|By Nilova Roy Chaudhury||May 2017|
New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for Berlin on Monday, May 29 at the start of a six-day tour of four major European countries; Germany, Spain, Russia and France.
All four countries are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the elite group of countries who control all global commerce in the nuclear industry. India, which has a waiver allowing it to engage in nuclear commerce since 2008, after it concluded the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement, is keen to join the NSG as a full-time member. While most of the 48 NSG member countries are amenable to India’s request for membership, China has been firm in opposing India’s entry into the group.
While each of the four visits is a bilateral one, the Prime Minister will make a strong personal pitch to move India’s NSG application forward, urging the four countries to push New Delhi’s case, particularly using their good offices with Beijing.
Also on the PM’s agenda will be discussions on cooperation on the economic, defence, science and technology, and nuclear fronts, and the fight against terror. He will also attempt to hasten the pace of talks on the European Union — India Free Trade Agreement with Germany, Spain and France, three leading members of the EU.
Mr Modi is visiting Germany primarily for the biannual Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC); Spain for the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in nearly 30 years; Russia for the annual bilateral summit; and France for his first meeting with newly elected President Emmanuel Macron.
Heightened counter-terrorism cooperation is also high on the agenda of talks in all four countries, officials told India Strategic. It is part of India’s “persistent efforts to place pressure on Pakistan” for spreading terrorism in South Asia.
The visit to the four countries, two of which (Russia and France) are permanent members of the UN Security Council and one (Germany) is a major partner and investor in India, is also intended to seek investments for the Indian economy, particularly in the crucial infrastructure and defence manufacturing sectors.
The visits, Mr Modi tweeted, are aimed at “boosting economic engagement” with the countries and “seeking investment” for the Indian economy.
Giving details of his itinerary in Germany, the Prime Minister in his departure statement said, “I will visit Germany on 29-30 May 2017 on the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the Fourth India-Germany Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC).”
“India and Germany are large democracies, major economies and important players in regional and global affairs. Our strategic partnership is based on democratic values and commitment to an open, inclusive and rules-based global order. Germany is a valuable partner in our development initiatives and German competencies fit well with my vision for India’s transformation.
I would begin my visit from Meseberg near Berlin in Germany, where Chancellor Merkel has very graciously invited me to hold discussions on issues of regional and global importance,” Mr Modi said.
The dinner at the official country retreat of the German Chancellor, the Schloss-Meseberg, is a special gesture to signify the importance of the bilateral relationship. It will give the leaders a chance to iron out some of the creases both perceive in the partnership.
“On 30 May, Chancellor Merkel and I will hold the 4th IGC to review the state of our bilateral relationship. We will also chart out a future roadmap of cooperation with focus on trade and investment, security and counter-terrorism, innovation and science & technology, skill development, urban infrastructure, railways and civil aviation, clean energy, development cooperation, health and alternative medicine.
Germany is our leading partner in trade, technology and investment. In Berlin, Chancellor Merkel and I will interact with top business leaders of both the countries to further strengthen our trade and investment ties.
I am confident that this visit will open a new chapter in our bilateral cooperation with Germany and further deepen our Strategic Partnership,” Mr Modi said in his statement.
The first official visit by an Indian PM to Spain will begin Tuesday evening.
“I will pay an official visit to Spain from 30 – 31 May 2017. This will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Spain in almost three decades.
I look forward to my meeting with President Mariano Rajoy on 31 May. We will discuss ways to enhance bilateral engagement, especially in the economic sphere, and cooperation on international issues of common concern, particularly in combating terrorism.
There is significant potential for deepening bilateral trade and investment ties. We seek active participation of Spanish industry in various Indian projects including infrastructure, smart cities, digital economy, renewable energy, defence and tourism.
I will also meet top CEOs of Spanish industry and encourage them to partner with us in our ‘Make in India’ Initiative.
The first meeting of the India-Spain CEOs Forum will be held on the sidelines of my visit. I look forward to their valuable recommendations for strengthening India-Spain economic partnership,” Mr Modi said.
A significant aspect of the collaboration with Spain in infrastructure is focus on the railways.
Mr Modi is travelling to Saint Petersburg for the annual India – Russia summit, at which many of the glitches in the bilateral relationship, including on major defence deals, will be addressed.
Russia has not chosen a new envoy to replace Ambassador Alexander M Kadakin, the legendary Indophile, who died in New Delhi on India’s Republic Day. Several of the bilateral defence deals, including for joint production of 200 Kamov Ka-226T twin-engine helicopters, are facing inordinate delays, while India mulls over aspects of the defence relationship with Russia.
As India and Russia celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties, New Delhi is not happy with the increasing bonhomie between Moscow and Beijing, the most recent example of which was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s presence at the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) pushing China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative in Beijing May 14, 15. India did not attend the BRF because of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which traverses parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which India claims is its territory.
Russia also appears to be inching closer to Pakistan at China’s behest, holding the first ever joint military exercises with that country last year.
Speaking about his visit, Mr Modi said, “I will be visiting St. Petersburg, Russia from 31st May to 2nd June for the 18th India-Russia Annual Summit.
On 1st June, I will be conducting detailed discussions with President Putin to take forward our dialogue from the last Summit in Goa in October 2016. With a spotlight on economic ties, both President Putin and I will also be interacting with CEOs from both countries.
On the next day, I will be addressing the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) together with President Putin. I appreciate the invitation to be the Guest of Honour at this year’s Forum. India is the Guest Country at the SPIEF this year.
In a first meeting of its kind, I will also have the opportunity to engage with Governors from various Russian regions to further broad base bilateral cooperation and more actively involve States/Regions and other diversified stakeholders.
At the beginning of my visit, I will go to Piskarovskoye Cemetery to pay homage to those who perished during the siege of Leningrad. I will also have occasion to visit the world famous State Hermitage Museum and the Institute of Oriental manuscripts.
I greatly look forward to my visit to St. Petersburg in this special year for the bilateral relationship as both countries celebrate the 70th Anniversary of our diplomatic relations,” the Prime Minister said.
The final leg of the tour, added on to the tour itinerary after President Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential elections, is a visit to Paris.
“I will be visiting France from 2-3 June, 2017. During the visit, I will have an official meeting with the newly elected French President H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Macron on 3 June. France is one of our most important Strategic Partners. I look forward to meeting President Macron and have discussions on issues of mutual interest. I would be exchanging views with the French President on important global issues including UN Security Council reforms and India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council, India’s membership of the various multilateral export control regimes, counter-terrorism cooperation, collaboration on climate change and International Solar Alliance.
France is our 9th largest investment partner and a key partner in our development initiatives in the area of defence, space, nuclear and renewable energy, urban development and railways. I am committed to substantially strengthening and advancing our multi-faceted partnership with France,” Mr Modi stated.