The Telegraph
Saturday , June 7 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

After Bhutan, Japan beckons Modi

New Delhi, June 6: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to have his passport stamped with a US visa shortly for a meeting with President Barack Obama in September — a privilege that had been denied to him by Washington DC when he was Gujarat chief minister.

Just after Modi embarks on his first foreign visit to Bhutan by the end of this month, Delhi will be sending out a concurrent signal to Dhaka that Bangladesh is also on top of the mind for the new administration in India.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is likely to make her first foreign visit to Bangladesh. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who sent the Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament for Modi’s inaugural, had written to him suggesting that he should consider Dhaka for his first foreign trip as Prime Minister. Sushma may be in the Bangladesh capital on June 26.

Modi, who had been refused a visa by the US as chief minister of Gujarat for issues over the 2002 riots, is now set to set foot in the US for what is likely to be one of his first visits at the beginning of his tenure as Prime Minister.

His first would be to Bhutan and the second, most likely to Japan, in July.

Modi is scheduled to be in Bhutan on June 14 and 15, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, tweeted this evening.

Tobgay, who was here for Modi’s swearing-in, said he was “honored and humbled” that Narendra Modi chose Bhutan for his first foreign trip as Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister’s ‘inbox’ on foreign policy is full,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said here today. The spokesperson could not give definite dates for each of the visits that he said were still being worked out.

Since the gathering of the Saarc leaders at his inaugural, Modi has signalled that the neighbourhood would be his priority in foreign policy issues. The choice of Bhutan — probably India’s friendliest neighbour — was dictated largely by that logic.

“Since the results of the elections were announced there has been a lot of interest from around the globe to meet our new political leadership. The inbox on foreign policy is very crowded,” the spokesperson said.

The calendar entries on foreign visits and meetings with foreign leaders for the rest of the year start with Sunday, June 8, when the Chinese foreign minister reaches New Delhi as a special envoy of the Chinese President on a two-day visit. The Chinese foreign minister’s visit will be followed by the visit of the French foreign minister on Monday.

Speaking on Modi’s much-anticipated visit to the US in September, the spokesperson said: “Amongst the earliest to contact the then PM-designate was US President Barack Obama who invited him to visit at an early date”.