Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Ireland for a few hours on Wednesday, the first Indian PM after Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956, on his way to the US. This visit is expected to give a fresh momentum in the ties, with a clear focus on trade and Indian diaspora.
With a growing trade with Ireland and a socially influential Indian diaspora, India’s interests are growing in this small European country.
During his visit the Prime Minister will hold discussions with Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland. The Irish Prime Minister will also host a Working Lunch in honour of the visiting dignitary.
Officials say that India and Ireland have traditionally had cordial and friendly relations going back to the time of our freedom movement. “The present visit will provide an excellent opportunity to bolster economic relations between the two countries as there are clear complementarities between our flagship programmes, in particular Skill India and Digital India programmes and Ireland’s proven educational institutions. Information technology, smart agriculture and food processing industry provide other areas for closer cooperation for mutual advantage,” an official said.
The visit will also provide an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss global issues, particularly in the context of the upcoming UN session, which both Prime Ministers will be attending. India and Ireland will explore possibilities of working together in the multilateral fora on global challenges, including climate change, poverty alleviation, sustainable development goals, environment and disarmament.
Officials said that the bilateral trade has been growing in the last few years. Two-way trade in goods which was Euro 463 million in 2010 now stands at Euro 650 million. Total trade in goods stood at Euro 118 million from India to Ireland and Euro 206 million from Ireland to India. Total trade in goods and services in 2013 was €2.48 billion, up from €2.2 billion in 2012. “There is lot of scope for growth, and this visit can provide some momentum,” an official said.
There are about 26,000 Indians or persons of Indian origin in Ireland, of whom about 17,000 are Indian citizens. The bulk of the community is in healthcare (doctors and nurses), IT, engineering and senior management positions.
Officials said that the community is well-regarded locally and has integrated well into Irish society. “It will be an occasion to connect with this vibrant Indian community as well,” he said.
Ireland is becoming a significant destination for Indian students seeking higher education, particularly post-graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral students. There are over 1,400 Indian students in Irish higher educational institutions. “This will be another area of conversation during the PM’s visit,” an official said.
Traditionally, India has had good relations but there hasn’t been Prime Minister-level visits in the last 60 years, although cabinet ministers have exchanged visits at regular intervals.
“PM is keen that high-level visits happen with countries which have not been on the diplomatic radar. That was one of the reasons for scheduling this visit,” an official said.
The only Prime Minister to have visited Ireland was Jawaharlal Nehru – twice – in 1949 and 1956. Irish PM Garrett Fitzgerald visited India for the funeral of Indira Gandhi in 1984. PM Bertie Ahern paid an official bilateral visit in January 2006.