Sushma Swaraj's tenure as External Affairs Minister

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chats with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during the US-India Joint Strategic and Commercial Dialogue Opening Plenary, at the US Department of State in Washington DC, on 22 September 2015.

Sushma Swaraj was the Indian External Affairs Minister under Prime Minister Narendra Modi from May 2014 till May 2019, responsible for implementing the foreign policy of Narendra Modi. She is only the second women to hold this position after Indira Gandhi.


Swaraj is a lawyer by profession and a seasoned parliamentarian with many 'first-timer' records in her name, often considered to be among the best spoken Indian politician and also known for her diplomatic skills. She served as the Leader of the Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014 and by virtue of her designation she had the opportunity to meet a galaxy of world leaders visiting India apart from her official foreign trips. This has significantly improved her understanding in world affairs and also helped her to develop a personal rapport with many important dignitaries.[1]

Policy initiatives[edit]

Fast-track Diplomacy[edit]

On completion of the first 100 days of Modi govt the External Affairs Ministry published a booklet called "Fast Track Diplomacy"[2] show-casing the achievement made in the foreign policy arena. In her first media interaction, the minister Sushma Swaraj said the catchphrase for her tenure was "fast-track diplomacy" and said it had three faces – proactive, strong and sensitive.[3] Since taking office, the External Affairs Minister held round-table meeting with all Indian heads of missions to the SAARC region, ASEAN region and Middle East separately as a follow up measure to carry forward the leads gained by high-profile visits and exchanges.

Act East Policy[edit]

From the very beginning, the NDA Government made it ample clear that India would focus more and more on improving relation with ASEAN and other East Asian countries as per India's Look East policy which was formulated during Narasimha Rao's Government in 1992 for better economic engagement with its eastern neighbours but successive Governments later successfully turned it into a tool for forging strategic partnership and security cooperation with countries in that region in general and Vietnam and Japan in particular.[4] In her recent visit to Hanoi, Vietnam, Sushma Swaraj has stressed on the need for an Act East Policy[5] that she said should replace India's over two decade-old Look East Policy emphasizing a more proactive role for India in this region.[6]

Multilateral engagements[edit]

ASEAN Regional Forum[edit]

Swaraj attended the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum followed by the related EAS Foreign Ministers meeting, held from 8–11 August in Naypidaw, Myanmar, which was her first ever appearance in multilateral forums after becoming India's foreign affairs head. She had held bilateral meetings with her counterparts from seven countries including China, Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.[7][8]

Foreign trips made as External Affairs Minister[edit]

The following is a list of international visits made by Swaraj after taking office as External Affairs Minister on 26 May 2014.


Country Areas visited Date(s) Purpose(s) Notes
 Bangladesh Dhaka 26–27 June Official visit
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Bangladesh on 26–27 June 2014, where she met her counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood following a conversation with her counterpart's fellow Bengali and Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee.[9] Discussions were held regarding the Land Boundary Agreement, the proposed Teesta river pact and illegal immigration.[10]
 Bhutan Thimpu 16–17 June Official visit
She accompanied the Prime Minister in his maiden foreign tour to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan with which India shares a special relation from decades.
   Nepal Kathmandu 27–29 July Official visit
Prior to Modi's visit, Swaraj made a three-day visit to Nepal from 27 July 2014 and co-chaired the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission meeting and also prepared the ground for Modi's scheduled visit. The last visit by a foreign minister of India to Nepal was made 23 years before.[11]
 Myanmar Naypidaw 8–11 August ASEAN Regional Forum
She visited Naypidaw for four days from 8 August for the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum and EAS Foreign Ministers meeting.[7] She had bilateral meetings with her counterparts from seven countries including China, Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia. External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that they were working with Vietnam on a "high-level VVIP visit" from India later in the year, while Swaraj would travel there later in the month to pave the way for the visit. In regards to controversy of territorial ownership in the South China Sea, where ONGC Videsh has oil blocks, he said: "India is not a party to the dispute in the South China Sea. We feel that the dispute should be resolved between those who are party to it in a peaceful manner and it should be in accordance with international law."

With Australia, discussion took place to expedite a civil nuclear deal. Swaraj invited Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird to India, which he "gladly accepted," in October.[12][13]

