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NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has retained most of his cabinet ministers for his third term, signaling policy continuity, experts say, as they predict a more conciliatory approach to minorities.

Modi named the members of his cabinet on Monday, one day after being sworn in following a massive general election held from mid-April to June.

External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar remains in charge of India’s foreign policy, Amit Shah remains Home Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman as Finance Minister and Rajnath Singh as Defense Minister.

The first minister to comment after his reappointment was Jaishankar, who told reporters on Tuesday that the “Modi 3.0 foreign policy” would focus on resolving border issues with China and finding a solution to the “year-old cross issue”. -border terrorism’ with Pakistan.

India and nuclear-armed China share a 3,800 km long border that they fought over in 1962. Since 2020, there has been a military conflict on the border – the worst in five decades.

India has fought three wars with Pakistan, also a nuclear-armed neighbour, including two over control of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

“The message from the way the cabinet is formed and the way Dr. Jaishankar continues as foreign minister means that the previous approach of marginalizing Pakistan in India’s foreign policy and resisting China will continue,” Prof. Harsh V. Pant, vice president of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Also, the way India has been reactive on the world stage is again something that is likely to continue, so that India will continue to find its place in the world order through active diplomacy, as it has been trying to do for the last decade.”

Although he became the second Indian prime minister to win a third term, Modi had to rely on regional allies to form his cabinet.

The BJP won 240 seats in the 543-member parliament, losing its absolute majority for the first time since 2014. It was able to form the government with the support of two coalition members – the Telugu Desam Party, a player in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, and the Janata Dal (United) Party from the eastern state of Bihar.

Their National Democratic Alliance has 293 seats, and 272 were needed to form a government.

None of the key ministries belonged to coalition partners.

“Practically no portfolio has changed except that civil aviation has gone to the TDP, but by and large all the key jobs are with the BJP,” said R. Jagannathan, editorial director of the Hindu nationalist magazine Swarajya.

“I don’t think people in the coalition can expect more than their proportional share of mandates in the coalition. They don’t have that many seats to demand that much more… The coalition will not influence the ministries they control, they will influence behind the scenes. They will prepare the Modi government to do a lot for their states, especially for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.”

Modi’s “3.0” cabinet had representation from various states and castes, but not for the 200-million-strong Muslim minority.

A champion of the Hindu majority, which makes up 80 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population, Modi has come under fire for undermining India’s secular democracy with a majoritarian agenda that has enabled violent attacks by Hindu nationalists against minorities, particularly Muslims.

For Venkat Narayana, a former professor of economics at Telangana’s Kakatiya University, the lack of Muslim representation in Modi’s government was “a signal that he will continue his non-secular approach, and his anti-minority policies remain as pronounced as in the previous two terms.”

But with the 2024 election set to return India’s opposition to 232 seats in parliament, the prime minister will have to be “more conciliatory and democratic” this time, Narayana said.

“He cannot afford to completely shut down the opposition now. He cannot lead a government with a hardline agenda, otherwise the government will fall.”

Professor Ajay Gudavarthy of the Center for Policy Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi told Arab News that the BJP’s alliance partner TDP has “a fair share of Muslim support” and there must be an agreement on this.

“The BJP this time may not go for some radical agendas like mob lynching which was used in previous terms. But they will follow a more cultural majority agenda,” he said.

“Let’s wait and watch.”

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