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Narendra Modi embarks on four-nation tour, Germany first stop

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-05-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked on a six-day tour of Germany, Spain, Russia and France starting 29 May and ending on 3 June. Modi left Monday on the trip that is aimed at boosting India’s economic and defence engagement and attracting more investment from some of the biggest economies in Europe. Modi’s stop in Russia is aimed at bringing back on track a relationship that has been in the doldrums for a while.

Here’s look at the prime minister’s programme and major issues on the agenda during each stop.

Germany

Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is expected to host Modi at her official Meseberg Country Retreat on 29 May where they will discuss issues of mutual interest. The two will hold the 4th India-Germany Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC) on 30 May. Modi and Merkel will also jointly address a business meeting with top CEOs from both countries also on Tuesday.

In a departure statement issued on Sunday, Modi said he and Merkel will “chart out a future roadmap of cooperation with focus on trade and investment, security and counter-terrorism, innovation and science and technology, skill development, urban infrastructure, railways and civil aviation, clean energy, development cooperation, health and alternative medicine.” Describing Germany as a valuable partner, Modi said: “German competencies fit well with my vision for India’s transformation.”

“I am confident that this visit will open a new chapter in our bilateral cooperation with Germany and further deepen our Strategic Partnership,” he said in a Facebook post.

Also read: Modi government: The next two years

During official talks, Germany is likely to press India for movement on the India-European Union free trade agreement that has been in negotiations since 2007. Later in the day, Modi will pay a courtesy call on President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

India and Germany elevated ties to a strategic partnership in the year 2000 and Berlin has been a key partner in several areas like technology and vocational training. Germany is India’s largest trade partner in Europe and the seventh largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into India since the year 2000. As a fellow G-4 (or Group of Four) member countries comprising Japan, Brazil and India, both India and Germany are seeking a permanent seat at an expanded UN Security Council.

Spain

Modi’s second stop in Europe will be Spain where he will arrive on 30 May in the evening. This is will be the first standalone visit to Spain by an Indian prime minister since then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi visited in 1988.

“We will discuss ways to enhance bilateral engagement, especially in the economic sphere, and cooperation on international issues of common concern, particularly in combating terrorism,” Modi said in his departure statement on Facebook. There is significant potential for deepening bilateral trade and investment ties, Modi said adding: “We seek active participation of Spanish industry in various Indian projects including infrastructure, smart cities, digital economy, renewable energy, defence and tourism.”

Modi will meet President of Spain Mariano Rajoy and discuss bilateral and other issues of mutual interest on 31 May. As part of the programme, the prime minister will be calling on King Felipe VI of Spain. He will also have a roundtable interaction with leading Spanish business leaders keen to invest in India.

Spain is the 12th largest investor in India with $2.32 billion in FDI (April 2000—December 2016), mostly in infrastructure, renewable energy and auto components.

Russia

Modi will arrive in Russia on 1 June. He will then head into the 18th India-Russia Annual Summit in St Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is the first time the annual summit will be held outside Moscow. Russia was the first country with which India instituted annual summits in the year 2000.

During the visit, there is an expectation that India and Russia will sign a framework agreement for Kudankulam atomic power plants 5 and 6. Defence cooperation, counter-terrorism, situation in Afghanistan, energy cooperation will be the main areas of discussions. India and Russia have of late not been seeing eye to eye on a number of issues including a role for the Taliban in the Aghan peace talks. Last year, Russian forces took part in military exercises with Pakistan—the first ever such exercises between the two countries.

After the summit, Modi will participate, also for the first time, in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on 2 June as the guest of honour. “In a first meeting of its kind, I will also have the opportunity to engage with Governors from various Russian regions to further broad base bilateral cooperation and more actively involve States/Regions and other diversified stakeholders,” Modi said in his Facebook post.

At the beginning of his visit, Modi will go to Piskarovskoye Cemetery to pay homage to those who perished during the siege of Leningrad. He will also visit the world famous State Hermitage Museum and the Institute of Oriental manuscripts. “I greatly look forward to my visit to St. Petersburg in this special year for the bilateral relationship as both countries celebrate the 70th Anniversary of our diplomatic relations,” Modi said.

France

The fourth and last stop of Modi’s during the four nation tour will be France. Modi will arrive on 2 June and will hold talks with newly elected President Emmanuel Macron on 3 June. Discussions are expected to revolve around ways to further strengthen India-France strategic ties. Modi is among the first foreign guests for the Macron government which took office on 14 May.

“France is one of our most important Strategic Partners. I look forward to meeting President Macron and have discussions on issues of mutual interest,” Modi said in his post. “I would be exchanging views with the French President on important global issues including UN Security Council reforms and India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council, India’s membership of the various multilateral export control regimes, counter-terrorism cooperation, collaboration on climate change and International Solar Alliance,” he added.

France is India’s 9th largest investment partner and a key partner in its development initiatives in the area of defence, space, nuclear and renewable energy, urban development and railways. “I am committed to substantially strengthening and advancing our multi-faceted partnership with France,” Modi said.

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