India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a three-country visit received a warm welcome from French President Emmanuel Macron Aug. 22, in a display of diplomacy and much needed boost to India’s image as a democracy on the global stage.
Modi’s visit to France, UAE and Bahrain from Aug. 22-26, including the weekend G-7 meeting, could be a welcome opportunity to strengthen ties with European democracies as well as the Middle East in the midst of tensions in Kashmir which is garnering increasing attention from rights activists and from Pakistan’s attempts to internationalize the domestic situation.
Modi held bilateral meetings and a summit with Macron, interacted with the Indian community, and dedicated a memorial to the Indian victims of the two Air India crashes in France in the 1950s & 1960s.
On Aug. 25-26, he participates in the G7 Summit meetings as a “Biarritz Partner” at the invitation of President Macron in the Sessions on Environment, Climate, Oceans and on Digital Transformation.
India and France will expand cooperation in security and counter-terrorism measures, Modi said at the press conference, apart from climate change and technology cooperation. “Both our countries have have had to regularly confront terrorist activities,” Modi tweeted. (हम दोनों देशों को आतंकवाद का लगातार सामना करना पड़ रहा है।)
France and the U.S. were among the countries that prevented a resolution brought by China in the United Nations Security Council, admonishing India for what Beijing said, was taking “unilateral” action in Kashmir.
According to Aparna Pande, research fellow and director of the India Initiative at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., for India, France is the “new best friend” replacing Russia. Pande also points to earlier French support backing the UNSC resolution on terrorist Masood Azhar and stronger actions by the Financial Action Task Force against Pakistan.
At the Sunday G-7 meetings, Modi is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump, providing yet another opportunity to press home points about Pakistan’s backing for anti-India elements and extremists in the region.
When addressing the Indian community in France, Modi focused on India’s growth trajectory, highlighting initiatives taken in the last five years. He further said that India-France ties were based on trust and principles of liberty, equality and fraternity and coined an acronym for the partnership between both the countries saying, “Today in the 21st century we talk of INFRA. I would like to say that for me it is IN+FRA, which means the alliance between India and France.”
Before returning for the G-7 meetings in France, Modi is visiting the United Arab Emirates Aug. 23-24, where he is discussing the “entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest,” with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,
He is also jointly releasing the stamp to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi along with Al Nahyan, and receiving the ‘Order of Zayed’, the highest civilian decoration conferred by the UAE government, and formally launching RuPay card to expand the network of cashless transactions abroad.
“UAE is our third-largest trade partner and fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India. The qualitative enhancement of these ties is among one of our foremost foreign policy achievements,” Modi said in a statement before departing India.
He visits the Kingdom of Bahrain Aug. 24-25, the first ever Prime Ministerial visit from India to the Kingdom. There he plans to “further boost our bilateral relations and share views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, in his meetings Prime Minister Prince Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and the King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and other leaders.
As always, wherever he goes, Modi makes sure to schedule meetings with the Indian diaspora. In Bahrain, he will participate in the formal beginning of the re-development of the temple of Shreenathji- the oldest in the Gulf region – in the wake of the auspicious festival of Janmashtami, he said.