Narendra Modi has been going to places no Indian prime minister has set foot in decades

Non-stop globetrotter.
Non-stop globetrotter.
Image: AP Photos/Kamran Jebreili, George Michel, Rick Rycroft
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Narendra Modi has set several records since last year’s general elections.

He led the Bharatiya Janata Party to the first parliamentary majority by a single party since 1984. And he became the first Indian born in independent India to become prime minister.

At his swearing-in ceremony, Modi set another record of sorts by inviting the heads of South Asian countries.

Since then, the globetrotting Modi has been travelling to countries and cities that no preceding Indian prime minister had bothered to visit in decades.

“A lot of the decisions that have been taken vis-a-vis the trips of Indian prime ministers—in the past and now—are considering what is important at a particular time. So the decisions about visiting or not visiting a country were made (on the) basis (of) that,” Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary of India, told Quartz. “I don’t think there is a common thread or reasoning for all the trips that Modi has made.”

Later this week, Modi will become the first Indian prime minister in over three decades to visit California. Former prime minister Morarji Desai visited the US West Coast in 1978, followed by Indira Gandhi in 1982.

Here are some other firsts that Modi marked through his travels in the last year and a half:

First time ever

In May, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Mongolia. During the trip, he announced that India will extend a $1-billion credit line to the mineral-rich country. This was widely seen as India’s attempt to strengthen its influence in China’s backyard.

Later this year, Modi is scheduled to become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel. The dates for this trip have not yet been announced.

First in 60 years

Modi will make a stopover in Ireland before his US visit later this week, marking the first visit by an Indian prime minister to the country in around 60 years. Jawaharlal Nehru was the last Indian prime minister to visit Ireland in 1956. Modi’s schedule in Dublin includes a meeting with the head of the Irish government, Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

First time in 42 years

Modi visited Canada in April this year. This was the first prime ministerial visit from India after Indira Gandhi’s trip in 1973. Modi’s visit generated business worth more than 1.6 billion Canadian dollars (Rs7,944 crore), according to official figures released by the government. During the trip, the two governments signed 16 commercial agreements across sectors including aerospace, defence, education, energy and information and communications technology.

First time in 34 years

In August, Modi visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is home to a non-resident Indian population of around 2.6 million. Indira Gandhi was the last Indian prime minister to have made a trip to the country in 1981.

In the UAE, Modi addressed a gathering of around 50,000 Indians at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Modi’s 75-minute speech ended with the entire crowd chanting “Bharat Mata ki jai” (Hail Mother India) after him.

First time in 33 years

In March, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to travel to Seychelles in 33 years. The visit “reflects our foreign policy priorities in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood,” he said. Seychelles has a presence of Indian diaspora, and the two countries have a history of military cooperation.

In November 2014, Modi made a trip to Fiji, also a first by an Indian prime minister in 33 years. During the trip, Modi announced visas on arrival for Fijians, about 37% of whom are of Indian origin.

First time in nearly three decades

Modi visited Australia in November 2014. No Indian prime minister had visited the country since Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. ”You will not have to wait another 28 years,” Modi promptly told a crowd of Indian Australians in Sydney.

In March this year, as the final stop of his tour of three Indian Ocean island nations, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Sri Lanka in 29 years. During this visit, Modi held talks with Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and prime minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. Rajiv Gandhi was the last Indian prime minister to visit Sri Lanka in 1987.

First time in 17 years

Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Nepal in 17 years when he landed in Kathmandu in August 2014. Accompanied by a 101-member delegation, Modi was the first foreign leader to address the Constituent Assembly of Nepal. He made a second trip to Nepal in November 2014, when he flagged off a bus service between Delhi and Kathmandu, and signed more than 10 agreements with India’s Himalayan neighbour.

First time in 10 years

In November this year, Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit the UK in almost a decade. The last time an Indian prime minister visited the UK was in 2006 when Manmohan Singh made a trip to London. The Indian community in the UK is reportedly planning a major reception for him. Over 70,000 people are expected to turn out at the event that will be held at the London’s Wembley Stadium, one of Europe’s largest football stadiums.