Prime Minister Narendra Modi is executing his “fast-track diplomacy”—as his government calls it—with gusto: Including his current China visit, he will have been abroad for 53 of 365 days in 17 countries during his first year as Prime Minister.

That’s not very different from Manmohan Singh, who spent 47 of 365 days in 12 countries during the first year of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA-II (and 30 days during UPA-I).

Modi promised a strong foreign policy to the people of India after he took oath on May 26, 2014. The swearing-in ceremony was attended by leaders from eight neighbouring nations.

Here’s the most striking difference between the two PMs: Modi has made more state visits—official visits to countries—compared to summit-oriented visits by Singh.

Modi and Singh: Foreign Tours During First Year
Singh 1st term-1st year visitsDatesDaysSingh 2nd term-1st year visitsDatesDaysModi 1st year visitsDatesDays
Thailand (BIMSTEC Summit)Jul 29-31, 20043Russia (Shanghai Coop. Org./BRIC summits)Jun 15-17, 20093BhutanJun 15-16, 20142
UKSep 19-20, 20042Italy (G-8)Jul 7-11, 20095Brazil (BRICS Summit)Jul 13-18, 20146
USA (UN Gen. Assembly)Sep 21-27, 20047FranceJul 13-14, 20092NepalAug 3-4, 20142
Netherlands (India-EU Summit)Nov 7-10, 20044Egypt (Non-Aligned Movt.)Jul 15-17, 20093JapanAug 31-Sep 3 20144
Laos (India-ASEAN Summit )Nov 28-30, 20043USA (G-20)Sep 23-27, 20095USA (UN Gen. Assembly/Bilateral visit)Sep 25-30, 20146
MauritiusMar 30-Apr 2, 20054Thailand (ASEAN-INDIA/East-Asia Summits)Oct 23-25, 20093Myanmar (East Asia/ASEAN-India Summit)Nov 11-13, 20143
Indonesia (Afro-Asian Summit)Apr 22-25, 20054USANov 21-26, 20096Australia (G20 Summit/Bilateral visit)Nov 14-18, 20145
Russian FederationMay 8-10, 20053Trinidad & Tobago (Commonwealth Heads of Govt.)Nov 27-28, 20092FijiNov 19-20, 20142
Denmark (Climate Summit)Dec 17-18, 20092Nepal (SAARC Summit)Nov 25-27, 20143
RussiaDec 6-8, 20093SeychellesMar 10-11, 20152
Saudi ArabiaFeb 27-Mar 1, 20103MauritiusMar 11-12, 20151
USA (Nuclear Security Summit)Apr 10-13, 20104Sri LankaMar 13-14, 20152
Brazil (IBSA/BRIC summits)Apr 14-16, 20103FranceApr 09-11, 20153
Bhutan (SAARC summit)Apr 28-30, 20103GermanyApr 12-14, 20153
CanadaApr 14-17, 20153
ChinaMay 14-16, 20153
MongoliaMay 17, 20151
South KoreaMay 18-19, 20152

Source: Ministry of External Affairs Annual reports: 2004-05, 2009-10, 2014-15

Modi has been criticised for his foreign visits and days spent out of the country. But Singh was nearly as well travelled as Modi, in terms of days abroad.

Modi intends to use public diplomacy to project India’s soft power, as IndiaSpend reported earlier.

In terms of visits by heads of states to India, Modi’s first year saw 23 visits compared to 30 and 29 visits during Dr. Singh’s first year of his first and second terms respectively.

ParametersSingh, May-Dec 2004Singh, May-Dec 2009Modi, May-Dec 2015
Bilateral (Treaties/ Conventions/ Agreements Signed)223757
Multilateral (Treaties/ Conventions/ Agreements Signed)215
Instruments of full powers issued3135
Instruments of ratification/accession14510

Note: Definitions of the terms used can be found here. Source: Ministry of External Affairs Annual reports: 2004-05, 2009-10, 2014-15

A total of 57 bilateral treaties/conventions/agreements were signed during Modi’s first year (May 26, 2014 to December 31, 2014), compared to 37 and 22 bilateral treaties during Dr. Singh’s first year of UPA-II (May 22, 2009 to December 31, 2009) and UPA-I (May 22, 2004 to December 31, 2004), respectively.

ParametersSingh 1st year-1st termSingh 2nd term-1st yearModi first year
2003-042004-05% growth2008-092009-10% growth2013-142014-15% growth
Foreign Aid ($ million)16120829%414370-11%84898216%
Foreign Direct Investment2347%3126-18%242919%
Foreign Exchange Reserves10713626%2422556%30434212%

Note: Figures for Foreign Aid in US $ million and rest of the figures are in US $ billion; Sources: In the following list, 1 stands for 2003-04, 2 for 2004-05, 3 for 2008-09, 4 for 2009-10, 5 for 2013-14 and 6 for 2014-15. Foreign Aid: 1,2,3,4,5,6; Foreign Direct Investment: 1 to 6, Figures for FDI 2014-15 are up to February 2015; Foreign Exchange Reserves: 1,2,3,4,5,6; Exports and Imports: 1 to 4, 5 & 6

India’s foreign aid to other countries during Modi’s first year increased 16%. This was down by 11% during Singh’s first year of his second term, against an increase of 29% during the fist year of his first term.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) registered a growth of 19% in 2014-15 over 2013-14. During Singh’s first year of his first term, FDI saw an increase of 47% but declined 18% during his first year of second term.

Foreign exchange reserves in 2014-15 registered a growth of 12% over its previous year. The same saw an increase of 5% and 26%, respectively, during Singh’s first year of his two terms.

In terms of dollars, exports and imports declined 2% and 0.5%, respectively, in 2014-15 from 2013-14. In Singh’s first year of his second term, exports and imports declined far more sharply, 4% and 5%, respectively.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, under Modi, has restored some purpose and direction to India’s foreign policy, missing during the UPA’s second term, according to Dr. Uttara Sahasrabuddhe, professor for International Politics, University of Mumbai.

The breakthrough in the Indo-US nuclear deal during Dr. Singh’s first term was the chief highlight of his foreign policy. During his second term, foreign policy lacked direction, Sahasrabuddhe said, as his leadership was not accepted within the party and was largely driven by the bureaucracy, unlike Modi, who exerts greater control over foreign policy.

(Mallapur is a policy analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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