By Ranjana Narayan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-nation tour was marked by several high points – the surprise announcement on purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in France, clinching a five-year uranium supply deal with Canada, pushing the Make in India initiative in Germany, assuring all of the ease of doing business in India, not forgetting the rockstar connect with the Indian diaspora. The tour has led to “positive achievements” and led to a portrayal of a self-confident India, say analysts.
As Modi returns home after his long April 9-16 tour, the visit had several other notable points. Modi paid tribute to the thousands of Indian soldiers killed in World War I at the Neuve Chapelle memorial in France, becoming the first Indian prime minister to do so.
He raised the pitch for India seeking a UN Security Council permanent seat, terming it as India’s “right” and listed out the reasons, during a civic reception by the Indian community in Paris. In Berlin, Modi said at a civic reception that India would “set the agenda” for the climate change talks in Paris this year, as India has traditionally always followed the principle of “reuse” and “recycle” and never believed in wastage of resources. At the same event, Modi made a significant statement, saying that India’s secularism is based on strong foundations and it can never be shaken.
Modi also strived to establish a personal connect with the three leaders. With France’s President Francois Hollande, the “nao pe charcha” moment during a cruise on River Seine grabbed eyeballs. In Canada, Modi got Prime Minister Stephen Harper to travel by Air India One from Ottawa to Toronto and the two leaders jointly addressed the thousands of ecstatic Indians at the Ricoh Coliseum in an event reminiscent of the Madison Square Garden event in New York last year. Besides, Modi mingled everywhere with Indian expatriates and also clicked selfies with them, helping strike a personal chord.
“In different ways all the three visits have produced positive results for India; besides strengthening the idea, which Modi has done successfully, that India is becoming more attractive as an investment destination, which is critical for his development plans in India,” former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said.
On Modi strongly pitching for a UNSC seat, Sibal said that this marked a “change in tone”. “Earlier India has been lobbying, now his tone is different; I will not beg for it, I deserve it and giving reasons for that. This is part of his general approach of a self-confident India which is now willing to make effort to become part of the big power league.”
Former envoy Sheel Kant Sharma termed the agreement on uranium as “path-breaking”, especially as Canada had put India off nuclear cooperation following the 1974 peaceful nuclear blast. “And now they have come full circle and are selling uranium to us, for five years. And Canada has also agreed on the same terms which we have with US, they are also not interested in the tracking issue, which has been raised by some other countries. In that sense it is the completion of the process that started in 2005, of India’s mainstreaming; India can get uranium from the major uranium suppliers,” Sharma, who has been India’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said.
According to Sibal, “Canada is the third country from which we will get raw uranium; and considering the history of our relations with Canada on the non proliferation front, this is a very major strategic step forward”.
Noted strategic expert C. Uday Bhaskar termed the uranium agreement significant in relation to India’s growing energy needs to boost growth and development and the “symbolism as poignant”, in the backdrop of Canada having suspended nuclear cooperation following the 1974 nuclear test.
On the Rafale deal, Bhaskar, said that it “will provide much-needed platform infusion to the Indian Air Force’s depleting fighter squadron strength.”
India clinched a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly away condition in Paris. Bhaskar, who is director, Society for Policy Studies (SPS), said “it was a deft political decision to manage a complex exigency – both in relation to India’s composite military capability and the tangled techno-commercial negotiations over the 126 MMRCA deal concluded by the UPA government”.
Sibal said the Rafale deal “is a step that will bolster our strategic partnership with France”.
In Germany, Modi’s main thrust was economics. He held meetings with German CEOs and jointly inaugurated the India pavilion at the Hannover Messe with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “He passed on the core message that India is open for business and he will make doing business in India easier, and also promised that he will have mechanisms put in place that will facilitate the entry of German businessmen into India, ” said Sibal.
On his connect with the diaspora, Sharma says that Modi realizes the value of the diaspora in the way he reaches out to them, meets them and shakes hands with them. “It helps them identify with the prime minister of India, as one who rose up the ladder to the top, and most of the diaspora have also come up the hard way.”