement with South East Asia, with East Asia.

"Just last year, India stepped up its engagement with Indonesia and with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) more broadly - partly due to the economic benefits, but also due to the security implications of engagement with the region."

Pakistan relations

Relations between India and Pakistan have long been tense.

There have been numerous military conflicts between the two sides and a Lowy Institute poll says more 90 per cent of Indians think that Pakistan will pose a threat to the security of India over the next ten years.

Mr Rajendram says Mr Modi is likely to maintain a tough stance on Islamabad.

"The fact that Narendra Modi does have this reputation as a divisive nationalist leader and also... his anti-Muslim reputation, is going to make relations with Pakistan trickier to navigate.

"Modi's rhetoric on Pakistan, especially in times of crisis, has been a lot tougher than the existing government."

Four days of the Indian general elections have already been completed, with another five to come.

The process is due to be completed by mid May.

Mr Modi is expected to lead the BJP party to victory over the incumbent Congress party.