Since sweeping to power in May 2014 in India’s biggest election victory in a generation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made his impact more in diplomacy than in domestic policy, a realm where he faces a core challenge similar to that of his Japanese counterpart and ideological soul mate, Shinzo Abe — to lead his country toward greater economic and military security.

Modi, like Abe, has surprised many by investing considerable political capital in high-powered diplomacy. But Modi, a provincial leader, came to office, unlike Abe, with little foreign policy experience. In recent months, foreign leaders have made a beeline to call on Modi — ranging from Chinese President Xi Jinping to U.S. President Barack Obama, who will be the guest of honor at India’s Jan. 26 Republic Day parade, a year after Abe had that privilege.

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