Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to run a reality check on bilateral cooperation India had entered into with other countries during the past ten years under the Congress-led UPA government to assess whether the commitments had just remained on paper or had brought actual changes on the ground.
Modi is keen on trade and economic linkages driving India’s foreign policy, especially in the neighbourhood that would also bring in the dividends of goodwill.
A communication sent to a dozen ministries — including petroleum and natural gas, telecommunications, shipping, civil aviation, highways, and financial services, among others — last Thursday sought details of pacts various ministers has entered into with their counterparts in other countries under bilateral cooperation along with the outcomes of such endeavours. The reply has to be sent back to the PMO by next week.
Nearly 64.5% of the external affairs ministry’s budget is devoted to technical and commercial cooperation with other countries. The amount earmarked in the 2014-15 budget for the same is Rs. 6,268.81 crore.
“The move is aimed at assessing if the previous government went on an MoU-signing spree or delivered on the commitments… if the agreements translated into any tangible difference,” said a senior government official.
The UPA government signed close to 600 bilateral agreements in various areas including trade and business, transport, defence, security, education, health and cultural relations since May 2004, when it first came to power. “Re-sowing confidence in the India story domestically as well as internationally” was also a key point in BJP’s election manifesto, an official pointed out.
Many of Indian projects abroad run into delays and cost overruns. “Delay in projects means the perception about India takes a hit. After all, many projects are of strategic nature and winning the goodwill of local people is essential,” said a government source.