It promises to be a memorable evening in Paris, redolent of the famous Bollywood number of the late 1960s. When India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande go on a boat ride on the shimmering moon-lit Seine river next week, expect sparks to fly, and illuminate the multi-hued tapestry of India-France relations. The evening boat ride will be a time to do some small talk, think big, and map out an ambitious trajectory for one of India’s most crucial strategic partnerships in the European continent.
The planned Modi-Hollande boat cruise shows how the Indian diplomacy has changed in its tone, texture and atmospherics since Mr Modi took charge of the world’s most populous democracy and Asia’s third largest economy, nearly a year ago. In the staid and stuffy world of diplomacy, it has taken Modi, a former tea-seller, to reinvent the rules of the game and understand the value of spectacle and gestures in the media-saturated landscape. From his rock-star like performance that wowed thousands of NRIs in Madison Square Avenue and Allphones Arena in Sydney to beating the drums for the India Story in Tokyo, chai par charcha with Barack Obama and jointly hosting radio show ‘Mann Ki Baat’ with the US president, Indian diplomacy has been modi-fied and revivified under the new prime minister’s watch. And this blend of symbolism, spectacle and substance will be telescoped in Mr Modi’s three-nation tour to France, Germany and Canada (April 9-16).
In Paris, the boat ride will make for the captivating photo-op, but the headlines will not be just frills. One can expect France and India to fast-track administrative arrangements for French nuclear giant Areva to set up six nuclear reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra. Getting more French investments and France’s smart city expertise will also be high on Mr Modi’s agenda.
Germany: B for Business
This new colourful virile diplomacy, laden with captivating gestures, will also be in full flow in Germany where Mr Modi will kick off his maiden visit to the continent’s economic colossus by jointly inaugurating the Hannover Messe 2015 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 12. The India Pavilion, which Mr Modi opens on April 13, will be a melange of colours, music and yes, business with capital B. In Hannover, there are plans for Mr Modi to engage with German and Indian students, an outreach public diplomacy event which will underscore the pivotal role of Indo-German tie-ups in education and the Skill India mission.
From Ganga to Rhine
There will be river diplomacy in Berlin as well, although the prime minister will not be engaging in Rhine cruise camaraderie with the German Chancellor. It will be his pet ‘Clean Ganga’ mission that Mr Modi will seek to advance by seeking German expertise and experience in cleaning up Rhine. The Ganga and the Rhine are two different rivers with different features, but the German experience in cleaning up the Rhine will be useful for India, Sudhir Vyas, India’s former ambassador to Germany, told India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org).
From Make in India to Skill India and Clean Ganga, Prime Minister Modi will be looking to rope in two of Europe’s most powerful economies and influential players, for the overarching project of India’s economic resurgence. If it takes a boat ride with the French president and serenading the India Story with the German chancellor, so be it.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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