It’s an epic voyage spanning five countries straddling five different regions with their distinct profiles. Seeking to bolster ties with the immediate and extended neighbourhood and India’s trans-Atlantic partners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi left on June 4 on a five-nation visit to Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico. The overarching aim of these visits is to enhance India’s engagement in areas of trade, investment, energy and security. Getting support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will be a cross-cutting theme during the prime minister’s trip to Washington, Bern and Mexico City.
The Salma Dam, also known as Afghan-India Friendship Dam, is the most expensive of India’s infrastructure projects in Afghanistan at over $275 million. It is expected to generate 42 MW of electricity for the rapidly growing region of Chishti Sharif District in Herat with a population of 435,000. The dam will help irrigate around 75,000 hectares.
“Together, we built this,” leader of the 12 villages which gave their lands to the Salma Dam said. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and Mr Modi will press a button on a remote-controlled console in Herat, which will result in water cascading down the $290 million dam. The inauguration of the dam will showcase India’s multi-faceted development cooperation with Afghanistan, which has generated enormous goodwill for New Delhi amid the rising tide of Taliban-led violence.
In Switzerland, Mr Modi is likely to focus on seeking cooperation to unearth black money accounts of Indians in Swiss banks. This was Mr Modi’s pet theme during the 2014 election, but there hasn’t been much progress in this area so far. According to unnamed officials, India and Switzerland are working towards reaching an arrangement which will result in automatic exchange of information on tax-related issues.
During Mr Modi’s visit to Qatar, the largest supplier of gas to India, Mr Modi will hold talks on a range of bilateral issues and focus on bolstering economic and energy ties. India and Qatar had signed six pacts in 2015 during the visit of Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani to India.
Travelling to the US on June 7 at the invitation of President Barack Obama, Mr Modi will review the progress made in key areas of defence, security and energy. This is expected to be the last major bilateral meeting between the two sides before President Obama demits office at the end of the year. Mr Obama will host a special lunch for Mr Modi during the visit. He has invited only a few close leaders for bilateral summits over the next few days before the presidential elections in November.
On June 8, making his maiden visit to Mexico, the emerging powerhouse in Latin America, the main objective of Mr Modi’s visit is to carry forward the momentum in bilateral relations. Mr Modi will meet Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto and discuss cooperation in areas such as space, energy, agriculture and science and technology.
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