Much has been said about Narendra Modi’s foreign trips and his critics have often mocked and derided him for the official trips to foreign countries he has made as Prime Minister. While Modi has been aggressively pushing his ‘Make in India’ agenda abroad, his critics claim that the trips have only cost a lot of money to the exchequer without any tangible benefits.
On the 29th of December, The Telegraph published a report calling the Prime Minister an ‘accidental tourist’ for his foreign trips.
In the report, it is mentioned that the Prime Minister’s foreign trips until now have cost the exchequer Rs. 2,021 crores. The report also compared the costs of foreign trips between Narendra Modi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his second term from 2009-14. While Narendra Modi visited more than 55 countries in 48 trips, Singh toured 33 countries in 38 trips that cost the exchequer over Rs. 1,346 crores.
The anti-Modi bias in the report is far too obvious. The report does an extremely shoddy job of comparing the data available regarding the foreign trips of the two Prime Ministers. It also fails to appreciate the fact that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has seen a sharp rise during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, an agenda that Modi has pushed hard during his foreign visits.
The New Indian Express does a far better job of comparing the expenses. It says in its report, “While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often come under criticism for his frequent foreign tours, it transpires that his predecessor Manmohan Singh is not much behind, either in the number of trips or the expenses incurred on them.”
In a graphical representation of the expenses in the report, it can be seen that the bulk of the expenditure has been on maintenance of aircraft. Rs. 1,583.18 crores have been spent on Aircraft maintenance during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister while the figure is Rs. 842.6 for Manmohan Singh. Rs. 446.59 crores were spent on flights during the foreign trips of Manmohan Singh while the same for Narendra Modi thus far is Rs. 429.29 crores.
The biased Telegraph report has provided detractors of Narendra Modi new fodder to attack the Prime Minister with.
Mr. Modi has spent only INR 2021 Crore on his foreign trips as India’s prime minister, according to @ttindia. A very good headline: “Meet the accidental tourist. Modi’s foreign trip bill: Rs 2021 crore”. Where is the ‘vikas’ by the way? Or they now name it as LYNCHING?
— Gowhar Geelani (@gowhargeelani) December 29, 2018
Shri Modiji has spend public money to the tune of RS 2100 crores on foreign trip. In no country head is incurring huge expenses . Modi government is missing public funds for their image building & other propaganda. Our PM is very frustrated person. He speaks lies. PM is corrupt
— Bharat Rao (@bharatrao1960) December 29, 2018
— A.N.NatarajGowda INC?? (@annatarajgowda) December 29, 2018
Enjoying foreign trips on tax payers money. Modi’s foreign trip bill : Rs 2,021 crore. pic.twitter.com/ctOZS8L7Ob
— CMO Haryana Shadow (@CMOhryShadow) December 29, 2018
As is clear from the data, leaving aside the cost of maintenance of the aircraft, Prime Minister Modi has actually been more economical when it comes to flight expenses than his predecessor. Flight expenses for Manmohan Singh were Rs. 11.75 approximately per trip whereas the same figure for Narendra Modi thus far has been Rs. 8.94 crores approximately. Thus, The Telegraph’s epithet for the Prime Minister appears to be motivated by partisan political interests rather than objective facts.
More importantly, Narendra Modi has visited more countries and has spent more days abroad as the Prime Minister emphasized on marketing ‘Brand India’ to the world and strengthening India’s position in world politics. Diplomacy has been a major area of focus for the NDA government ever since it won the 2014 elections. We have also reported on the tangible benefits India has earned through the Prime Minister’s visits. For instance, Modi’s visits to countries in the regions have been directed towards thwarting China’s imperialist tendencies. Many of the visits are also scheduled multilateral events that the prime minister attends, no matter which party is in power.
As we have reported earlier, the NDA government has been watchful of its expenditure on foreign trips. The expenses of the Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State have declined sharply every year since 2014-15 to now. PM Modi had also started the practice of travelling only during the night for long flights, which reduces the number of days spend overseas and also cuts the duration of stay in hotels.