« Back to articlePrint this article

With 74 Foreign Visits, Modi Is Most Travelled PM

September 08, 2023 15:14 IST

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi leaves Jakarta after attending the ASEAN summit, September 7, 2023. Photograph: PMOIndia/X

Upon his return home on Thursday, September 7, 2023, evening from a two-day visit to Indonesia, where he attended the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-India and East Asia Summits, Prime Minister Narendra D Modi surpassed the number of foreign visits made by his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his 10-year tenure.

Since his maiden foreign visit to Bhutan on June 15-16, 2014, which marked the beginning of a transformative process that has seen New Delhi redefine the contours of its foreign policy, the PM has now completed 74 foreign visits, according to data available on the Web site of the prime minister's office.

dR Singh undertook 73 foreign visits, commencing with his first trip to Thailand to attend the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Summit on July 29, 2004, and concluding with his final visit to Myanmar on March 3, 2014, also for participation in the BIMSTEC Summit.

This highlights the increasing importance of multilateral engagements, especially in the Indian Ocean region, during his tenure.

Data suggests that while Modi has spent fewer days abroad than his predecessor (270 days versus Dr Singh's 306), he has travelled more extensively and actively than any other Indian PM.

Modi has increased India's engagement at the highest diplomatic level with India's immediate neighbours in South Asia and its extended ones in Central and West Asia.

Dr Singh undertook 35 visits abroad in his first term and 38 in his second.

Modi embarked on 49 overseas visits in his first term, which dropped to 25 foreign visits in his second term.

Two years of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the PM did not undertake a single foreign visit in 2020 and only three in 2021, attending at least 16 bilateral and multilateral virtual summits in 2020 and at least nine in 2021.

Former Ambassador Yogesh Gupta lists three key departures from the past in Modi's foreign policy, apart from his outreach to the Indian Diaspora.

Gupta says the PM jettisoned the tendency of the Manmohan Singh era to view India's relations with the US through the prism of Chinese concerns.

"The Manmohan Singh government assessed any progress on India-US relations with the caveat that it shouldn't offend China. However, Modi realised India needed investments, technology, and military support, which could only come from the US," points out Gupta.

Secondly, India bolstered its support for its South Asian neighbours more robustly over the past nine years as it countered growing Chinese influence, signing crucial agreements with them, particularly Bangladesh, which during the United Progressive Alliance years fell victim to the pulls and pressures of coalition politics, the former diplomat says.

Modi has visited Nepal five times, while Dr Singh did not visit Kathmandu even once.

Thirdly, Modi's foreign policy towards West Asian countries is independent of their regional complexities, treating each on its own merit, Gupta says.

The PM de-hyphenated India's relations with Israel and Palestine, visiting Tel Aviv in July 2017, the first-ever visit by an Indian PM, and Palestine a year later.

In 2015, Modi became the first PM in 34 years to visit the United Arab Emirates, and he has since visited that country on four more occasions.

A feature of the Manmohan Singh years was his deepening of P V Narasimha Rao's 'Look East Policy', with as many as 14 visits to the region, visiting each of the 10 member States at least once.

Modi has kept this engagement alive, although his visits to the ASEAn region have been less frequent.

Archis Mohan in New Delhi
Source: source image