Assertive Foreign Visits – Need of the Hour or Self-Aggrandisement?

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The foreign visits made by the head of a government are of great significance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the first year in office has made many such visits. Starting from his first visit to Bhutan to his recent visit to Bangladesh, Modi has so far represented the country in around 18 nations. Each visit proving to be a remarkable move on part of the foreign policy of India. While on the one hand, Modi is ambitious about the Make in India Project and is trying to attract foreign investment in India, on the other hand, he is being blamed by the opposition for ignoring the issues which plague the country. It must be noted that most of these visits have been in Asian countries in pursuance of the ‘neighborhood first’ and ‘look east’ policies and many of them have proved to be a major step towards enhancing relations between India and the other nations.

But, we need to be critical here. We have to look into the matter and analyze whether so many foreign visits in such a short period of time are good on the part of the PM when he should be more concerned with the internal administration of the country. Even when we acknowledge the importance of such visits, we need to have a rain-check. It is very necessary to analyze the results that emerged out of such foreign visits and what fruits they will bear.

Right from the day on which Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister, by inviting SAARC nation’s chiefs, he sent out a clear message that he is willing to work with everyone who can contribute to growth of the country, especially India’s neighbors. Positive relations with our neighbors can help India increase its connectivity with the East which will further help us to take the next step in our agenda i.e. Look East to Act East. Moreover, he has also increased engagement with the West of Asia. While analyzing his visits to different nations, it is could be noticed that of all the nations he has visited, most of them were Asian viz., Bhutan, Nepal, Japan, Myanmar, Mauritius, Srilanka, Singapore, China, Mongolia and South Korea. These all saw a promise to develop infrastructure development, cooperation in matters of mutual security and the easing of travel restrictions.  These relations will help India to gain its influence over the region which will directly contribute to its strategic ambitions. Getting support from these countries will also help India to increase its strategic assets i.e. military capabilities around the Indian Ocean region which will help us both strategically as well as economically. India’s increasing trade with Japan, Vietnam and the USA that are major rivals of China due their territorial jurisdiction in the South China Sea has made China more insecure, which ultimately forced China to foster  ties with India’s neighbor which will strategically pressurize India to take steps more carefully.

For a long time, China has been trying to show and ascertain its dominance in Asia but, India’s recent developments ranging from building infrastructure at Chabahar Port to getting permission from Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Mongla ports will definitely help India to stop China’s ‘String of Pulse’ (theory related to potential Chinese intention in the Indian Ocean). Modi’s recent visit to Bangladesh which witnessed the historic ratification and exchange of documents of “1974 Land Boundary Agreement” will strengthen the ties between the two nations.

It is very necessary for Modi to undertake extensive foreign visits and get our goodwill back that we are pro-business people welcoming all the investors to invest in India through Make in India (Make in India is a flagship program of the Modi government which seeks to attract investors around the world to make in India). During the tenure of UPA government, many scams were revealed that gave a negative message to the world which played a role in decrease in investments.

Modi government has made its foreign policy clear by stating that it welcomes investors from all over the world and in India they will feel like their second home. According to the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj “PM’s proactive diplomacy resulted in an increase of 39% FDI into the country in the last one year”. Owing to Modi’s foreign visits, now the USA supports India’s permanent UNSC seat. Japan has also stated that it will invest around $35 billion over a period of 5 years especially in DMIC (Delhi Mumbai Investment Corridor). After Modi’s visit to Australia, Australia is now ready to sign a nuclear power deal with India to supply around 500 tons of uranium. After 42 years, an Indian PM had visited Canada, not to attend any multilateral function but to engage bilaterally and during these talks, India was able to convince Canada to supply 3000 metric tons of uranium from this year itself, which will help us to solve the issue of power crisis. Till today, we had to purchase nuclear reactors from Russia or USA but now, in collaboration with Indian companies, France will make Nuclear reactors through Make in India.

Recently, the PM visited China and breaking the traditional diplomatic way, he was invited outside Beijing by his Chinese counterpart. During his visit, he didn’t hesitate to talk about prevailing problems between the two nations ranging from controversial border dispute to high trade deficit. There were some important takeaways from Modi’s three day visit such as $20 billion inflow in our Indian market to reduce the trade deficit, India and China have decided to set up a hot line which will help both the countries to solve the border dispute, formation of special task force to counter the widening of trade deficit and other issues related to market and to attract tourists in our country, the government decided to provide E-Visa to Chinese nationals. But some issues such as China providing stapled visas to Arunachal Pradesh people despite India’s opposition, or China’s much contested One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) are still needed to be resolved. There was lack of effort on India’s part to bring up such serious issues.

Modi’s controversial remark on ‘ashamed of being born in India’ has made much of an uproar. What is pressed here is that he needs to understand that he represents the whole country and its agenda. Politicizing of grave matters on the international stage do need to be avoided. Modi also needs to understand that a country’s international stature and power is built in its fields, factories, classrooms and laboratories. Concrete result is what the nation wants. And no diplomacy would be successful unless there is proper execution. India also needs to take stringent steps to solve the disputes with Pakistan.

For the first time in history, there has come a government that has a foreign policy which basically defines India’s ambitions at the centre. It is very necessary for the government to do such foreign visits. They do have numerous domestic tasks to accomplish but we can’t ignore the fact that India’s needs cannot be fulfilled by domestic resources alone. There is a need of cooperation from international Diasporas so that we can get technological and material support from other nations. Modi’s move in the international arena is not merely a formality but it clearly defines India’s strategy and thinking to a large extent.

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