On June 1, Minister of State for Health, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, set a new record by becoming the first Indian minister ever to visit the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. The island with a population of 11, 200 people, is the 189th country to be visited by a minister of the NDA government under their Brihad Sampark Yojana. The Yojana targets 192 counties of the world and was launched in 2015.
In Tulavu, Choubey met their Home Minister Namoliki Sualiki Neemia, and handed over a cheque of $50,000 as a symbol of development partnership assistance, and invited Tulavu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga to visit India.
The NDA government’s foreign policy tactic has proved that size doesn’t always matter much in diplomacy. Tuvalu became independent in 1978, and was yet, among the 34 co-sponsors of a G4 (India, Japan, Germany and Brazil) draft resolution that suggested reforms of the United Nations way back in 2005.
Three more countries now remain in the list of 192 member states of the United Nations that the NDA government wishes to send a minister to. Upendra Kushwaha, the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, is slated to visit the Marshall Islands later this month.
The other two countries to which visits are being planned are both are in the same region as Tuvalu— Kiribati and Micronesia.
“We have just got two more countries to cover after the July visit to Marshall Islands for which the details are being worked out. After July, we will have Kiribati and Micronesia left to cover. It’s something that kept us on toes as this initiative has frequent reviews by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj,” said an official involved in the outreach effort.
The Brihad Sampark Yojana is meant to ensure a ministerial visit to each of the 192 countries. “If you want to be a global player and a global power you need to reach out to all parts of the world. Engagement at political level is important, however small some countries might be, because all of them carry one vote at the United Nations,” said former foreign secretary, Lalit Mansingh.
Every minister in this race is doing their bit: Piyush Goyal visited Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; Suresh Prabhu travelled to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Panama; Nirmala Sitharaman went to Croatia; Ravi Shankar Prasad visited Latvia and Estonia, and Mukhtar Ababas Naqvi visited Gambia.