It will be a busy week ahead for the ministry of external affairs. Diplomats will have to look east, act west and reach for the stars and the stripes as foreign dignitaries flock to desi shores. President of Myanmar U Htin Kyaw, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and US Secretary of State John Kerry come calling next week.
All three are significant and represent different—all essential—blocks of the Modi government’s strategy: better relations with the US, engaging Africa and of course, neighbourhood first. It will be an opportunity for India to push hard on terrorism—an issue that will come up in each meeting. And it will be a chance for India to finetune another aspect of the foreign policy that this government believes very strongly in—linking commerce with diplomacy. Bettering ties through stronger bonds of business will be a part of the agenda of all the three visitors.
The Myanmar president kicks off these visits from Saturday. “We intend to make this a substantial visit,’’ said joint secretary, Myanmar and Bangladesh, Sripriya Ranganathan. India hoped to be able to take to the relationship to a new level, she said. One of the big components would be business. The president’s visit comes close on the heels of the visit by Indian foreign minister to Myanmar earlier this week. It is interesting to see how Myanmar is choosing to balance both its neighbours with the foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi choosing China as her first visit and the president India.
For Egypt, which has close to four billion dollars worth of trade with India, the ministry is hoping to push for level playing field for Indian companies. The visit begins on September 1. "Egyptian president is looking for more investment from India,'' said Amar Sinha, secretary, economic relations. "Egypt is growing at about five per cent which you can't sneeze at especially at a time when people are struggling to grow."
India will also use these visits to push its case about terrorism.
Egypt is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and an essential ally when it comes to the war on terrorism especially in fighting the Islamic State. "It is an important issue," said Sinha. "We will keep it in focus." There will also be an attempt by India to get Egypt to take a stronger stand when it comes to the statements made by the OIC members on Kashmir. "We will raise it with them," he said. Kashmir was an internal issue. The public stand of friends differed from what they told India in private, he added.
The T word will also figure in the biggest visit of them all by US Secretary of State John Kerry for the Second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. Kerry arrives on Monday. With the Barrack Obama administration at the end of its term, it will be essential for India to iron out the details of its rather ambitious commercial links with the US. India will also push its case about cross border terrorism from Pakistan with Kerry. "It will be strategic and commercial dialogues. We expect all bilateral issues, global developments on the strategic and commercial side to come up,'' said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.