Modi on 5-nation tour to seek support for India's NSG entry, bolster ties

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today embarked on a five-nation visit to Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico with a focus on enhancing India's engagement in areas of trade, energy and security. India also needs support of key countries for its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurating the Afghan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam), in Herat, Afghanistan on June 04, 2016  

Modi is likely to seek support of Switzerland and Mexico for India's membership of the 48-member NSG as both these countries are key members of the elite group. The issue is likely to figure during Modi's meeting with Obama in Washington.

India formally applied for membership of the NSG on 12 May.

''From our immediate neighbourhood to our trans-Atlantic partners. PM @narendramodi emplanes for a 5 nation tour,'' external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with a photograph of Modi leaving for the five-day trip.

During his talks with the leadership of Switzerland, the prime minister is also likely to raise the issue of black money stashed by Indians in Swiss banks.

On the first leg of his tour, the prime minister will reach Afghanistan where he will inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, in Herat province today, along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The two leaders will also hold talks on a range of issues, including current situation in Afghanistan.

From Afghanistan, Modi will travel to energy-rich Qatar tomorrow and from there he will leave for a two-day visit to Switzerland on Sunday.

In Qatar, Modi will hold talks with his counterpart Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a host of issues which may include trade and security.

The prime minister will also visit a workers' camp in Doha and also interact with the Indian community.

Bilateral trade between India and Qatar is around $10 billion and both the countries would like to expand it significantly.

India is eyeing to attract investment from Qatar which has a major sovereign wealth fund.

From Qatar, Modi will go to Switzerland, where he will hold talks with President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

Switzerland is India's fifth largest trading partner of India. The European country is also the 11th largest foreign investor in India.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar had yesterday that India has been in touch with Switzerland on the issue of unaccounted money kept by Indians in Swiss banks, which will be raised by Modi during his talks with Swiss leaders.

''We are in touch with the Swiss government under the DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement) mandate and we have had some discussions on this and we have a few planned in the near future. We have received support from the Swiss authorities on exchange of information on tax data between the two countries.

''We do hope to engage as early as possible in the automatic exchange of information with Switzerland and this has been conveyed to Swiss tax authorities,'' he said.

On India's bid for NSG membership, Jaishankar said a `lot of progress'' has been made although issues remain to be sorted out for thing to really happen.

From Switzerland, the prime minister will travel to Washington on 6 June where he will have several engagements, including an address to a joint session of the US Congress. He will be the fifth Indian Prime Minister to do so.

Modi will meet heads of a number of American think tanks and will attend an event to repatriate Indian antiquity by the US.

On June 7, the prime minister will hold wide-ranging talks with President Barack Obama on the entire gamut of bilateral ties.

In the afternoon, Modi will meet business leaders and address the US-India Business Council during which he is expected to highlight measures taken by his government to ensure ease of doing business.

On 8 June, Modi will address a joint meeting of the US Congress which will be followed by a lunch to be hosted by the Speaker.

A reception is also being organised for Modi by the House and Senate Committees on foreign relations and the India Caucus. The Prime Minister will attend a community reception as well.

The prime minister will arrive in Maxico from the US on 8 June. He will have extensive talks with Mexican President Enrique Peieto on key bilateral issues, including India's membership bid at the NSG. The prime minister before leaving for India.