With an aim to bolster ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday embarked on a five-nation visit to Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico focus of which will be to enhance India’s engagement in areas of trade, energy and security, besides pushing for its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Modi is likely to seek support of Switzerland and Mexico for India’s membership of the 48-member NSG as both these countries are key members of the elite group. The issue is likely to figure during Modi’s meeting with Obama in Washington.
India has formally applied for membership of the NSG on May 12.
“From our immediate neighbourhood to our trans-Atlantic partners. PM @narendramodi emplanes for a 5 nation tour,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with a photograph of Modi leaving for the five-day trip.
During his talks with the leadership of Switzerland, the prime minister is also likely to raise the issue of black money stashed by Indians in Swiss banks.
The prime minister’s first destination is Afghanistan where he will inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, in Herat province on Saturday, along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Both the leaders will also hold talks on a range of issues including current situation in Afghanistan.
From Afghanistan, Modi will travel to energy-rich Qatar on Sunday itself and from there he will leave for a two-day visit to Switzerland on Sunday.
Asked at a press briefing on PM’s visit whether the issue of black money will be raised by Modi during his talks with Swiss leaders, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had said on Friday both the countries are in touch on the issue.
“We are in touch with the Swiss government under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement mandate and we have had some discussions on this and we have a few planned in the near future. We have received support from the Swiss authorities on exchange of information on tax data between the two countries.
“We do hope to engage as early as possible in the automatic exchange of information with Switzerland and this has been conveyed to Swiss tax authorities,” he said.
On India’s bid for NSG membership, Jaishankar said India has been eyeing membership of the premier group for many, many years and that it has made “lot of progress” on that.
From Switzerland, the PM travels to Washington on June 6 where he will have a packed schedule including an address to a joint session of the US Congress. He
will be the fifth Indian Prime Minister to do so.
Modi will begin his US visit on June 6 by paying tributes at the Arlington National Cemetery. He will then meet heads of a number of American think tanks and will attend an event to repatriate Indian antiquity by the US.
On June 7, the PM will hold wide-ranging talks with President Barack Obama on the entire gamut of bilateral ties. The meeting will be followed by a lunch to be hosted by Obama for Modi.
In the afternoon, Modi will meet business leaders and address the US-India Business Council during which he is expected to highlight measures taken by his government to ensure ease of doing business.
On June 8, Modi will address a joint meeting of the US Congress which will be followed by a lunch to be hosted by the Speaker. A reception is also being organised for Modi by the House and Senate Committees on foreign relations and the India Caucus. The PM will attend a community reception as well.
In Qatar, Modi will hold talks with his counterpart Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a host of issues which may include trade and security.
He will also visit a workers’ camp in Doha and also interact with the Indian community.
The size of annual bilateral trade between India and Qatar is around $10 billion and both the countries would like to expand it significantly. Qatar has a major sovereign wealth fund and India is eyeing to attract investment from it.
During his visit to Switzerland, the PM will hold talks with President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
Switzerland is India’s fifth largest trading partner of India. The European country is also the 11th largest foreign investor in India.
The PM will arrive in Mexico from the US on June 8. He will have extensive talks with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on key bilateral issues including India’s membership bid at the NSG. Modi will leave for India on the evening of June 8.
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi departs for Afghanistan, the first leg of his five-nation tour. Photograph: Press Information Bureau