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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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PM Modi Advises Scientists To Use Science to Improve Lives

PM Narendra Modi tells Scientists to use science to improve the lives of citizens

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Modi advises Scientists
Prime Minister Modi tells scientists that science and technology should be used to bettering the lives of citizens. Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called upon scientists to take up challenges in their research for bettering the daily lives of common citizens, especially farmers, help in reaching clean drinking water, solar power to the people, and solving problems such as pollution.

Highlighting the importance of ‘science for society’, Modi said when all “scientists, all citizens, will move forward with this understanding, both the country and mankind will be benefited”.

“To know the connection between science and society, we have to give answers to some questions. Everybody knows the pollution problem due to increased use of plastic. Can our scientists take up the challenge to come up with saleable and cost effective material which can take the place of plastic?” the Prime Minister asked while inaugurating the India International Science Festival through video conferencing from Delhi.

Indian PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi highlights the importance of ‘Science for Society’. Wikimedia Commons

Modi exhorted scientists assembled from India and abroad for the mega event whether they can take up the challenge to find a better way to store energy or electricity.

“Can we get a solution so that the use of solar power can go up, can we come up with an innovation related to battery and other infrastructure to reach electric mobility to the common man?

“Have we thought of doing something in our lab which can improve the lives of crores of people? Can we find a solution to local drinking water problems and reach clean drinking water to the people?” he asked.

Also Read-Vietnam and Australia to Start Collaborating on Science Initiatives

Modi also urged scientists to ponder over whether they can invent something which would cut down healthcare cost, and benefit peasants by increasing their income.

“We have to think how use of science can help in easing the lives of the people,” he said. (IANS)