Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached the United States on Sunday for his fifth visit to the country and the first one during President Donald Trump’s office. India-America relations under Modi-Trump governance has been the subject of worldwide discussions on international relations ever since the American business tycoon took over the country’s presidential reigns. Modi landing in US was preceded by President Trump calling him a “true friend” in his tweet, as he looked forward to discussing “important strategic issues” with him.
PM Modi’s visits to America have been important junctions in his prime ministerial tenure. Each of his previous visits have been noteworthy in his efforts at not just strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, but also in his attempt to acquire the confidence of the Indian community in the United States. While we eagerly await to watch if and what might be the turn of events on occasion of Modi’s visit to a Republican ruled America, here is a look back at his previous four visits to the States.
Soon after making a sweeping victory at the national elections, PM Modi’s visit to the United States in September 2014 was his first foreign trip to the West as Prime Minister. The 2014 visit was also noteworthy on account of the fact that Modi was given entry to American shores after almost a decade of being denied a Visa due to the conjecture of his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The purpose of Modi’s visit foremost was the address to the United Nations General Assembly wherein he spoke at length on the need for fighting terrorism, climate change and finally the importance of Yoga. In his speech he pointed out to his readiness to conduct bilateral dialogue with Pakistan, provided the latter was willing to create an appropriate environment for the same. He wrapped up his speech with the call for an International Yoga Day.
Modi’s speech the the UNGA was followed by his fiery address at Madison Square which was attended by a large number of NRIs. Modi’s speech at Madison Square was particularly focused on the NRI population in America. He thanked them for their efforts at changing the perception of a country that was previously known for being inhabited by snake charmers. Addressing the issues faced by PIO card holders, Modi promised lifelong visas for them.
Also part of the visit was the release of the India-US joint vision statement which began with “chalein saath saath, forward together we go.”We have vastly different histories, but both our founders sought to guarantee freedoms that allow our citizens to determine their own destiny and pursue their personal aspirations. Our strategic partnership rests on our shared mission to provide equal opportunity for our people through democracy and freedom,” read the statement that called for developing ties between the two countries.
The second visit to the United States was also for the sake of addressing the United Nations General Assembly. However, as part of his visit, increasing foreign investment in Indian economy was clearly Modi’s top agenda. In New York, Modi conducted a meeting with top American CEO’s and outlined to them his vision of “start up India, stand up India.” Elaborating on his efforts to improve the business environment in India, Modi urged his audience to increase FDI in the country.
He held another round table meeting with the leads of media and technology related industries and spoke at length on his Digital India strategy in India, particularly his efforts at bringing internet to rural India.
Modi’s address at the United Nations in 2015 focused upon climate change and the need for alleviating poverty. “We are all at the UN here because we believe we must co-operate in all fields, whether that is the call for development or climate change. The objective of our collective efforts is common but differentiated responsibilities,” he said. Occasionally peppering his speech with Sanskrit sayings, Modi elaborated on his government’s efforts at reducing poverty including his vision to open bank accounts in rural India and the plan to provide clean drinking water and electricity at all times.
As part of his visit, Modi also held diplomatic talks with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and PM of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves.
In the second leg of the visit, Modi visited California where he attended a Townhall at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He also met industry leaders including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadela at an event in San Jose. He also addressed a massive gathering of Indians at the SAP Centre in the city and announced a direct Air India flight from Bengaluru-New Delhi to San Francisco.
In March 2016, PM Modi made his third visit to the United States for the purpose of attending the two days nuclear security summit at Washington. The summit was attended by leaders from around 50 countries to analyse the threat from nuclear weapons. As part of his speech in the summit, Modi elaborated on India’s national efforts to nuclear security. Apart from building a strong institutional framework for prioritising nuclear security, Modi also outlined his efforts at promoting physical and cyber technology that would act as barrier against nuclear terrorism. He also interacted with several world leaders at the event.
The fourth visit to America by Modi was unique with regard to the fact that this time on his focus was less on the diaspora and more on foreign affairs and diplomacy. Strategically, Modi had started off with first paying a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery, the civil war era burial ground that has over generations become the resting place for several American historical names including president John F. Kennedy and Robert Todd Lincoln. The 2016 visit of Modi was marked by his efforts at speaking directly to American consciousness. His tour further saw his discuss matters related to foreign affairs including defence cooperation between the two countries and economic tie ups.