In an unusual outreach plan, the Ministry of External Affairs has drawn up a list of 68 countries that have not been visited by any political representative of the current government. The task of visiting these countries is being delegated to every Cabinet minister and Minister of State with Independent Charge, with trips to be wrapped up by December this year.
Each minister has been allotted a minimum of two countries that they have to visit before the year-end. They have been asked to share the dates suitable for the visits. According to a senior government official, countries have been allotted to the ministers based on the utilities of their portfolios.
The Indian Express has learnt that one of the most senior ministers of the government will be heading to Hungary, while a minister handling a key infrastructure portfolio will be flying to Panama and Nicaragua. A minister with a technology-related portfolio will soon visit Estonia and Latvia while another minister involved with an economic portfolio is expected to visit Malta.
“My private office is coordinating this plan, and it is requested that your private secretary notifies the suitable dates to my private secretary…,” Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has written to the ministers.
A senior official said: “Every minister keeps visiting US, England, China, Japan, Germany, etc but the Prime Minister wants that the ministers should also visit other nations for better international cooperation and understanding.”
Of the over 190 countries in the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited 46 countries at least once, and, according to the official, wants his ministers to contribute in improving foreign relations through their respective ministries.
In June, Sushma Swaraj had said that there will not be a single country with which India has not engaged by the end of 2016, adding that the push made by the government for investment on foreign trips yielded an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI). She had said that the international outreach plan helped the country bring in assistance from countries such as the US, France, Germany, England and Australia for the Centre’s flagship programmes.
“Foreign Direct Investment does not come sitting at home,” Swaraj had said in June, responding to criticism over Modi’s frequent overseas travels. “As much as $55 billion or Rs 369,000 crore has come through the FDI route in the last two years. It is about a 43 per cent jump over what it was during the UPA rule,” she said at her ministry’s press conference marking two years of the NDA government.