A lot has been said about Modi’s visits to various countries of the world. Right from jokes that he’s never in the country to political jibes. Congress leader Anand Sharma had said: “Kindly request the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come to the House. We are concerned about his whereabouts,”. Derek O’Brian, an MP of Trinamul Congress had said “Please grant a visa to the Prime Minister of India to come to the Rajya Sabha.” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said “Forget bringing black money from abroad, bring back the PM,”. Modi gave a fitting and terse reply to all these comments when he addressed the Parliament.
Recently, Modi took flight for another trip, this time to 3 countries: Seychelles,Mauritius and Sri Lanka. And there are bound to be questions as to what is the purpose of these trips. Luckily, this time the answer is more obvious and many have realised it. All these 3 countries are located in the Indian Ocean. Balaji Vishwanathan, in this quora answer has outlined the trade routes via the Indian Ocean:
Its clear that the Indian Ocean is a vital cog in India’s International trade. And the PM realises this, hence he had once said 90 percent of India’s trade and oil imports moves by sea and as its economy becomes more globally integrated it would become more dependent on the ocean. As Nitin Gokhale rightly points out in his post, Modi’s trip has served to reclaim some of New Delhi’s lost footing in the area. Some of the key events of the trip:
1. Modi secured agreements to develop islands in Mauritius and Seychelles
2. India and Mauritius signed an agreement to upgrade sea and air links on the remote Agalega islands, providing India a foothold in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The Ministry of External Affairs statement made it clear that the new facilities would also “enhance the capabilities of the Mauritian Defence Forces in safeguarding their interests,” hinting at a military benefit at a later stage.
3. In Seychelles Prime Minister Modi announced an agreement to develop infrastructure on Assumption island
4. In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Modi handed over 27,000 new homes to Tamils who became homeless during the civil war that ended in May 2009
5. India will be developing the Oil tank Farm near Trincomalee in Eastern Sri Lanka
These efforts by India have of course be prompted by years of neglect and the resultant rise of China as a major player in this area. Smita Prakash in this piece says, “It took overarching Chinese aspirations for India to get into action”. Modi visited these countries “Not with a clenched fist but with folded hands, being a generous ally, a big brother nudging and chastising, but with an arm on the shoulder. Making it quite clear that cutting the familial chord would have not-very-pretty consequences” she adds. With these moves, one hopes India is able to reclaim its position in the Indian Ocean and thwart any moves by China to counter India’s supremacy.