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Photo: “The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi interacting with the Chief Ministers via video conferencing to discuss the situation emerging post Unlock 1.0 and plan ahead for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, in New Delhi on June 16, 2020“, by Prime Minister’s office licensed under GODL-India. Hue modified from the original

Plagemann, Johannes, and Sandra Destradi. “Populism and foreign policy: The case of India.” Foreign Policy Analysis 15, no. 2 (2019): 283-301.


What kind of foreign policy do populists execute once in power? Based on the existing literature, we conceptualize populism as a set of ideas whose two core elements are anti-elitism and antipluralism. From this we develop a set of hypotheses regarding both substantive aspects of foreign policy as well as foreign policy–making processes of populist leaders in government. An analysis of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy record serves as a first plausibility probe of our hypotheses. We find that our concept of populism carries most explanatory value in the procedural aspects of foreign policy making as well as in its communication, less so in those aspects relating to the goals or substance of foreign policy. Whereas foreign policy under Modi’s populist leadership is highly centralized and personalized, the traditional foreign policy establishment, including most notably the Ministry of External Affairs, has lost some of its previous authority. Engaging the Indian diaspora abroad emerged as another characteristic of populist foreign policy making. By contrast, the case of India does not confirm our hypothesis regarding a preference of bilateralism over multilateralism, nor does populism necessarily preclude investing in global public goods.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.