After the flood of congratulatory calls and letters from foreign leaders to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is dealt with, the new government’s tasks on the foreign policy front in the next few weeks are quite clearly cut out.
MEA and Rashtrapati Bhawan officials say no decision has been taken yet on who will be invited to the swearing-in ceremony, expected to be held next week between May 26-30.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is understood to have had held a senior level meeting in early May to ask for “creative suggestions” on whom to invite.
Traditionally, the first bilateral visit by Prime Ministers has been to a country in the SAARC neighbourhood.
Bhutan and India celebrated their 50th year of diplomatic ties in 2018, and Thimpu has invited Mr. Modi to visit during the year. Bhutan’s King Jigme Kesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering, both contacted Mr. Modi on Thursday, within hours of his win.
The big question remains about whether he will finally attend the SAARC summit due to be held in Pakistan, which he had opted out of after the Uri attacks in 2016.
Much will depend on a possible meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Bishkek next month, and progress on the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara corridor.
On June 13-14, the Prime Minister is due to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, along with leaders of Russia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.
Later on June 28-29, Mr. Modi will travel to Osaka, Japan, to attend the G-20 summit, a forum for the world’s top economies.
To meet Trump
The Prime Minister will meet U.S. President Donald Turmp on the sidelines of the summit, the MEA announced on Friday. According to a release, the decision was made by the two leaders on Friday, when President Trump called Mr. Modi to congratulate him on his electoral win.
“The two leaders agreed to meet at the forthcoming G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, to discuss bilateral relations and global matters. They also agreed to work together for further enhancing the close and strategic partnership between the two countries,” the MEA spokesperson said,
The Prime Minister has also been invited by French premier Emmanuel Macron to attend the G-7 summit on August 24-26, as an invitee.
Apart from the scheduled travel, action on several potential foreign policy crises that had been put on the back burner until the elections, will demand the Prime Minister’s attention.
During Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Delhi last week, the government had said it would announce its decision on U.S. sanctions on oil imports once the election results came in.
Indian importers have already stopped placing orders for Iranian oil, fearing the sanctions; the rising price of oil and the need for non-expensive alternatives will be a challenge for the new government.
In addition, Washington could soon announce its withdrawal of GSP status to Indian exports, while New Delhi has to decide on retaliatory tariffs if a trade deal between the two countries fails to fructify.
(With inputs from Sriram Lakshman in Washington)