India has received $55 billion in FDI in the last two years, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday, noting enhanced economic engagement with countries across the world has been a major priority area of the government’s foreign policy.
Swaraj addressed an hour-long annual press conference in which she highlighted the achievements of the NDA government in the diplomatic spehere in the past one year, dwelling at length on initiatives to expand India’s global engagements.
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The External Affairs Minister said government had touched base with 140 countries in the past year and listed India’s growing ties with nations in the African continent, countries of the Gulf region and Pacific islands as major achievements.
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India will reach out to 65 countries to which it will send its ministers. There have not been any ministerial visits to these countries, Swaraj said.
Swaraj said she and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited six SAARC countries, with the government strongly pursuing its “neighbourhood first” policy.
She said because of the sustained efforts, India has received $55 billion (Rs 3.69 lakh crore) in foreign direct investment in the last two years.
“It is an increase of 43 per cent compared to the time when UPA was in power. You have to make effort to get FDI. Because of our effort, FDI has gone up,” Swaraj said, adding various foreign governments are participating in India’s flagship programmes like rejuvenation of Ganga and smart cities projects due to MEA’s continuous efforts.
The External Affairs Minsiter said India’s ties with the US has improved significantly, adding the government will not undermine national interest while pursuing good relations with that country.
Swaraj touched upon a range of issues including government’s engagement with the diaspora, India’s position on South China Sea dispute and targeted killing by suspected Islamists in neighbouring Bangladesh.
On the issue of South China Sea, she said India wants peaceful settlement of the dispute. She said India will try to build consensus on Teesta water agreement with Bangladesh for which West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will have to be taken on board.
Talking about cooperation with Japan, Swaraj said the country will be a permanent participant in the Malbar exercise in which only India and the US participated earlier.
Swaraj announced that the last date for merging of PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) and OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) cards has been extended to December 31, 2016. It had expired on June 30. She said no fee will be levied for the merger till December 31.
Claiming that India’s global stature has improved significantly, Swaraj said it has been playing a major role at various multilateral forums and that confidence of the Indian diaspora has increased due to government’s proactive efforts.
Swaraj particularly highlighted India’s “increasing engagement” with the Gulf region and African continent. She said President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Palestine, Israel and Jordan and Modi’s trip to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar have been very successful.
“Never such an outreach was intiated (with the Gulf region),” she said, adding ties with the Arab league has also seen significant progress.
Talking about ties with African nations, she referred to the India-Africa Forum Summit here in October last year which was attended by 41 heads of government and heads of state. She also talked about summit with nations of Pacific islands in Jaipur in August last year to expand ties with the resource-rich region.
When asked about the International Yoga Day, Swaraj said it will be celebrated in 191 countries. She said it is not being organised in Libya and Yemen due to internal situation in those two countries.
The External Affairs Minister said she had earlier planned to visit Poland to participate in the celebrations but shelved it.
About differences with the US on issues relating to WTO, she said it was natural to have divergent views but ties between the two countries were growing significantly. At the same time, she said India has not abandoned the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Swaraj said India’s ties with the neighbouring countries have improved, adding misunderstandings with Nepal was removed.
She said after the process of issuance of passport was simplified, a whopping 1.03 crore travel documents were issued in the last one year.
When asked about possible reshuffle of the Union cabinet, she said it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative.
She also released a book on the government’s foreign policy achievements.