Economic diplomacy on Modis East Asian agenda

New Delhi: After his foray into the US, Australia, Europe and Indian Ocean countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set his sights on the strategically-important East Asia region. He will pay a three-nation official visit to China, Mongolia and Korea from May 14 to 19.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday officially announced his visit to China from May 14 to 16 on the micro-blogging website Weibo, saying he is looking forward to have productive discussions with top Chinese leadership.

“Looking forward to visiting China from 14-16 May to strengthen friendship between our two ancient civilisations and the two largest developing countries,” Modi wrote on the Chinese microblog that has over 500 million users.

“Eagerly awaiting my visit to Xi’an, Beijing and Shanghai and my productive discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang,” he said in another post.

This is the first time his visit has been officially announced. 

According to officials, the visit is aimed at giving a boost to the East Asia policy, aligning it with Make in India initiatives and bringing momentum to the country’s foreign policy in the strategically significant region.

In China, the Prime Minister will visit Xian, Beijing and Shanghai.

Modi would kick off his visit from ancient Chinese city of Xi’an where he would be hosted by President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan to reciprocate the hometown bonhomie displayed by the Indian leader when the Chinese leader visited Ahmadabad in September last year.

Xi’an is the provincial capital of Shaanxi province, the home province of President Xi.

It is rare for Chinese leaders to receive foreign guests in cities other than Beijing and according to officials Xi was keen to reciprocate warm and innovative welcome extended by Modi when he
visited India.

In Beijing, the focus will be on boundary issues. Both countries have an unsettled boundary of 3,488 km that often acts as an irritant to the ties.

He will also hold bilateral meetings with China’s leadership and participate in cultural and business events. Modi will also attend an event organized by the Indian community in China.

The Prime Minister will then depart for Mongolia on May 17. This would be the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia.

Mongolia and India are keen to move forward on the MoU for Uranium supply that the two countries had entered in 2009. Mongolia is keen on Indian helping the country in cyber security. Help in border patrolling is another area where the two countries will be stepping up the ties.

He will then visit Korea during which he would hold bilateral discussions with President Park Geun-hye besides meeting important business leaders in Seoul.

Modi’s trip to South Korea may yield a $10 billion financial assistance package for his pet projects of smart cities, Digital India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. India is keen on getting investment and going for joint manufacturing in areas where South Korea has a technological edge.

The PM is likely to seek South Korean expertise in shipbuilding, in particular, for Make in India.

With the Modi government keen to improve the state of Indian Railways, cooperation in railways is likely to be another key item on the agenda during the PM’s trip. South Korea is keen to work with India to improve existing rail tracks, which will help increase the speed of trains, a much sought-after goal in India, officials said.

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