The whole of last 4 years, every time Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a foreign trip, all the opposition’s men and sundry others in media have cried themselves hoarse that the Prime Minister spends more time traveling than at home.
Through this article, I have tried to figure out if the whole rigmarole of foreign trips has been an exercise in futility. Even a random neighbourhood aunty (or uncle, lest I’m called misogynist) would confirm that visiting people is a precursor to building relationships, but I have broken down his trips for those intellectuals who like to quote figures.
To begin with I have collated the total no of trips done by Mr. Modi over these 4 years vis-à-vis those done by Dr. Manmohan Singh over the 10 years of his rule.
As one will notice, the number of trips done by Mr. Modi over a four-year term is quite close to the ones done by Dr. Singh over his ten-year tenure. This in itself does not prove anything apart from the fact that Dr. Singh was as much away from the country but he was not attacked for the same. However, the real deal is in the minutiae of the trips.
Manmohan Singh vs Narendra Modi – frequency and cost of foreign trips
Trips done by Narendra Modi from 2014 – 2018
Trips done by Manmohan Singh from 2004 – 2013
|Region||Manmohan Singh, UPA-1||Manmohan Singh, UPA-2||Narendra Modi|
Over a 9 year period Dr. Manmohan Singh had spent a total of Rs. 642 crores on his foreign trips, Mr.Modi’s total cost at the end of 2016 was a total of Rs. 274 crores. Even if one extrapolates the average per-year cost of Mr. Modi’s travel to another 2 years, it would amount to a total of Rs. 456 crores, a substantially lower cost per trip considering that Mr.Modi has travelled almost as much in this 4 years as Dr.Singh did in his 10 year tenure (source).
A closer look at the above table reveals that while Dr. Singh’s foreign trips were heavily skewed in favour of North America and Europe, Mr. Modi has spread his time and money pragmatically on a more diverse regional spectrum, including some first-ever visits by an Indian prime minister to countries such as Israel and Palestine!
The other aspect of foreign trips made by Mr.Modi is the returns from them. The returns on investment have come in two ways: in an obvious economic advantage such as increased FDI flow and in a deep Defence and Geo-Politically strategic tie.
Economic Gains from Foreign Trips conducted by Mr. Modi:
While the economic gains cannot only be attributed to his foreign visits directly, since the macro-economic indicators among others also contribute to increased inflow, the fact is that Mr.Modi does a great job of promoting brand India.
To quote an example: The Foreign direct investment in India in 2014/15 rose 27% to $30.93 billion. Of this, nearly two-third or $19.78 billion or Rs 1.3 lakh crore were from countries that Modi visited the year before. Data from the Department of Industrial Policy and Planning showed that FDI inflows jumped 48% between October 2014 and April 2015, the time when Modi was making most of his visits (source).
In 2015 itself, his visits or a combination of his visits and improving economic policy environment in the country led to companies such as Foxconn, Siemens, SoftBank and GE announcing large multi-billion-dollar investments in India! His bonhomie with Shinzo Abe of Japan has led to the Japanese pledging an investment of 88000 crores (loan at 0.1% interest) in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project! This is just one of the investments pledged by a friendly country. Israel, UAE, South Korea, China are the other nations that have announced an increase in investments in India. (more)
Defence, Energy, Strategy and Geo-Political Gains from Modi’s trips Abroad:
Quantifying economic victories and attributing it directly to state visits is a tougher task than attributing Defence, Energy, Geo-Political and strategic gains from the trips abroad. While the economic gains are manifesting themselves slowly as the macro-economic strengthening continues with the Bankruptcy laws and GST being undertaken, the defence, energy, strategy gains are immediately manifesting themselves. Some of these notable gains are as follows:
- Bhutan was the first country Mr.Modi visited after taking oath. Here India entered into an agreement to build 4 Hydroelectric power stations + Dams and to get the larger chunk of Green energy that would be produced in future from these
We also strengthened our defence ties with Bhutan which was at display during the recent Doklam stand-off with China on one side, and Bhutan and India on the other!
- One of our greatest strategic wins that was quietly achieved is the bagging of a nuclear power plant deal. Russia our old ally under Vladimir Putin and India under Narendra Modi have entered into a tripartite agreement with Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to build Bangladesh’s first Atomic Power Plant at Rooppur on the Padma. For obvious reasons this great win has not been very widely discussed. Russia has pledged to get the expertise with skilled manpower being supplied by India.
- We have entered into a strategic relationship with Vietnam under which Vietnam has agreed to facilitate Oil exploration to ONGC-Videsh.
- The efforts of Dharmendra Pradhan(Petroleum Minsiter), Sushma Swaraj (MEA) led to a deal with Saudi Arabia to forego ‘On-Time Delivery Premium charges’ on Crude Oil, saving the country thousands of crores in payment.
- Modi has the option of increasing Oil Imports from Iran despite the ban by the USA. We have built and operationalized ‘Chabahar Port’ in Iran encircling Pakistan. India can now have exclusive access to our Naval ships in this port.
- India could get additional supplies of Uranium from Australia for its energy production.
- Israel has agreed to award an exploration license to a consortium of Indian state firms led by ONGC Videsh in an auction of its offshore gas fields.
- India and France entered into an agreement to build the world’s largest nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, Maharashtra, in March this year.
- India and France jointly hosted the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi this year. As on date this alliance led by India has been signed by 60 and ratified by 26 countries.
- India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime – regulating transfer of missile technology, complete rocket systems and unmanned air vehicles happened in June 2016. In 2017 December, India was finally admitted as the 42nd member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, a global group that regulates the transfer and access to conventional weapons and dual use technologies. China is a member of neither groups.
- For the first time in the last 70 years Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on the use of their airspace by any flights heading to Israel. Against all odds an Air India flight heading to Tel Aviv has been allowed to use Saudi Airspace starting this year.
- In January this year Mr.Modi invited our 10 neighbouring south east Asian countries to the Republic Day Parade as a sign of increasing bonhomie with our neighbours. India seems to be fast emerging as a natural ally given the threat of over arching Chinese ambitions and a receding United States.
- In yet another first ever, Uzbekistan, the biggest military power in Central Asia has offered space to India for setting up a defence manufacturing unit, which would allow New Delhi to make inroads into the resource rich neighbourhood currently on the Chinese Radar.
These are some of the most notable wins achieved by the Modi government as on date, with another year to go in this term, I am sure some more diplomatic wins will be notched up in the next few months.
There are large Geo Political tectonic shifts happening with China unveiling it’s colonization by Debt-Trap plan and United States Receding to concentrate on its own neighbourhood, in the backdrop of such large shifts, India under Mr. Modi’s leadership has managed to maintain relations and strike balance across a wide canvas of nations, which in itself is no mean feat. More on this topic will follow soon.