Tuesday February 25, 2020
Home India Globe-trotter...

Globe-trotter Modi has his sight set on foreign policy

0
//

New Delhi: He may have been in the firing line of opposition leaders for his frequent visits abroad but Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems undeterred by the flak – and even the jokes on his foreign visits – to set a new benchmark for India’s foreign policy initiatives and make India a global power.

In just over 18 months after becoming prime minister, Modi has already visited 30 countries, three of them – the United States, France and Nepal seeing two visits each. His first visit, within 20 days of assuming office, was to closest neighbour Bhutan in June 2014.

That Modi is not in any foreign holiday mode can be gauged from his hectic schedules in all the countries he has visited so far and the number of summit meetings with top leaders, including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameroon, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the heads of state and government rulers of the other countries.

From the tiny island country Fiji to economic giants like the US and Japan, Modi has ensured that he leads by example on the diplomatic front to engage with other countries for economic and strategic interests. Modi’s mission certainly is aimed at catapulting India to a global power in the coming years.

But in doing so, Modi is not trying to usurp the role of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) or for that matter of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Though Sushma Swaraj is generally not part of Modi’s foreign entourage, she certainly should not be feeling left out.

The minister has herself been crisscrossing the globe in the same period – having been to 28 countries as well, clearly indicating the importance the Modi government is attaching to foreign policy matters and getting India the tag of a world power in the future.

Swaraj, like Modi, too is not on any junket and is ensuring India’s diplomatic outreach and strategic partnerships in the present and the future.

President Pranab Mukherjee has travelled to 10 countries in six state visits after the Modi government took over. Vice President Hamid Ansari has travelled abroad thrice in the same period.

Modi has addressed lawmakers in various countries – from Australia to the United States – but his penchant seems to be in a rockstar role in addressing biggish gatherings of Indians settled abroad. From his first mega-show at New York’s Madison Square Garden to stadia in Sydney and Dubai to the recent show at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium (where even British Prime Minister David Cameroon was present), Modi has created an image of being a hit with NRIs.

“Narendra Modi’s foreign policy initiatives have realized the true potential and role of the world’s largest democracy, India, on the world stage,” the website of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) states, making it clear where he wants to see India in the coming years.

Modi’s foreign policy initiatives are not only offshore.

He assumed office with a bang by getting the top leaders of all the SAARC countries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to attend his swearing-in in New Delhi on May 26, 2014.

“Narendra Modi became the first Indian prime minister to embark on a bilateral visit to Nepal after a long period of 17 years, to Australia after 28 years, to Fiji after 31 years and the Seychelles after 34 years. He became the first PM of India to visit Mongolia. Modi has attached great importance to strong ties with the Arab world. His visit to the UAE in August 2015, the first by an Indian PM in 34 years, covered tremendous ground in enhancing India’s economic partnership with the Gulf,” the PMO website states, listing the importance that his government is attaching to engaging with countries which seemed to have been lost on India’s foreign policy radar in the last few decades as the emphasis continued on the big western powers.

Modi has addressed the UN General Assembly, actively participated in the India-Africa Forum, BRICS, SAARC and G-20 Summits and attended other international conferences in Paris, Kuala Lumpur and other cities.

On home ground too, Modi has not let off on the diplomatic front.

He invited US President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on January 26 – a first in Indo-US ties – hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad and New Delhi, had his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott visiting and hosted President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Though Modi has not yet touched base on the African continent, the historic India-Africa Summit was held in New Delhi in October at which all the 54 African nations were represented – perhaps the first time this has happened outside the continent. Modi also held bilateral meetings with several African leaders during the event.

Modi has, with visits to principal central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as also Mongolia, has indicated his government wanted to secure strategic ties with them.

And, as the year is being closed, it was announced that Modi would be visiting Islamabad next year for the SAARC summit. This, on the back of renewed India-Pakistan ties and the renewal of their composite dialogue.

There perhaps couldn’t have been a better way to end the year. (Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

Next Story

U.S. President Donald Trump Announces Military Deal With India

Trump Announces Military Deal With India, Expresses Optimism For Trade Pact

0
Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands during a "Namaste Trump," event at Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium. VOA

By Steve Heman

President Donald Trump said Monday the United States will sign an agreement to sell $3 billion worth of U.S. helicopters and other equipment to India’s military.

The announcement came as Trump spoke at a welcome rally in the city of Ahmedabad, where a crowd of more than 100,000 people had gathered to hear from him and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ahead of the visit, Trump had said a new major trade deal between the two countries would not be part of this trip.  But in his address he promised the two countries will be making “among the biggest ever trade deals,” and said he is optimistic that he and Modi can reach “a good, even great deal” for both sides.

Modi also struck an optimistic note about a potential trade agreement, saying ties were expanding in spheres ranging from defense, the energy sector and information technology, and that a resurgent India would present new opportunities for the U.S.

