PM's foreign visits - Narendra Modi joins the club of most travelled world leaders
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign visits attract both praise and ridicule in equal measures.
New Delhi: On May 16, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed one year of BJP's remarkable victory in the Lok Sabha election. But, Modi was not in India. He was touring India's most powerful neighbour China. He also clicked and posted the 'most powerful' selfie on Twitter a day before that.
The respected international newspaper 'The Wall Street Journal' carried a story titled 'Did Modi Just Take the Most Powerful Selfie in History?'. The WSJ said, "The prime ministers of the world's two biggest countries leaned on each other Friday for what may be the most politically power-packed selfie in history.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled out a smartphone during his visit to Beijing's Temple of Heaven, extended his arm and cozied up with Chinese premier Li Keqiang for the shot.
That put two of the most powerful people in countries with a combined population of around 2.5 billion people—more than one-third of humanity– in the same frame with no official photographer involved. Mr Modi's people quickly tweeted photo."
The next day BJP's national general secretary Ram Madhav tweeted "Why are Congresseez complaining! 1st year comparison- Modi- Foreign tour 51 day, 17 countries Manmohan Singh- 47 day 12 countries." It was followed by one more tweet ridiculing the previous UPA government and Modi's predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh. It said, "Complaining because none remembers even a single visit of MMS while NM is hugely popular everywhere?"
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign visits attract both praise and ridicule in equal measures. He is a polarising figure even here!
His admirers claim that Modi has successfully changed the International opinion and perception about India after he took charge as the Prime Minister. They argue that Modi's foreign trips have elevated the status and stature of India across the globe. They cite the example of his visit to America, Australia and recent one to China.
His critics argue that Modi's visits are just a huge show with no substance. They claim that he is touring the world to elevate his personal stature and these tours of no use for India's foreign relations or trade. Speaking to CNN-IBN, the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said, "He (Modi) has the right to go abroad, but his duty is to visit the homes of the farmers. We have not got the facts wrong, they have got the facts wrong. PM has the right to travel but has the duty to visit Kisaan (farmers)."
During his recent visit to China Narendra Modi today broke his silence on opposition criticism over his frequent foreign visits and took veiled digs at his critics back home, saying he was being attacked for "tireless" work and asserted that if it was a "crime" he would continue to do it.
Modi, who came under attack over his criticism of previous governments during his last trip to Germany, France and Canada, "People are asking why is Modi travelling to so many countries...If you work less, criticism is normal. If you keep sleeping, criticism is normal. But it is my bad luck that I am being criticised for working more."
He asserted that "If working more is a crime, I will keep doing it. My commitment is to the people."
Addressing Indian community here before winding up his three-day China tour, he said "times are changing" and the world is now looking at India differently because of the performance of his government during the last one year which was a "matter of pride" for every citizen.
A report in Calcutta based newspaper 'Telegraph' journalist Charu Sudan Kasturi wrote in last January that after the Prime Minister in his first six months travelled too much not just for the Opposition's liking but also for the foreign office budget. The foreign ministry now needs additional funding for these "high level visits" - diplomatic jargon for foreign trips by the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and foreign minister - over the next three months, multiple officials have told The Telegraph.
That additional funding is possible under mid-financial-year "revised budget estimates" - it was needed once, and was obtained, during Manmohan Singh's 10-year stint as Prime Minister.
After he took charge, he made his first foreign visit to India's tiny neighbour Bhutan in last June. That visit was more symbolic than substantive. In July 2014, he clubbed state visit to Brazil with BRICS summit. He visited Nepal and Japan in August and September.
His most high profile visit took place in last September, when he flew to United States America. He addressed a large number of Indian community members at the Madison Square in New York. He held bilateral talks with the American President Barack Obama.
He also visited Myanmar, Australia, Fiji and Nepal in the last year. In 2015, he has so far made high profile trips to Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Singapore, France, Germany, Canada, China and Mongolia.
After Modi attacked the UPA government in Canada, a livid Congress hit back at him. The deputy leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma had to The Indian Express, "We will send a senior party leader to all countries
henceforth. He (She) will hold a parallel conference to rebut the Prime Minister's allegations against the current opposition."
The Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh had also said on Twitter, "When a head of state visits abroad, he represents the whole nation. Modi's speech is divisive, defamatory, malicious and not based on facts." Modi had launched an attack on the UPA in Paris too, where he said the previous government had allocated coal blocks like one gives away a pen or a handkerchief, resulting in losses of lakhs of crores of rupee.
But, we don't know if the Congress has sent anybody to keep a watch on Modi during his visit to China and Mongolia. Criticisms and controversies apart, Modi has successfully signed several bilateral agreements with different nations and strengthened relationships with them. Only the time will tell, if these foreign visits yield rich dividend.
If the Prime Minister Modi continues to fly abroad at the same pace, in the remaining four years, he can cover at least one third of the World.
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