Evenings in Paris, deals in kitty: Modi in a hurry

A leader on a three-nation, nine-day tour to Europe and Canada ought to have some time for rest and relaxation. Not so for the Indian Prime Minister. Like clockwork mice, the Modi team rush from one appointment to another in France in the first leg, buying fighter jets, setting up joint working groups on terrorism, cooperating on areas like nuclear energy and marine biology. All in a span of two days in Paris. Oh, and there was more, a visit to a World War-I memorial, interaction with CEOs to invest in India, meeting with the expat community, a boat ride with the French President where discussion was on river cleaning and urban planning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets people on his arrival in Hannover on Sunday. The PM’s focus is going to be to reach out to German industry to cooperate with India on several of his pet projects like Make in India, Clean India, etc. Pic/PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets people on his arrival in Hannover on Sunday. The PM’s focus is going to be to reach out to German industry to cooperate with India on several of his pet projects like Make in India, Clean India, etc. Pic/PTI

The two major achievements of the France trip were the Rafale fighter jet deal and the forward movement on the Jaitapur nuclear power reactors. The next steps are that the earlier Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and France’s Areva will work towards supplying six evolutionary pressurised reactors (EPRs) to the Jaitapur project in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena has objected to the project. France is going to make available technology and expertise, which was not available to us in the past. It’s a win-win deal. On Rafale, a dramatic political decision was taken by the government to bypass the laboured three-year negotiations and get into a fresh government-to-government contract. We want to buy, they want to sell. Let’s do it. That is how the Modi team went in with the purchase order.

In the second leg of the tour, it is Germany. Prime Minister Modi’s focus is going to be to reach out to German industry to cooperate with India on several of his pet projects like Make in India, Smart cities, River cleaning, Clean India, Skill Development, Railways, Roads and Ports. There are several hundred German companies working in India for decades, but industry experts feel that there is scope for further cooperation with India’s traditional business partner in the European Union.

Germany is India’s largest trading partner. German companies have been on the forefront of expressing keenness to join in the new ventures that are poised to take off in India. There is considerable interest that even small and medium enterprises have evinced in doing business in India. Modi is keen to invite German companies that offer cutting-edge technology. Indian technology giants like TCS and Infosys and others from 17 states are participating in the Hannover Messe fair that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate.

A massive delegation from India is participating in the fair with more than hundred top-level business leaders and senior public and private sector officials present in Hannover when the Prime Minister visits.

By mid-week the Indian Prime Minister will be in Canada. Unimaginably, the last time an Indian Prime Minister made a bilateral visit to Canada was 42 years ago. There are 1.2 million people of Indian origin in Canada, and Mr Modi will reach out to them in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Besides this, he will seek investments in Indian infrastructure projects.

The BJP is keen to dispel the growing view that many of the PM’s projects are not taking off on the ground with the speed that he would like them to. The PM’s team is thus keen on deliverables before the one year of the NDA government is up.

There is no doubt that the development agenda is topmost on the Prime Minister’s mind. His interactions with heads of government, and with CEOs of top companies in France and Germany are in line with that goal. The opposition is sharpening its knives to dig in deep. Their agenda is to portray the Prime Minister’s foreign visits of lacking in substance. By next week Mr Modi would have travelled to 15 countries in the 11 months that he has been in office. Showcasing India as a country that is business friendly, has been his aim.

The Prime Minister is keen on preparing a viable blue print of his developmental agenda during his foreign visits, by the time he completes a year in office. The Modi government is hopeful of pulling off several concrete deliverables during the visits. It is not just building his image, it is crafting India’s image. Modi is a man in a hurry.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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