Modi vs Manmohan: Both global roamers


NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is executing his "fast-track diplomacy" -as his government calls it – with gusto: Including his current China visit, he will have been abroad for 53 of 365 days in 17 countries during his first year as prime minister.

That's not very different from Manmohan Singh, who spent 47 of 365 days in 12 countries during the first year of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA-II (and 30 days during UPA-I).

Modi promised a strong foreign policy to the people of India after he took oath on May 26, 2014. The swearing-in ceremony was attended by leaders from eight neighbouring nations.

Modi has been criticised for his foreign visits and days spent out of the country. But Singh was nearly as well travelled as Modi, in terms of days abroad.

Modi intends to use public diplomacy to project India's soft power, as IndiaSpend reportedearlier.

In terms of visits by heads of states to India, Modi's first year saw 23 visits compared to 30 and 29 visits during Dr. Singh's first year of his first and second terms respectively.

A total of 57 bilateral treaties/conventions/agreements were signed during Modi's first year (May 26, 2014 to December 31, 2014), compared to 37 and 22 bilateral treaties during Dr. Singh's first year of UPA-II (May 22, 2009 to December 31, 2009) and UPA-I (May 22, 2004 to December 31, 2004), respectively.

India's foreign aid to other countries during Modi's first year increased 15.84%. This was down by 10.81 percent during Singh's first year of his second term, against an increase of 29.32 percent during the fist year of his first term.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) registered a growth of 18.58 percent in 2014-15 over 2013-14. During Singh's first year of his first term, FDI saw an increase of 47.12 percent but declined 17.72 percent during his first year of second term.

Foreign exchange reserves in 2014-15 registered a growth of 12.29 percent over its previous year. The same saw an increase of 5.46 percent and 26.17 percent, respectively, during Singh's first year of his two terms.

In terms of dollars, exports and imports declined 1.23 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, in 2014-15 from 2013-14. In Singh's first year of his second term, exports and imports declined far more sharply, 4 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, under Modi, has restored some purpose and direction to India's foreign policy, missing during the UPA's second term, according to Uttara Sahasrabuddhe, professor for international politics at the University of Mumbai.

The breakthrough in the Indo-US nuclear deal during Singh's first term was the chief highlight of his foreign policy. During his second term, foreign policy lacked direction, Sahasrabuddhe said, as his leadership was not accepted within the party and was largely driven by the bureaucracy, unlike Modi, who exerts greater control over foreign policy.

(Written by Chaitanya Mallapur for IANS. He is a policy analyst and the views expressed are personal)