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, pause as they tour the Taj Mahal. VOA

Calling the two countries “natural partners,” Modi said they can help bring peace, progress and security not just in the Indo Pacific region, but in the entire world.

“We are inspired by a long-term vision, not just short term considerations,” Modi said.

Modi hailed President Trump’s visit saying it marks a new chapter between the two countries. “India-U.S. relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship,” the Indian leader said.

“There is so much that we share, shared values and ideas, shared spirit of enterprise and innovation, shared opportunities and challenges, shared hopes and aspirations,” according to Modi.

Trump began his address by uttering the Indian greeting “Namaste,” and said that India “will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

“America loves India.  America respects India.  And America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,” Trump said.

He celebrated India as a successful democracy, and said both countries are committed to working together to fight terrorism.

“Our borders will always be closed to terrorists and terrorism and all forms of extremism,” Trump said.

Trump’s visit began with a red carpet-welcome at the airport in Ahmedabad, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.  Thousands of people then cheered along a motorcade route as Trump and Modi traveled a short distance to a stop at Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram.

Pre-trip beautification effort

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive at the new Motera cricket stadium. VOA

A small army of workers was deployed ahead of Trump’s visit to Ahmedabad to build a 400-meter-long wall along the motorcade route to block the view of where poor people live. The hurried beautification project also includes the placement of about 150,000 flowerpots.

After the stadium event in Ahmedabad and before heading to New Delhi, the president and first lady Melania Trump made a visit to the country’s most famous tourist attraction – the Taj Mahal – where they were given a tour of the site.

Indian media reported Agra will be on lockdown for the visit, although there is concern about controlling the menacing monkeys roaming the grounds of the 17th-century Mughal marble mausoleum.

“The forest department has been requested to ensure that the monkeys stay away from the Taj during Donald Trump’s visit,” Archaeological Survey of India Superintending Archaeologist Vasant Kumar Swarnkar was quoted telling India Today.

While Trump expressed his optimism for a trade deal, he said last week he was “saving the big deal for later on.”

There is mutual agreement on dozens of elements for the pact, but several contentious sectors are unresolved, including medical devices, according to sources close to the talks.

“Whether or not there will be an announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. “That said, we have a number of significant commercial deals, which are of great significance that we’re very pleased to announce in a number of key sectors.”

Indian officials are said to be perplexed that U.S. officials halted trade negotiations just prior to the Trump visit, expressing a view that Washington pursued brinkmanship that failed in the face of a more patient India, which is the world’s fifth biggest economy.

“There’s no great hurry here” to finalize a trade pact, retired veteran senior Indian diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan in India told VOA.

“I was personally a little bit surprised that the two sides weren’t able to get this deal done,” Jeff Smith, South Asia research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said.

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave as they depart after a “Namaste Trump,” event. VOA

Bilateral talks

In India’s capital, bilateral talks are to focus on contemporary concerns.

Indian officials could raise Trump’s hard line on immigration.

“They view the immigration issue — whether it is offering visas to students or the H-1B highly skilled visas or the green card issue — as becoming worse in the last four years,” Pande told VOA.

It is uncertain whether Trump will discuss the issue of Kashmir.

Six months after Modi ended Kashmir’s special status under India’s constitution, local politicians there remain detained and internet service is restricted.

Trump “is not always very thoughtful when he talks about such issues, particularly Kashmir. So that’s a bee in his bonnet and it’s going to come up in some form,” Sreenivasan, a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, predicted.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for Trump to help resolve the dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over Kashmir, something the U.S. president has previously indicated he is willing to do. But Modi has strongly rebuffed offers from third parties to mediate.

Indian officials are apprehensive about Trump commenting on the Kashmir issue during the visit.

“He might say that ‘I’m a great deal-maker and I can resolve Kashmir.’ But let’s hope he doesn’t,” Pande, of the Hudson Institute, said.

Some members of the U.S. Congress are also expressing concern about Modi’s controversial move to give Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighboring countries — unless they are Muslims.

Trump, during the India visit, will raise such matters, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration,” according to a senior administration official.

“Attempts to lecture, coerce, punish, intervene in India’s affairs have traditionally not been particularly effective,” Smith, of the Heritage Foundation, said.

Trump will be the fourth consecutive U.S. president to travel to India, continuing the shift in allegiance by Washington to Delhi from India’s arch-rival and neighbor.

Khan, after a recent meeting with Trump during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said the U.S. president also promised to visit Pakistan soon.

Also Read- Realme Unveils First 5G Smartphone in India Named “X50 Pro 5G”

If “there is no complementary visit to Pakistan or no side agreement on some other way to assuage concerns there, then I think Pakistan will take it as a slight,” said Richard Russow, senior adviser for U.S.-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (VOA)