Di­as­pora call takes Modi to Por­tu­gal and Nether­lands

India Strategic - - CONTENTS - By Nilova Roy Chaud­hury

NEW DELHI. Hav­ing re­duced the du­ra­tion of his stay in the United States for his visit to meet with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi added two more Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions to con­tinue his en­hanced en­gage­ment with key Euro­pean Union mem­bers, while re­spond­ing to the call of the In­dian di­as­pora.

The un­cer­tainty of the Trump White House greet­ing weighed heav­ily on the minds of pol­icy mak­ers in New Delhi af­ter the US Pres­i­dent blamed In­dia as one of the rea­sons for pulling out of the Paris Cli­mate Change Agree­ment, prompt­ing the In­dian PM to can­cel the Hous­ton leg of his US tour. In­stead, the Prime Min­is­ter opted to pur­sue his en­hanced en­gage­ment with Europe, choos­ing to visit Por­tu­gal on his way to Washington and the Nether­lands on his back. Por­tu­gal was the first EU coun­try to elect a prime min­is­ter of In­dian ori­gin while, in Europe, af­ter Bri­tain, the sec­ond high­est num­ber of peo­ple of In­dian ori­gin live in The Nether­lands.

Even though th­ese were stopovers, each less than a day long, the vis­its re­flected the gov­ern­ment’s in­tent to in­ten­sify en­gage­ment with the Euro­pean Union as a whole and key mem­bers of the EU, par­tic­u­larly as Bri­tain pre­pares to leave the EU. They were aimed at strength­en­ing ties with the EU which, as a bloc, is In­dia’s largest trad­ing part­ner, and an ex­ten­sion of his vis­its to key EU mem­ber states, Ger­many, Spain and France ear­lier this month.

De­fence col­lab­o­ra­tion com­prises a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of In­dia’s en­gage­ment with the EU. The call of the In­dian di­as­pora also played a key role in the choice of both coun­tries on this visit, a se­nior of­fi­cial told In­dia Strate­gic.

Por­tuguese Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nio Costa is of In­dian ori­gin. His elec­tion as Por­tu­gal’s PM in 2015 opened av­enues to en­er­gise bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries of his birth and adop­tion.

Felic­i­tat­ing him in Lis­bon and pre­sent­ing him the Over­seas Cit­i­zen of In­dia card, Mr Modi said, “Prime Min­is­ter Costa rep­re­sents the best of the In­dian di­as­pora across the world.” Ear­lier, dur­ing his visit to In­dia in Jan­uary, Costa, orig­i­nally from Goa, had

been awarded the Pravasi Bhar­tiya Sam­man by the In­dian Pres­i­dent.

Mr Modi held wide-rang­ing talks with Mr Costa dur­ing his brief visit June 24, to dis­cuss ways to fur­ther in­ten­sify bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, and en­hance the eco­nomic as­pects of the re­la­tion­ship. Dur­ing their joint ad­dress to the me­dia af­ter the bi­lat­eral dis­cus­sions, Mr Modi, who clearly shared a great rap­port with Mr Costa said, other than PM Costa’s In­dian roots, foot­ball could fur­ther con­nect peo­ple in the two coun­tries. “Por­tuguese pas­sion for foot­ball runs deep. PM Costa him­self is a big fan. This could form another league to fur­ther con­nect our so­ci­eties,” Prime Min­is­ter Modi said.

Dur­ing the visit, a to­tal of 11 agree­ments were signed be­tween In­dia and Por­tu­gal, in­clud­ing a dou­ble tax­a­tion avoid­ance agree­ment and im­por­tant agree­ments on col­lab­o­ra­tion in Space and biotech­nol­ogy. There were also some agree­ments on cul­tural part­ner­ships, in­clud­ing shar­ing ar­chives, and higher ed­u­ca­tion, while busi­ness cham­bers signed sev­eral MoUs.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi con­cluded his three-na­tion tour on June 27 with a visit to The Nether­lands, af­ter his two day Washington visit, which be­lied ex­pec­ta­tions and was hugely suc­cess­ful, with the Trump White House rolling out the red car­pet and host­ing its first of­fi­cial White House din­ner in Mr Modi’s hon­our.

