Modi's foreign trips helped in domestic economic reforms: Sushma Swaraj

Narendra Modi
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to 18 countries in 12 months helped push the government’s economic reform agenda.

Lauding her government’s aggressive foreign policy stance, Swaraj said the government had taken definitive steps towards “transformational diplomacy” and “diplomacy for development”, and was able to forge long-term bilateral ties with 101 countries.

“Diplomacy for development is the same as economic diplomacy. In the past one year, the government has been working towards this only, as to how to link diplomacy with domestic reforms. And I believe this has happened for the first time in India under this government. We have been able to link diplomacy with some of our domestic economic reform programmes, such as Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and Smart Cities. Besides, with every visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we made sure that each country he visited finds a role for themselves towards the development of this country,” Swaraj told Business Standard while addressing a press conference on one year of the government.

On Modi’s June 6-7 visit to Bangladesh, Swaraj said India was able to achieve the impossible and ratified the long-pending land boundary agreement. However, she clarified the Teesta water treaty would not be signed during the visit.

During the past year, the government had taken steps for long-term ties with several key countries such as the US, China, Japan, Australia, Korea and Russia. Each visit by the prime minister resulted in flashy catchphrases, such as “Chalein Saath Saath” with the US, “Druzhba-Dosti” with Russia and act East with Southeast Asian and Far-East countries.

On mending ties with the US, she said both leaders were able to take the relationship to newer heights. The single biggest achievement with the US, the minister said, was the breakthrough in the civil nuclear agreement.

With China, Swaraj said, Prime Minister Modi turned out to be the only leader who put forward India’s demand in a “candid and frank” manner on the issue of border dispute settlement. “So far we have had only goody-goody relation with China. But Prime Minister Modi is the only leader who faced them boldly and raised all the issues through a candid and frank dialogue.”

Referring to the controversial issue of offering e-visas to Chinese tourists, Swaraj clarified this was only for promoting tourism and was not a concession. She also said these would be given only after proper inspection.

On the neighbourhood, Swaraj highlighted how the government was able to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan and denied any “flip flop” in its policy towards the neighbouring country. However, she said, there cannot be any forward movement in talks in the presence of any third party.

Refering to the release of 26/11 Mumbai attack accused Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Swaraj said India cannot have a dialogue with Pakistan in the present circumstances. The Kashmir dispute can only be solved on the basis of the Shimla Agreement, she added.

“Kashmir is not having an anti-India mood and this has happened for the first time after the BJP government came to power.”

It was due to the Prime Minister that India was able to transform its relationship with Russia from just being a buyer-seller one of defence equipment to that of defence coproduction, she said.