New Delhi: With assembly elections and a Parliament session that cleared important tax legislation behind him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to give more attention to foreign policy with visits to Germany, Spain, Russia, Kazakhstan and Israel—besides possibly the US—in the coming weeks.
Modi’s first foreign visit of 2017 was to Sri Lanka on 11-12 May where he took part in the international Buddhist Vesak Day celebrations—commemorating the birth, enlightenment and the death of Lord Buddha. The visit came almost six months after his 10-12 November visit to Japan—seen as one of the longest gaps between foreign visits by the prime minister since he took office in May 2014.
With crucial state polls to Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in February and March where Modi was seen as the star campaigner for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “the focus was naturally on domestic issues,” said a person familiar with the development. With the National Democratic Alliance government advancing the budget session of Parliament by a month—from end-February to end-January with the general budget being presented on 1 February than 28 February—Modi’s parliamentary schedule also had to be taken into account before fixing dates for his travel abroad.
Almost immediately after the conclusion of the state assembly polls, the Modi government played host to a slew of leaders including the prime ministers of Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Australia besides the presidents of Nepal, Cyprus and Turkey.
Later this month, the prime minister will visit Germany on 30 May for inter-governmental consultations with Chancellor Angela Merkel and then visit Spain on 31 May for the first stand-alone bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister since that of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988.
From Spain, Modi will head to St Petersburg in Russia to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) to be held from 1-3 June. He will also hold his annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of SPIEF.
Later, on 8-9 June, Modi is expected to visited Astana in Kazakhstan for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, where he is expected to come face to face with Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif. It is unclear at present whether the two prime ministers will sit down for talks like they did on the sidelines of the SCO meet in Ufa in Russia in July 2015.
In July, Modi is expected to visit Israel, in the first-ever visit to the Jewish country by an Indian prime minister. India and Israel established diplomatic relations in January 1992 and both countries are looking at the possibility of an exchange of prime ministerial visits by the time the 25th anniversary year closes in January 2018. Ahead of that, Modi will be hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New Delhi next week.
Modi is also expected to travel to Hamburg for the G20 meet on 7-8 July, according to Indian government officials.
Officials are also working on possible dates for Modi to visit the US and meet President Donald Trump, people familiar with the matter said.