In The Nether­lands, PM Modi held talks with his Dutch coun­ter­part Mark Rutte at the lat­ter’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence of Cat­shuis in Am­s­ter­dam. Af­ter a two-hour long set of dis­cus­sions, In­dia and the Nether­lands signed MoU on Cul­tural Co­op­er­a­tion, MoU on Wa­ter Co­op­er­a­tion and Agree­ment on Amend­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity Ar­range­ment.

Ad­dress­ing a joint press meet with PM Rutte, Mr Modi reaf­firmed the sta­tus of the Nether­lands as an im­por­tant and nat­u­ral part­ner in In­dia’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

“The Nether­lands is a key part­ner to help In­dia achieve its goals,” Modi said, par­tic­u­larly thank­ing the key Euro­pean na­tion for back­ing In­dia’s Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime (MTCR) mem­ber­ship. Mr Modi held an in­ter­ac­tion with Dutch CEOs jointly with Mr Rutte. Wa­ter was iden­ti­fied as a prime sec­tor for co­op­er­a­tion; both ir­ri­ga­tion and con­ser­va­tion. The Dutch PM said Dutch com­pa­nies were keen to in­vest in In­dia, par­tic­u­larly in sec­tors like wa­ter man­age­ment, waste man­age­ment, agri­cul­ture, in­fra­struc­ture, smart cities, bank­ing and pen­sion funds.

Mr Modi said the Nether­lands is the 5th largest in­vest­ment part­ner glob­ally and, over the past three years, had emerged as the third largest source of FDI for In­dia. “Our trade and eco­nomic ties are in­creas­ing, said PM Modi. Mr Rutte said In­dia’s emer­gence as a global power is a “wel­come devel­op­ment from both po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic point of views.”

Ex­press­ing con­cern about the grave threat posed by the spread of ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism to both the coun­tries and the world, Modi and Rutte, in a joint com­mu­niqué, reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to com­bat ter­ror­ism and pre­vent rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion that could lead to vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism.

“The In­dia of the 21st cen­tury can­not stay be­hind when it comes to tech­nol­ogy and in­fra­struc­ture. Ev­ery­thing we have must be world class,” Mr Modi said.

“In­dia has taken up the re­spon­si­bil­ity in the field of re­new­able en­ergy. In­dia is mak­ing ev­ery ef­fort to make en­ergy from non con­ven­tional sources,” he said, ad­dress­ing a large group of the In­dian di­as­pora in The Hague. “Nether­lands is the coun­try which has sec­ond largest In­dian di­as­pora,” Mr Modi said at the In­dian com­mu­nity event, ad­ding that barely 10 per­cent of the di­as­pora had over­seas In­dian cards. He promised to rec­tify that sit­u­a­tion soon, as he signed off be­fore re­turn­ing to New Delhi.

In­dian Am­bas­sador Venu Ra­ja­mony said that the visit was ex­cep­tion­ally suc­cess­ful and that Mr Rutte also wrote a let­ter to Mr Modi con­demn­ing the ter­ror at­tack in Anant­nag which killed eight Hindu pil­grims and called for col­lab­o­ra­tion in tack­ling ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism.

In­ci­den­tally, The Nether­lands is the coun­try out­side In­dia with the max­i­mum num­ber of roads names af­ter Ma­hatma Gandhi.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi en­joy­ing the bi­cy­cle pre­sented by the Nether­lands Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte (right)

PM Modi with Por­tu­gal PM An­to­nio Costa, at Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal

(Top) PM Modi and the Nether­lands PM Rutte wit­ness­ing the sign­ing of MoUs be­tween In­dia and Nether­lands, at Am­s­ter­dam; Mr Modi with Por­tu­gal PM Costa in dis­cus­sions

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