India’s Foreign Relations – June-August 2016

INDIA-AFGHANISTAN: Marking the completion of a landmark Afghan development project, , built on river Chist-e-Sharif in western Herat, during his visit to Afghanistan in June 2016. The Dam will irrigate 75,000 hectares of farmland in arid parts of western Afghanistan, besides generating 42-MW electricity. Originally constructed in 1976, the reservoir was damaged in the Afghanistan civil war. The Afghanistan government in 2015 changed the name of the project from Salma dam to Afghan-India Friendship Dam.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred with Amir Amanullah Khan Award, Afghanistan’s highest civilian honour.

INDIA-BANGLADESH: On 31 July 2016, Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mazibul Hoque jointly laid the foundation stone for the 15 km Agartala (India) – Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project. The Agartala-Akhaura railway project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina met then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi. The project, which was sanctioned in the 2012-13 railway budget, would be a part of the Trans-Asian Railway network and would provide a much shorter connectivity from north-eastern States of India to Kolkata, via Bangladesh.

INDIA-GHANA:  In June 2016, Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian President to visit Ghana. He addressed a joint business forum meeting in the country, and also held delegation-level talks on agreements on visa waiver. The tour came as a part of India’s ‘Outreach to Africa’ initiative.

INDIA-IVORY COST: President Pranab Mukherjee, during his official visit to Ivory Coast in June 2016, was accorded honorary citizenship of Abidjan when he was given a key to Ivory Coast’s economic capital. The honour is bestowed upon visiting Heads of States. He was also given a traditional tribal name ‘Asito’ which means ‘example’ that should be followed by younger generations.

INDIA-KENYA: During the visit to Kenya, in July 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta which led to the two sides deciding to deepen and expand cooperation in a wide range of areas as they signed seven pacts, including in the field of defence and security and avoidance of double taxation.

INDIA-MEXICO: During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Mexico, in June 2016, bilateral investments were a major focus during the talks. Both countries agreed to elevate their ‘Privileged Partnership’ into a strategic one and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto extended support for India’s NSG bid. Mexico also extended support to India’s International Solar Alliance initiative, which was launched at the Paris climate talks in 2015. Two-way trade between India and Mexico stands at around $6 billion. Within Asia, India is the largest importer of crude oil from Mexico.

INDIA-MOROCCO: During the visit of Vice President Hamid Ansari to Morocco, the two countries signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for improving bilateral relations in different areas, including cultural exchange, water and information technology.

INDIA-MOZAMBIQUE:  During the visit to Mozambique in July 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with President Filipe Nyusi. The two countries signed three pacts, including a significant “long-term agreement” under which India will buy pulses from this African nation to meet its recurring shortfall and contain prices of this commodity.

INDIA-MYANMAR: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Myanmar in August 2016 as part of the “Act East” policy of engaging with countries in Southeast Asia to drive an agenda of cooperative development. She held talks with Myanmar’s de facto ruler Aung San Suu Kyi, the first high-level contact between the two countries since the National League for Democracy came to power in 2015. Swaraj also met President Htin Kyaw. Talks between the two sides focussed on bilateral relations, the forthcoming BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in India, and security cooperation aimed at countering the activities of Myanmar-based militant groups from north-eastern States such as Nagaland, Manipur and Assam.

Security and connectivity issues dominated talks during the visit of President Htin Kyaw of Myanmar. Among the deals signed were two pacts to speed up construction of the Asian Trilateral Highway and agreeing to cooperate in efforts to fight insurgency. India also offered full support and backing to the new government in Myanmar, installed in March 2016, for its efforts to improve infrastructure.

INDIA-QATAR: During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Qatar, in June 2016, India and Qatar signed seven agreements and agreed to share intelligence to combat ‘hawala’ transactions (illegal money movement) and terror financing. The two countries also agreed to move beyond “trading relationship” and get into “strategic investments”.

INDIA-SOUTH AFRICA:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his official visit to South Africa in July 2016, signed four pacts with South African President Jacob Zuma, which are linked to the fields of information and communications technology, tourism, arts and culture, and science and technology. He also sought deeper collaboration with South Africa in the defence sector. Mr Modi also relived Mahatma Gandhi’s 1893 train journey between Pentrich and Pietermaritzburg. Business leaders from India and South Africa also signed eight MoUs at a CEO forum on the side-lines of Prime Minister Modi’s visit—in sectors including mining, railways, defence and education.

INDIA-SWITZERLAND: Prime Minister Narendra Modi scored a big win for India’s bid to be admitted to the Nuclear Suppliers Group or NSG, a 48-member club of nuclear trading nations, during his visit to Switzerland in June 2016. After a meeting with Mr Modi in Geneva, Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann, said, “We have promised India support in its efforts to become a member of NSG.” India has remained shut out for decades from the NSG because of its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while it developed its nuclear technology. Switzerland also promised to work with Indian authorities to tackle tax dodgers who stash money in Swiss bank accounts to avoid Indian taxes.

INDIA-TANZANIA:  India and Tanzania signed five bilateral agreements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the African country in July 2016. These included the extension of a $92 million line of credit by India for the rehabilitation of the water supply system in Tanzania’s Zanzibar region, an MoUs on water resource management and visa waiver for diplomatic passport holders.

INDIA-TUNISIA: During the visit of Vice President Hamid Ansari to Tunisia, in June 2016, both countries signed two MoUs on promotion of handicrafts and IT and communication and digital economy and discussed a range of issues of mutual and regional interests, including issue of spreading tide of extremism and terrorism which is a threat faced by both the nations.

INDIA-USA:  During the three-day visit to USA in June 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with President Barack Obama, who reiterated America’s support for India’s entry to the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group), which currently has 48 countries who trade in sophisticated nuclear technology and material while ensuring it is not used for weapons. Prime Minister Modi also became the fifth Indian leader since 1985 to address a joint session of the US Congress, and the first foreign leader to be invited to do so in 2016.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited Delhi in August 2016 to chair the annual strategic and commercial dialogue that was co-chaired by the External Affairs Minister of India, Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman. The dialogue reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relationship. India made a strong push for greater US support in getting a membership to the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Business ties, defence cooperation and clean energy initiatives were also focussed. The two sides also explored means for greater US participation in the Make in India flagship in the defence sector. Progress in the establishment of the Working Groups on Aircraft Carrier Technology and Jet Engine was reviewed.

In August 2016, India signed the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that will give the militaries of both countries access to each other’s facilities for supplies and repairs. The agreement will allow the Indian and US navies to have an easier time supporting each other in joint operations and exercises and when providing humanitarian assistance. While it is an enabling agreement, LEMOA does not make logistical support automatic or obligatory for either party. LEMOA is one of the four ‘foundational agreements’ that the USA enters into with its defence partners. With LEMOA, India has signed two of the four. The first one was signed in 2002—the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).