Ever since taking office, PM Narendra Modi has drawn a lot of attention, praise and criticism for his foreign trips, which there have been plenty. Countries he has visited so far: Bhutan, Brazil, Nepal, Japan, United States, Myanmar, Australia, Fiji, Nepal, Seychelles, Mauritius, Singapore, France, Germany, Canada, China, Mongolia, and South Korea.
His foreign trips have been highly publicised by media and many have criticised him for ignoring issues back at home, most recent bashing coming from Rahul Gandhi who said, “The PM is visiting foreign countries, but he doesn’t go to the houses of farmers and labourers.” In response to this comment, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu has stated that the foreign tours are to attract investments and are part of PM’s national duty.
Media has enthusiastically covered his fervent speeches, sartorial savviness, while social media has worked overtime creating memes and jokes surrounding his visits. It was recently reported that the PM is now one of the world’s most travelled leaders.
There have been questions raised by Congress on Modi’s foreign trips. TOI had also filed an application to PMO under the RTI Act inquiring about the PM’s expenses on foreign trips; to which PMO responded, “Information sought is too vague and wide”. Social media is a regular bashing ground for PM’s trips abroad. Congress’ Salman Khursheed had earlier suggested that the slogan-shouting crowd that gathers at Modi’s speeches is taken from India.
PM’s foreign trips have been designed to meet India’s foreign policy of improving relations with neighbouring countries in South Asia, engaging Southeast Asian countries as well as global powers.
What is typically seen being captured on television and social media is large congregations of supporters chanting ‘Modified’ slogans, media analysing each and every movement of Modi as well as the leader of the host nation, and deconstructing the implication in every statement, sound bytes from NRI fans and supporters. Modi makes passionate and almost poetic speeches, although a lot of what he says is repetitive in nature (e.g. I am a small man, I want to do small things, veiled attacks on the previous government). After and during every foreign tour, news channels are seen debating, discussing and dissecting the details of the trip. What is also seen during every foreign trip is PM Modi participating in the country’s traditions, from customising his speeches with clever anecdotes and historical references to making the host country the complete focus of his speech, appealing to NRIs to invest in India, painting a bright and optimistic picture of the Indian economy.
His US visit captured public attention in a big way, especially because he had been denied visa to USA in the past following Godhra riots. His famous Madison Square Garden speech made waves across nations. Similar speech followed in Australia.
But what has been accomplished with all these foreign trips? We review some of his famous trips…
In this landmark visit to USA, PM Modi and President Obama issued a joint statement for collaborating on global security issues, USA’s support to India to develop infrastructure and manufacturing competitiveness, CEO roundtable to bring investment in India.
What was highlighted in media during his USA trip was the hype around his speech at Madison Square Garden in which he spoke to around 18,000 people from Indian diaspora, his warm relations with President Obama, his epic ‘May The Force Be With You’ statement while concluding his Central Park speech in New York. Social media was abuzz with conversations around his visit.
Modi’s Australia trip was seen as a step in the right direction after tensions arose between the two countries following attacks on Indian students in 2009. Modi addressed Australian Parliament, attended G20 World Leaders Summit, unveiled Mahatma Gandhi statue in Sydney. After bilateral talks with Australian PM Tony Abbott, India and Australia signed pacts on social security, the signing of an Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and a Counter-Narcotics MoU, tourism, art and culture. Abbott said in the parliament, “By the end of the next year we will have a Free Trade deal with what is potentially the world's largest market." India and Australia also signed a civil nuclear deal for sale of uranium to India.
Media coverage focused on Modi’s speech to Australian-Indians in Sydney’s Allphones Arena, Modi Express, a special train which took fans of Modi from Melbourne to Sydney, and Modi-Abbott bromance. Obama-Modi bear hug on US President’s visit to India was also highly publicised.
Global economic giant Japan extended a warm welcome to PM Modi as Japanese PM Shinzo Abe flew to Kyoto to greet him. Japan agreed to give India $35 billion in public and private funding for building smart cities and cleaning up river Ganga. Tokyo also promised to help building bullet trains in India with financial and technical support. India-Japan signed a pact under which Varanasi will be developed like Kyoto ‘smart city’.
Pictures of Modi playing traditional Japanese drums at the launch of TCS’ Technology and Cultural Academy and playing flute with elementary school children were shared widely on the internet.
France, Germany, Canada visit:
In Germany PM Modi launched the India Pavilion Hannover Messe in which India was a partner country and made a strong call to the countries of the world to Make In India. He promised German investors that corrections will be made wherever required in an attempt to make India a manufacturing hub. With France, India signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. French President Francois Hollande promised $2 billion to India for developing three smart cities. Around 20 pacts were signed between India and France in civil nuclear energy, urban development, railways and space. Deal to fast-track Jaitapur nuclear plant with France’s help was also made. India signed a $350 million contract with Canada for supply of uranium.
Deals worth $22 billion were signed between India and China in around 24 agreements. Pointing out that bilateral trade between the two countries was askew, he urged China to make more investments in Indian infrastructure and manufacturing and also asking for more access to Chinese markets. Memes on Modi’s visit to terracotta army in Xi’an and his power-packed selfie with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, as well as his comment on ‘people used to be ashamed to be born in India’ created buzz on social media.
It still remains to be seen how India emerges economically and politically on the world stage following PM Modi’s numerous foreign trips.