PM on flight mode: 26 countries in 12 months

PM on flight mode: 26 countries in 12 months

The beginning and end of 2015 were marked with two high points for New Delhi’s foreign policy initiatives – having US President Barack Obama as the chief guest in the Republic Day on January 26 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore to greet his Pakistan counterpart M Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on December 25.

There were many other highs in between and, of course, quite a few lows too. If the announcement by Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about conclusion of protracted negotiation over a bilateral civil nuclear agreement in New Delhi on December 12 was a significant diplomatic success, the way Nepal cold-shouldered India and adopted a Constitution without incorporating its suggestions was indeed a major setback for New Delhi.

Obama’s visit to New Delhi saw India and US reaching an understanding on the outstanding issue of liability, which has been hindering commercial implementation of the 2008 civil nuclear agreement.

Modi continued with his globetrotting spree in 2015 and ended up visiting as many as 26 countries in the past 12 months.

 Most of his visits were high on optics with mandatory high-visibility engagements with expatriate Indians in big cities like Berlin, Paris, Toronto, Dubai and San Jose.
Some of his foreign tours, however, were high on substance too.

His visits to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in March signalled New Delhi’s desire to deepen its engagements in Indian Ocean region in response to growing maritime assertiveness by China.

Sri Lanka
The visit to Colombo was also important to engage with the new dispensation after Maithripala Sirisena succeeded Mahinda Rajapaksa – known to be pursuing a pro-China policy – as the new President of Sri Lanka.

His visits to Germany, France and Canada in April were all focussed on wooing investments and promoting his “Make-in-India” campaign.

The prime minister had a much-hyped visit to China in May and called upon Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to change Beijing’s “approach on some of the issues” that held back the two neighbouring nations from realizing the full potentials of the ties.

Investment
Business deals worth $ 22 billion were signed by Indian and Chinese companies during his visit. Both sides agreed to focus more on raising Chinese investment in India, particularly in infrastructure sector, in order to narrow the widening trade deficit, which touched $ 46 billion. The PM’s visit, however, failed to make any significant progress on resolving the India-China boundary dispute. Neither did China pay any heed to India’s call for demarcating the Line of Actual Control to avert incursions.

The ruling BJP took a U-turn on its stand on India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement and got it ratified by Parliament ahead of the PM’s visit to Dhaka in June. Modi also visited five central Asian nations in July, along with a tour to Ufa in Russia where he attended summits of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization with the latter starting the process of admitting India and Pakistan into the bloc.

It was in Ufa that Modi had an ice-breaking meeting with Sharif. It, however, proved to be a false start, which led to the cancellation of NSA-level talks scheduled in August.

Indo-Pak meet
The two PMs met again in Paris on November 30 and the NSAs and Foreign Secretaries of the two nations met in Bangkok on December 6. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to Islamabad three days later and joined her counterpart Sartaj Aziz to declare resumption of stalled bilateral dialogue.

The trial of the 26/11 plotters in Pakistan is however still going on at a snail’s pace and mastermind of the attack, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, who was granted bail earlier this year, is still out. So is radical cleric and Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

The PM’s visit to Moscow in December re-positioned Russia as New Delhi’s foremost defence partner with an agreement to manufacture Russian Kamov 226T helicopters in India being inked.

His stopover in Kabul just before the “surprise visit” to Lahore also signalled New Delhi’s continued commitment to peace, security and prosperity of Afghanistan.
DH News Service

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