 Singapore Singapore 16–18 August Official visit
External Affairs Minister Swaraj also visited Singapore on 16 August where she held talks with her counterpart, Shanmugam, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong regarding Singapore's investment in India and their potential role in Modi's pet "smart city" project.[14]
 Vietnam Hanoi 24–25 August Official visit
Swaraj also made an official trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, where she called on Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Vice-President Nguyan Tha Doan and held bilateral talk with her counterpart Pham Binh Minh. Her visit was also to lay the groundwork for the state visit by President Pranab Mukherjee from 14–17 September, days before the India visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in India. Big ticket announcements are expected during President’s visit in defence and strategic cooperation including US$100 m line of credit for purchase of Fast attack craft for Vietnamese navy from India and enhancing oil exploration cooperation in offshore rigs on South China sea provided by Vietnamese authority to ONGC Videsh.[15][16]
 Bahrain Manama 7–8 September Official visit
 Afghanistan Kabul 10 September Official visit
Swaraj arrived in Kabul on 10 September to held discussion with outgoing President Hamid Karzai amid hopes of final election results might be out in next couple of days and for the first time Afghanistan would experience a civilian transition of power since the fall of Taliban in 2001. Although the main agenda of her visit was to strengthen the Indo-Afghan strategic security cooperation following NATO withdrawal from the country by end of 2014 and re-emergence of the Taliban and other al-Qaeda in the subcontinent, the US-Afghan "bilateral security agreement" (BSA) was also expected to be featured in her discussion with Karzai. She also inaugurated a new Chancery complex in Kabul.[17][18]
 Tajikistan Dushanbe 11–12 September SCO
On 11–12 September EAM Sushma Swaraj visited Dushanbe, Tajikistan to attend the 13th Annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is often regarded by the West as a counter organization of NATO, where India so far held an observer status but from Dushanbe summit, India was formerly granted a full membership so from next year on India will be represented by the President at the heads of state summit and if everything goes well, PM Modi could participate at the heads of government summit in Astana, Kazakhstan in December.[18][19]
 United States New York City, Washington 24 September – 1 October United Nation
She is expected to hold meetings with her counterparts from around 100 countries and attend foreign ministers level meet of several special grouping such as IBSA, G4, BRICS, SAARC among others. She will then accompany Modi in his trip to Washington, D.C..[20]
 United Kingdom London 17 October Official visit
She inaugurated the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in London.
 Mauritius Port Louis 1–3 November Official visit
She was on a three-day visit to the Indian Ocean nation, to celebrate Apravasi Divas, marking 180 years since the first Indian indentured labourers arrived in Mauritius. There she had called on President Rajkeswur Purryag and Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam to discuss bilateral and regional issues of common interest, her agenda also includes talk on cooperation between Indian Navy and Mauritian Coast Guard to ensure the safety and security of the strategically vital Indian Ocean region. In support to her stress on the importance of maritime cooperation three major Indian war ships were docked in Mauritian waters including a destroyer INS Mumbai, a frigate INS Talwar and the fleet tanker INS Deepak.[21]
 Maldives Malé 3 November Official visit
Foreign Minister Swaraj during her maiden trip to Malé on 3 November 2014 held discussion with her counterpart Dunya Maumoon on bilateral and regional issues of mutual interests and also reiterated India's strong commitment towards prosperity, stability and security of Maldives. The two sides also plans to celebrate 50 years of establishment of bilateral relation.[22]
 United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi 10–12 November Official visit
Foreign Minister Swaraj during her maiden trip to Abu Dhabi tried to win the confidence of potential UAE investors and welcomed them to join the new Indian Government efforts to build world class infrastructure in India which is expected to require foreign investments up to US$1 trillion in next five years. She had also held discussion with her counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. During the meeting, both sides reviewed the existing bilateral relations and took stock of progress and development in joint cooperation in many areas and looked into the ways of enhancing them for common interests.[23]
   Nepal Kathmandu 24–27 November SAARC summit
It was her second Nepal visit in little over four months. She participated in the SAARC Foreign Minister's meeting in Kathmandu on 25 November, a day before the summit begins. She also met Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister, on the margins which she later referred a "courtesy call".[24]
 South Korea Seoul 28–30 December Official visit
Swaraj visited Republic to Korea to attend the 7th Joint-Commission meeting in Seoul. Trade and investments to top the agenda including joint shipbuilding ventures will be endorsed heavily under Make in India programme.[25][citation needed]


Country Areas visited Date(s) Purpose(s) Notes
 China Beijing 31 January – 3 February RIC summit and Official visit
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj made her maiden visit to the People's Republic of China from 31 January to 3 February where she met her counterpart Wang Yi and called on Chinese President Xi Jinping apart from participating in Russia–India–China (RIC) trilateral foreign ministers meeting in Beijing. She also met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov separately on the sidelines. She inaugurated "visit India" campaign to promote more Chinese tourists in India.[26]
 Oman Muscat 17–18 February Official visit
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj made her maiden visit to the Sultanate of Oman, the country with which India shares warm bilateral relations in the Gulf.[27][28]
 Sri Lanka Colombo 6–7 March Official visit
Foreign Minister Swaraj arrived in Colombo, on her maiden visit to the island country, on 6 March 2015 to make the preparation for Prime Minister Modi's upcoming visit on 13 March. She called on Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and also call on Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and held discussion on bilateral issues with her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera.[29][30]
 Turkmenistan Ashgabat 7–9 April Official visit
Foreign Minister Swaraj visited Ashgabat on 7 April 2015 on a three-day visit. There she met President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov besides co-chairing an inter-governmental joint commission with her counterpart Rashid Meredov. TAPI gas pipeline is believed to be the key agenda of talks between India and Turkmenistan.[31][32]
 Indonesia Bandung 21–24 April Bandung Conference
Foreign Minister Swaraj visited Bandung, Indonesia, to join the celebration of 60 years of Bandung Conference.[33]
 South Africa Durban 18–21 May Official visit
Swaraj personally handed over the invitation for upcoming Third India Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi to South African President Jacob Zuma. She also participated in Ninth India-South Africa Ministerial meetings.[34]
 United States New York City 20–22 June Yoga Day celebration at United Nations
   Nepal Kathmandu 2 June Donor's conference on Nepal earthquake Rehabilitation
She held bilateral meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi apart from participating in Nepal quake donor's conference where India pledged US$1 billion for the rehabilitation work.[35]
 Thailand Bangkok 27–29 June Official visit
 Egypt Cairo 23–25 August Official visit
 Germany Berlin 25–27 August Official visit
 Pakistan Islamabad 7–8 December Heart of Asia conference


