NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Hugh Jackman speak onstage at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival to end extreme poverty by 2030 in Central Park on September 27, 2014 in New York City.   Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival/AFP
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Hugh Jackman speak onstage at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival to end extreme poverty by 2030 in Central Park on September 27, 2014 in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival/AFP
Pradip Bhandari
What Have Narendra Modi’s Foreign Trips Ever Done For India?

Quite a few substantial things, it turns out. 

More than a year ago, on 3 September, the Prime Minister concluded his first overseas trip to Japan. Since then, he has spent 54 days in his first year of office visiting 18 different countries in five different continents. He visited 12 Asian countries for 28 days followed by two North American countries for nine days.

Further, the current year has a packed itinerary with the visit to Silicon Valley (USA) being one of the most anticipated ones.

However, many have tried to concoct the narrative by questioning the need and necessity of the travel, some even probing the intent. What is important to know is “why” this is plain distortion of the reality as it actually exists.

Economic leverage

Prime Minister’s visit to Japan concluded with the East Asian nation committing $35 billion of investment along with their expertise in making bullet trains, and another $30 billion in Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor.

Further, China assured $20 billion of investment over the next five years. As he embarked on his trip to France, French National Railways agreed to co-finance an execution study for a semi-high speed project for upgrading the Delhi – Chandigarh line to 200 mph. Also, France agreed to extend a support of 2 billion Euros for sustainable development in India.

On a commercial level, his trip to Europe and the United States created the needed atmosphere of trust for Airbus to increase outsourcing to India from 400 million Euros to 2 billion Euros and companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Pepsico aiming to scale up investment in the country.

These are the few facts that will boost GDP, fuel the job generation cycle and help in supporting the economic revival to strive for achieving consistent double-digit growth in the near future. However, these actions can only lead to a logical end when domestic investment climate move towards “trust first, suspect later” approach, notwithstanding investment in areas of national security.

Strategic leverage

On his recent trip to the UAE, he bonded with the Gulf nation and used the opportunity to highlight India’s effort to isolate Pakistan. With respect to Pakistan, the shift in policy from being defensive to being vigilant and unyielding has marginalized the bunch of separatists while having bilateral talks in the near future.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with other “influential” countries, especially the United States, has endeavored to build an atmosphere against our western neighbour’s misadventures. It was evident that mere lip service is not paid to Indian concerns from the reports that the US will block coalition funds to Pakistan beyond 2015.

Apart from getting the perceived strategic leverage against Pakistan on the defense side, removing the roadblock to acquire Rafale fighter jets was also a noteworthy achievement.

Besides, he was successful in convincing the United States to remove the rule of nuclear fuel in tracking and concluding the agreement  for uranium supply from Canadian shores to meet fuel requirement of the Indian reactors.

Though not in the news frequently in 2015, his “neighborhood first” and “Act East” policy have provided vigor to develop long–lasting trust between India and her neighborhood countries.

Civilizational leverage

One thing common to Prime Minister’s foreign visits was his attempt to restore cultural and civilizational bonds, particularly with the neighboring countries. Repeated emphasis on the ideals of Buddha, reminding of the Hiuen-Tsang connect between India and China and persuading  to help nations self-realize the importance of yoga for humanity, was followed by a celebration of International Yoga Day within one year on June 21.

All these efforts have been successful in projecting India as a soft leading power, whose inclusive growth is in the shared interest of global comity of nations.

What This Means

As the Prime Minister heads from Madison Square Garden (September 27, 2014) to Silicon Valley (September 27, 2015), he has been successful in changing the global perception about India in the right direction.

He will address packed audiences in Silicon Valley, having successfully given rise to a sense of pride in his campaign and in his tenure as PM since. However, this pride will be sitting in the corner along with unease and impatience.

There will be unease on the inability to pass the GST bill in the monsoon session on one hand and impatience to see the foreseeable positive impact of decisions taken in the past 15 months on the ground on the other.

He knows that India is looking up to him with hope and the world, with curiosity.