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Globe-trotter Modi has his sight set on foreign policy

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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)

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Finance Minister’s Announcements Will Boost MSMEs: PM Modi

Modi praised the announcements made by the Finance Minister in a tweet

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Prime Minister
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to appreciate the announcements made by the Finance Minister. Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday hailed the announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to aid the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which have taken a beating during the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

Modi tweeted, “Today’s announcements by FM @nsitharaman will go a long way in addressing issues faced by businesses, especially MSMEs. The steps announced will boost liquidity, empower the entrepreneurs and strengthen their competitive spirit.

He also used the hashtag ‘Atma-nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, which is a reference to self-reliant India, something which he vowed to turn the country into during his televised address to the nation on Tuesday night.

TV, LED panels, Finance Minister, India, import duty
Sitharaman announced to widen the definition of MSMEs and raise the investment limit on Wednesday. Wikimedia Commons

Speaking to the media here on Wednesday, Sitharaman announced to widen the definition of MSMEs and raise the investment limit. Another criteria, turnover of the company, has also been added to the required norms for classification of MSMEs.

Read More: Bars, Guest Houses Allowed to Open in Lockdown 4, Urges Goa Minister

Sitharaman also announced a collateral-free automatic loan for MSMEs of up to Rs 3 lakh crore, among other liquidity measures.

In a move to provide more scope for Indian companies, including MSMEs, the Centre has decided to disallow global firms from participating in government procurement tenders up to Rs 200 crore.

These were part of a multi-pronged approach of the government to rejuvenate the sector which has been badly hit by the suspension of economic activities in the country in the wake of the nationwide lockdown which is place to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. (IANS)

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Warns About Complacency in The Fight Against COVID-19

Modi Warns Indians Against Complacency in Fight Against Coronavirus

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Indian Prime Minister
The researchers did find that public health measures, including school closures, social distancing and restrictions of large gatherings, have been effective. VOA

By Anjana Pasricha

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned the country about complacency in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in a Sunday radio address and appealed to people to strictly comply with a nationwide lockdown that has been in effect for over a month.

He stressed the need to sustain India’s “people-driven” war against the coronavirus.

The prime minister, a popular leader in country of 1.3 billion people, urged Indians to wear masks, follow social distancing norms and avoid spitting in public places calling these measures “the biggest medicine to fight this disease in the days to come.”

Indian Prime Minister
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned the country about complacency in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Flickr

The message comes as India takes tiny steps to restart the economy, raising worries that this may cause a spike in coronavirus cases. It is also seen as targeted at areas which remain unaffected by the virus — most of India’s infections are racing through densely packed cities while its vast countryside is largely unaffected.

Modi said people should “not be trapped into over-confidence and nurse the belief that in our city, in our village, in our streets, in our office, coronavirus has not reached and that is why it will not reach.”

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Indians have so far adhered zealously to the calls for a stringent lockdown as the dreaded infection spread a wave of fear. Several neighborhoods in cities have imposed their own strict guidelines while volunteer squads in many villages do not allow outsiders to come in.

Whether such strict compliance will continue remains to be seen as the country begins to unlock  on Saturday it allowed shops in rural areas and neighborhood stores in cities to open. Farm based businesses and some factories restarted earlier this week.

Indian Prime Minister
Indian people stand on the lines drawn to maintain safe distance as they wait to receive free food being distributed by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Chennai, India, April 1, 2020. VOA

However not everyone is rushing to open their shutters and some traders remain wary about doing business while the infection is still raging. “Many shop owners told me they may not open immediately because customers are unlikely to come, so why should we expose ourselves,” according to Praveen Khandelwal, the Secretary- General of the Confederation of All India Traders. “It will take time for them to pick up confidence.”

But as calls grow to open up more sectors of the economy, specially from big business, the government is expected to draw up a strategy on Monday about how it plans to exit the lockdown that is due to end on May 3.

Also Read- UNICEF Warns That COVID-19 Crisis Prevents Shipment of Vaccines for Children

India saw its biggest spike in cases of coronavirus infections on Saturday with nearly 2,000 new cases taking the nation’s total to about 26,500. 824 people have died.

