New Delhi: 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)