Govt scores on foreign front

In second year, important engagement will be Africa summit in October

Govt scores on foreign front

The Narendra Modi government scored a century on the foreign policy front in the first year as bilateral contacts at the top level were established with 101 countries.

In the second year, the most important engagement for the Modi government would be the Africa summit in October which for the first time heads 54 African nations would be invited. The prime minister is also slated to travel to Israel – first by an Indian Prime Minister – but the dates are yet to be fixed. Asked about the outcomes of bilateral meetings with the leaders of 101 countries, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the foreign direct investment increased by 39 per cent between April 2013 and February 2014. “In absolute number it is $28.81 billion of FDI inflow,” she said on Sunday.

While the prime minister undertook 18 visits, Swaraj travelled to 21 countries and her deputy Gen V K Singh (rtd) went to 17 nations. Rest of the bilateral meetings took place on the sidelines of the multilateral summits all over the world.

Swaraj confirmed that Modi would be the first Indian Prime Minister to travel to Israel, but that won't change India's policies towards Palestine.

“The prime minister would be visiting Israel, but dates have to be worked out. But the prime minister’s visit does not mean any tilt towards Israel. There will be no change in India's foreign policy on Palestine. India will continue to support the Palestine cause. I am also packaging a tour of Israel, Palestine and Jordon later this year,” said the minister.

India had established full diplomatic relationship with Israel in 1992 though it had recognised the country in 1950. No Indian Prime Minister or President has ever visited Israel but former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon become the first premier visit India in 2003.

Israel is currently one of India's biggest supplier of military products, which was made possible by Sharon during his visit a decade ago that transformed the bilateral relations.

On the African summit, Swaraj said it would be India's biggest diplomatic initiative since 1983 when India hosted both Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summits. Going against the standard diplomatic norms, India is inviting the heads of all the 54 African nations for the summit to be held in Delhi between October 26-30. In the recent past, New Delhi has put more emphasis on Africa where China enjoys a clear advantage having established diplomatic relations with all the 54 African nations, which benefits Beijing on trade and economy front.

African countries account for over 60 per cent of the total concessional lines of credit India extends. India had extended credit over $4.2 billion between April 2009 and June 2014. However, there are complaints about Indian programmes lagging behind schedule. In another first, Modi would travel to five central Asian nations – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – in July while returning from Russia where he would attend the BRICS summit.

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