Narendra Modi has embarked on yet another foreign trip.
This week, the Indian prime minister will be in Germany, Spain, Russia, and France in an attempt to build ties with the European countries. This comes at a time when Europe-US ties are strained, and almost a year after Brexit.
It was nearly seven months ago that Modi last visited a country outside the subcontinent. Since November, when he visited Japan, Modi has been bogged down by domestic issues, including the aftermath of the demonetisation of two high-value currency notes and key local elections.
This time, he is expected to focus on bilateral cooperation, particularly in economic, defence, science & technology, and nuclear fronts. He’s also looking for more investments.
On Monday, May 29, Modi will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel at her official country retreat in Meeseberg. The two leaders will discuss the stalled negotiations on a free trade deal between the EU and India.
“India and Germany are large democracies, major economies and important players in regional and global affairs,” Modi wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”
Modi hopes to chart out a roadmap of cooperation with focus on trade and investment, security and counter-terrorism, skill development, urban infrastructure, railways and civil aviation, clean energy, development cooperation, and health and alternative medicine.
Modi last visited Germany in April 2015. Later, when Merkel visited India in October 2015, Germany offered $2.25 billion towards clean energy projects in the country.
The last Indian prime ministerial visit to Spain was in 1988 under Rajiv Gandhi.
On May 31, Modi will fly in to Madrid to hold a bilateral summit with premier Mariano Rajoy. He is also expected to meet king Felipe VI. A meeting of the India-Spain CEOs Forum, too, is scheduled. Nearly 200 Spanish companies currently operate in India.
“There is significant potential for deepening bilateral trade and investment ties,” Modi wrote. “We seek active participation of Spanish industry in various Indian projects including infrastructure, smart cities, digital economy, renewable energy, defence, and tourism.”
With India strengthening its US ties, Modi is expected to calm the nerves of old ally Russia. India and Russia are celebrating the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, but Moscow has been worried about India’s rising closeness to the US. India, on its part, is anxious over Russia’s fledgling defence ties with arch rival Pakistan.
“With a spotlight on economic ties, both President Putin and I will also be interacting with CEOs from both countries,” Modi said in his Facebook post. “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 2014, Modi and Putin set a target of $30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025. A year later, however, the two could manage only $7.83 billion in trade with Indian exports amounting to $2.26 billion and imports at $5.57 billion.
Russia helped India set up its largest nuclear power station in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. Over the next 20 years, it has promised to build 12 new nuclear reactors for India.
Modi will also meet the new leader of France, Emmanuel Macron, later this week.
With France, India’s ninth largest investment partner, the Indian prime minister will discuss India’s permanent membership to the UN security council and various other multilateral export control regimes, apart from counter-terrorism cooperation, collaboration on climate change, and the 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,” Modi wrote.
Last year, India and France finally signed a €7.8 billion (around Rs58,000 crore) deal for 36 Rafale fighters jets, a deal that had been pending for over 15 years.