Although those numbers are modest compared to many countries, many fear they may not reflect the accurate spread of the infection because testing has been limited so far and is only now being ramped up in areas that are “hotspots.”  (VOA)

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After 40 Days of Lockdown in India Now is the Time to be Realistic

Even with such partial lockdown, the intensity of virus spread in India was not high compared to several other countries, considering the population density of India

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india lockdown
Even with such partial lockdown, the intensity of virus spread in India was not high compared to several other countries, considering the population density of India. Pixabay

By N.S.Venkataraman

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared lockdown all over India around 40 days back, which caught the country men by surprise and feeling of uncertainty.

At that time , neither the Prime Minister Modi nor anyone else in India knew as to what was in store for India due to  COVID 19 break out.

At that time,  the news from China and some  European countries regarding the spread of virus was alarming. Mr. Modi had no alternative other than imposing nationwide lockdown , as a measure of abundant precaution to save India from virus spread.

It was a  pleasant surprise that entire India (population of more than 1300 million people) responded to the call of Mr. Modi without questioning. While some indifferent persons violated the lockdown proceedings, the number of such persons were miniscule compared to Indian population.

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Central and all state governments cooperated and the lockdown was implemented with maximum level of efficiency , considering the overall Indian scenario.

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While lockdown has been implemented in India efficiently, one gets a feeling that in the coming days , implementation of lockdown would not be better than what has been achieved in the last 40 days. Pixabay

Actually, it was a partial lockdown,  since agricultural operations were allowed and transportation of essential and non essential goods between states was permitted. Some industries producing goods such as pharmaceuticals, sanitisers, detergents and inputs required for the manufacture of these goods also operated , though at much reduced capacity.

Even with such partial lockdown, the intensity of virus spread in India was not high compared to several other countries, considering the population density of India.

Though people were put to enormous hardships,   particularly those belonging to lower income group, unorganized sector and deeply deprived people like visually impaired, hearing/speech impaired, mentally retarded persons, destitute women, aged people in poor health etc. during the lockdown period of 40 days, there was no big social  unrest due to such sufferings. The government was able to buy peace with them by offering freebies such as free rice, cash transfers etc.

Obviously, it is no more possible to continue with such grim situation of joblessness and slowing down of economy anymore. Therefore, lifting of the lockdown has become a matter of necessity and priority all over India.

In a population of 1300 million people, only around less than 35000 people have been infected by COVID 19 and more than 20% of the people have recovered. Till date, around 1100 persons have died due to COVID 19 and it is possible that some of these people who have died could have been suffering from other serious ailments too and lacking in immunity level.

In the normal time, on an average , seven persons die for thousand population every  year in India . This translate to around 90 lakh death in a year in normal times on an average , around 15 lakh deaths every two months.

In the case of COVID 19  in India, till date less than 1100 people have died. This figure is a small fraction of deaths that have been taking place in normal year in India.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared lockdown all over India around 40 days back, which caught the country men by surprise and feeling of uncertainty. Flickr

Further, it is gratifying to note that the recovery rate in India is reasonable and certainly the recovery rate would improve, as the recovery is declared only after the quarantine period of more than 14 days.

While lockdown has been implemented in India efficiently, one gets a feeling that in the coming days , implementation of lockdown would not be better than what has been achieved in the last 40 days. Continuing the lockdown in the same level would certainly provide diminishing returns.

It is time now to relax the lockdown and gradually improve the economic activity and prevent the intensity of the joblessness scenario.

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While lives and livelihood are both important factors in a welfare society, optimisation of both these factors based on ground reality would only be a pragmatic exercise.

India has gained a lot during the 40 day lockdown period , by creating awareness among the people about the COVID 19 crisis and the need for preventive measures to ensure that the virus would not spread further. People are bound to cooperate in the coming days , even if the lockdown would be steadily lifted in the interest of their self protection and it is unlikely that the situation would become worse than what it is today.

Also Read- Is COVID-19 Testing Possible at Home? Read This Article to Know

 All said and done, lifting lockdown is a  cost benefit decision and the fact that the virus spread and death rate has been kept well under control during the last 40 days of lockdown and the experience gained in implementing the lockdown,  should give confidence to the governments to take decision on gradually lifting the lockdown.

While lockdown decision around 40 days back was a pragmatic decision, lifting lockdown at the present time gradually would be an equally pragmatic decision.