NEW DELHI (TIP): After a lull of several months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be off to another whirlwind diplomatic tour starting next week. His first stop will be Afghanistan on June 4 to inaugurate the Salma Dam which has been built with Indian assistance.
By end of the day Modi will be in Doha to return a visit by the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who visited India on March 2015. Qatar is India’s largest source for natural gas and Modi is keen to encourage more investments from there.
PM Modi in his two years in office has already visited 29 nations. He now has the distinction among all Prime Ministers of India to have visited the highest number of nations in first two years in office
India and Qatar are expected to hold some intensive discussions on the security situation too. The Afghan Taliban was allowed to open an office in Doha, which is something India has frowned upon in the past.
Announcing the visit, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “Qatar is an important trading partner for us in the Gulf region with bilateral trade in 2014-15 exceeding $15 billion. It is our largest supplier of LNG requirements, accounting for 65% of our total imports in 2015-16. It was also one of our key sources of crude oil. Over 6,30,000 Indian nationals form the largest expatriate community in Qatar.”
Modi will then stopover in Switzerland on June 6 to hold talks with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann on technology and investments. Interestingly, he will be visiting Switzerland days after the country inaugurates the world’s longest tunnel, an engineering feat of sorts.
On June 7-8, Modi will be in US, his fourth visit to the country. “The main objective of the forthcoming visit would be to consolidate the progress made in diverse areas such as economy, energy, environment, defense and security, and to intensify cooperation for the future,” Swarup said.
Modi will also address a joint session of the US Congress, a rare honor. “He will be the first foreign leader to be given this honor in 2016. The USCongress has been a source of strength for India-US strategic partnership and the India Congressional Caucus is the largest such group in the US Congress. During the visit, PM will interact with CEOs of major US companies.”
Modi will then pay an important visit to Mexico, which has seen a big increase in economic ties with India. It’s not yet clear whether PM will stop over at any other country on way back. Generally, Air India One, the PM’s plane stops over in Germany for refueling, but Modi could utilize this stop for another short bilateral. Last year, PM stopped over in Ireland for such a visit.