Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Ireland for a few hours on Wednesday, the first Indian PM after Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956 to visit the country. Like many of the PM’s visits, this one too is expected to have a clear focus on trade and the Indian diaspora.
Trade has been growing with Ireland and it has a socially influential Indian diaspora – hence India’s growing interest in this small European country. “PM is keen that high-level visits happen with countries which have not been on the diplomatic radar. That was one of the reasons for scheduling this visit,” an official said.
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India and Ireland have traditionally had cordial and friendly relations going back to the time of our freedom movement. However, it is 60 years since an Indian PM visited Ireland. “The present visit will provide an excellent opportunity to bolster economic relations as there are clear complementarities between our flagship programmes, in particular Skill India and Digital India programmes and Ireland’s proven educational institutions,” an official said.
Officials said that bilateral trade has been growing in the last few years. Two-way trade in goods, Euro 463 million in 2010 now stands at Euro 650 million. Total trade in goods and services in 2013 was €2.48 billion, up from €2.2 billion in 2012.
There are about 26,000 Indians or persons of Indian origin in Ireland, of whom about 17,000 are Indian citizens. The bulk of the community is in healthcare (doctors and nurses), IT, engineering and senior management positions.
Also, Ireland is becoming a significant destination for Indian students seeking higher education, particularly post-graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral students. There are over 1,400 Indian students in Irish higher educational institutions. “This will be another area of conversation during the PM’s visit,” an official said.
The only Prime Minister to have visited Ireland was Jawaharlal Nehru – twice – in 1949 and 1956. Irish PM Garrett Fitzgerald visited India for the funeral of Indira Gandhi in 1984. PM Bertie Ahern paid an official bilateral visit in January 2006.