21 world leaders visited India this year, more on way

August 26th, 2012 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Navinchandra Ramgoolam New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) India continued to be a favourite overseas destination for world leaders with as many as 21 heads of state or government visiting the country in the first eight months of this year and the leaders of Russia, Australia and Canada on the way.

The diplomatic calendar promises to be busy for the next few months as well, with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to come to India in October. India is also gearing to host the leaders of Australia and Canada, two important uranium-producing countries who could play an important role in enhancing this country’s ambitious nuclear energy plans.

Cutting across geographies and continental distances, 21 heads of state and government from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe have already visited India in search of fresh investment opportunities and diplomatic consultations on key international issues with a country that is seen as having a growing say In international affairs and remains one of the world’s premier economies.

The showpiece diplomatic event was the March 29 summit of the BRICS grouping, which brought leaders of top emerging economies, including Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, to New Delhi to firm up new pathways of cooperation among these regional giants.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s day-long visit April 8 was another show-stealer which imparted a fresh momentum to the revived dialogue process between India and Pakistan.

There were many visits from the leaders of African countries, underscoring the growing importance of a resurgent Africa in India’s foreign policy calculus.

The visits by Seychelles President James Alix Michel in January and his Mauritian counterpart Navinchandra Ramgoolam in February culminated in substantive plans to expand maritime cooperation in view of the escalating threat of piracy in the region.

The global slowdown, with eurozone crippled by a deepening recession, has made the Indian market an attractive destination.

In recent months, various international rating agencies have downgraded forecasts for the Indian economy, but this has not deterred world leaders from visiting the country, which is playing an increasingly proactive role in international fora, ranging from the UN to multilateral bodies like the BRICS, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Nuclear Security Summit and the East Asia Summit.

India is currently serving a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

With 2012 being the year of India’s Look East policy, which will culminate in the special India-ASEAN summit in December, India hosted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as chief guest on its Republic Day, January 26, and rolled out the red carpet for Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in July.

The Dec 20-21 India-ASEAN summit promises to be the mega diplomatic event which will bring together leaders of the 10 ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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