Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 13 official foreign trips, including visits to the US, China and Russia, have made headline news but official records show that the rest of his Cabinet has had little opportunity to travel abroad.
At least 32 ministers, or half of Modi’s Cabinet, have not travelled abroad since the NDA government came to power on May 26, 2014, according to information provided to The Indian Express under the RTI Act by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Of the 114 official trips made by the rest, till May 6, 2015, 36 — or nearly one-third — were by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Minister of State V K Singh, records show.
While the MEA under the previous UPA government issued 265 clearances for Union ministers to travel abroad from May 26, 2013 to May 6, 2014, only 123 clearances were granted by the ministry in the same period after the NDA came to power.
Interestingly, at least 45 proposals of NDA ministers to travel abroad, which were cleared by the MEA, were either not cleared by the PMO or were withdrawn by ministers, or were not even forwarded to the PM’s office, which is the final authority on this issue.
The records show that while the MEA cleared 123 proposals for official foreign trips of 30 Union ministers, only 78 were cleared by the PMO — these numbers do not include the trips undertaken by Swaraj and Singh.
Among the proposals cleared by the MEA but missing from the list of clearances issued by the PMO were those of Union ministers Anant Geete, M Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad, and ministers of state Piyush Goyal and Rajiv Pratap Rudy to visit Hanover to attend a trade fair in April.
Other such proposals included a trip to London by Law Minister Sadananda Gowda, and others to Canada and South Korea by MoS Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.
According to records, a proposal by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to visit the US from April 12-20, 2015, was cleared by the MEA. But PMO data shows the duration of the trip was cut to six days, from April 14-19.
One of Naidu’s proposals — to visit Berlin from May 19-20, 2015 — was shot down at the MEA level itself.
The reluctance to travel abroad appears to include personal trips too, records show.
Over the last year, 10 ministers undertook one private trip each: Union ministers Jaitley, Geete, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Maneka Gandhi and Najma Heptulla, and ministers of state Y S Chowdary, Babul Supriyo, Manoj Sinha, G M Siddeshwara and Rao Inderjit Singh.