Modi out to woo Indians abroad and investment

Modi out to woo Indians abroad and investment
Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 26, 2015.

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi is on a three-nation mission to woo overseas Indians to boost investment, tourism and cultural ties as part of his goal of reaching out to the global Indian diaspora.

Mr Modi arrived in Paris yesterday to begin the tour of France, Germany and Canada, which started yesterday and ends on April 16.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, at a press briefing on Wednesday, called "people-to-people contacts... a very important component of India's bilateral relationships".

For Mr Modi, that means staging huge gatherings whenever he travels overseas.

During a visit to the United States last September, he addressed tens of thousands of Indian-Americans at Madison Square Garden in New York.

In Sydney two months later, about 21,000 people chanted "Modi, Modi" as he talked about bringing in reforms and discarding obsolete laws.

On this trip in Canada, he will address more than 8,000 members of the Indian diaspora at a hockey arena in the country, which is home to 1.2 million people of Indian origin.

His trip to France and Germany will be his first to Europe.

He was banned from visiting Europe until 2013 because of the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots when he was chief minister of Gujarat state.

He will go on a boat ride with French President Francois Hollande on the Seine river today.

Tomorrow, he is set to inaugurate the Hannover Messe, one of the world's biggest trade fairs, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He will push for closer nuclear ties with both leaders and try to boost investments in manufacturing, infrastructure and defence.

Mr Modi, in an interview to The Hindustan Times yesterday, his first to Indian media since coming to power in May last year, said the three countries "have great relevance to our development process and growth" and could contribute "in terms of capital flows, technology and best practices".

In Paris, Mr Modi will attend a reception for Indians, with his speech telecast live in five other French territories, including Reunion in the Indian Ocean.

"It doesn't hurt to say come invest in your country of origin," said former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh who has served in countries with large Indian diasporas, such as the US and Britain.

"Past governments, too, have reached out to the diaspora but Mr Modi has taken it a step further.

"He is making it an important plank of foreign policy."

This article was first published on Apr 10, 2015.
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