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Posted at: Nov 25, 2015, 12:54 AM; last updated: Nov 24, 2015, 10:45 PM (IST)

A tepid look to East

Modi’s latest tour fails to excite

Of all his international sojourns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Malaysia and Singapore came and went without the familiar razzmatazz.  Given the state of race relations in Malaysia and the tight grip Singapore keeps on civic activity, Narendra Modi could not replicate his standard rock star-like tours. Malaysia anyway was a multilateral event, the tenth anniversary of the 10-country ASEAN accepting six near neighbours as observers to form the East Asia Summit. In the absence of a Wembley or a Silicon Valley, India’s diplomatic priorities came under the lens. Under the new dispensation, it is short of citing examples of tolerance and forbearance to other countries. In this case, he seized on India’s acquiescence of an adverse UN tribunal award to settle the maritime boundary with Bangladesh and advised China to follow a similar course in the South China dispute.

The PM’s formulation on terrorism did not go beyond platitudes. His preoccupation with a Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism once again found few takers because of its lack of sophistication and nuance. The PM did well to flag three other areas that need greater global cooperation but see no progress - cyber security, outer space and non-proliferation. He also did not fall for the temptation of announcing lower tariff barriers following ASEAN’s declaration of an economic community because this idea will take a few years to fructify. 

On the other hand, Modi's invitation to businessmen of both countries to exploit investment opportunities found a ready audience because they are already entrenched in India's financial and infrastructure sectors. Malaysia is anyway poised for making greater investments as Indian-origin veteran Sammy Vellu is the Razak government's point man for infrastructure with India. His predecessor's permission to Singapore to use Indian facilities for fighter and field army exercises and the tie-up with Malaysia to help in familiarisation with Russian military hardware helped him step up security cooperation by a notch. With world growth on a slow spiral, Modi held his own but could not break new ground.

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