Country Areas visited Date(s) Purpose(s) Notes
 Sri Lanka Colombo 5–6 February
   Nepal Pokhara 16–17 March 37th SAARC Council of Ministers' Meeting
 Iran Tehran 16–17 April
 Russia Moscow 17–19 April
 Myanmar Naypyidaw 22 August
 Italy Rome 2–5 September


On 8 September, in her very first official media briefing, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a controversial remark when a foreign journalist had asked her view on the upcoming 2014 Scottish independence referendum which was scheduled on 18 September, she replied by saying "I don't think any possibility of that, God forbid it should happen". Her remark was highlighted in Daily Mail and other media outlets in UK although her foreign secretary tried to cover it up later by saying "It's for Scotland to decide".[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sushma Swaraj-first woman to get External Affairs portfolio". 26 May 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Fast Track Diplomacy".
  3. ^ "PM Modi's 100 days: Sushma Swaraj talks tough on Pakistan, China and US". The Economic Times. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Vietnam among pillars of India's "Look East" policy". Vietnam News Agency. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Modi govt to give greater push to India's Look East Policy, says Sushma Swaraj". Firstpost. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Sushma Swaraj tells Indian envoys to Act East and not just Look East". The Economic Times. 26 August 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Sushma Swaraj in Myanmar for ASEAN meet, East Asia Summit". Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Swaraj holds 7 bilateral meetings on sidelines of ASEAN summit". Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Sushma Swaraj in Dhaka". BDNews24. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Sushma Swaraj on 2-Day Visit to Bangladesh, Teesta, Land Boundary Top of Agenda". 26 June 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Sushma Swaraj describes her Nepal visit very successful". The Times of India. 27 July 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Swaraj holds 7 bilateral meetings on sidelines of ASEAN summit". Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Sushma Swaraj Describes Myanmar Visit as Very Successful". Zee News. 11 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Report: Singapore to Help India in Smart Cities Project After Sushma Swaraj's Visit". Daily News and Analysis. 16 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Sushma Swaraj in Hanoi, India examining Vietnam's South China Sea oil blocks offer". 25 August 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Sushma Swaraj tells Indian envoys to Act East and not just Look East". The Economic Times. 26 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Sushma Swaraj arrives in Afghanistan; strategic ties on the agenda". The Indian Express. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Sushma meets Karzai in Kabul, stresses partnership". Hindustan Times. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  19. ^ "Delhigears to join China-Russia club". 8 June 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  20. ^ "sushma swaraj begins US visit meets counterparts from 7 nations". The Economic Times. 25 September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  21. ^ "India to cooperate with Mauritius to safeguard Indian Ocean". The Economic Times. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  22. ^ "India committed to Maldives' security & stability: Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj". The Economic Times. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  23. ^ "External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeks increased UAE investments during visit". The Economic Times. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  24. ^ "Swaraj, Aziz meet briefly on SAARC sidelines". The Indian Express. 25 November 2014.
  25. ^ "Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on three-day visit to South Korea from Sunday". The Economic Times. 26 December 2014.
  26. ^ "Sushma Swaraj arrives in Beijing on four-day visit; China allays fears of regional hegemony". The Times of India. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  27. ^ "Official visit of Minister of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs to the Sultanate of Oman". Ministry of External Affairs (India). 16 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  28. ^ "India seeks its place in Indian Ocean ahead of Modi's China visit". Times of India. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Sushma Swaraj to travel to Sri Lanka ahead of PM Modi's visit". Press Trust of India/Live Mint. 1 March 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  30. ^ "External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj calls on Sri Lankan President Sirisena upon arriving in Colombo". Press Trust of India/Daily News and Analysis. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  31. ^ "Sushma Swaraj visits Turkmenistan". Twitter. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  32. ^ "Sushma Swaraj in Turkmenistan to hold talks on TAPI, key issues". The Economic Times. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  33. ^ "Visit of EAM to Indonesia". Ministry of External Affairs (India). 21 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  34. ^ "Sushma Swaraj leaves on four-day visit to South Africa".
  35. ^ "Sushma Swaraj concludes Nepal visit".
  36. ^ "India, Thailand sign multiple agreements, including DTAT".
  37. ^ a b "Keeping up connect with Arab world, Sushma to visit Egypt". Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  38. ^ "RAISINA TATTLE Sushma stumped Scottish independence". Daily Mail. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.