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Modi’s European Tour Kicks Off in Germany

Although the West has bristled at his approach to Ukraine, India’s leader is far from isolated.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boards a plane at Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, Sri Lanka, on June 9, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boards a plane at Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, Sri Lanka, on June 9, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boards a plane at Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, Sri Lanka, on June 9, 2019. ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s European tour, what’s happening in the world this week, and more news worth following from around the world.

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s European tour, what’s happening in the world this week, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Modi Meets Scholz in Berlin

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks Monday on a three-country tour of Europe, beginning with Germany, as the West continues its charm offensive amid India’s neutral position on Ukraine.

For German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, it will be his second meeting with a leader of an Asian democracy in the space of a few days, following his trip to Japan last week to meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Modi’s travels take him to Denmark on Tuesday, where he is due to participate in the India-Nordic Summit, also including the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

He heads to France on Wednesday, where he’ll meet with newly reelected French President Emmanuel Macron and mark 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Although it’s his first foreign trip this year, Modi hasn’t lacked for international attention lately. There has been a steady flow of foreign dignitaries in India over the past few months, with both EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting Modi over the past two weeks.

In quieter times, those visits would still make strategic sense: Western leaders have long courted India for its potential economic benefits. Nowadays, those trips amount to a loosely coordinated persuasion campaign, as India’s neutral position on Russia’s war in Ukraine has awakened the West to the reality that not all powers see the world the same way Washington and Brussels do.

As FP columnist C. Raja Mohan wrote in March, the war has also put India in an enviable position: making the West desperate to supply the country with weapons, getting discounted oil and other commodities from Russia, and even receiving diplomatic overtures from China.

Scholz is expected to do his part by making India an invitee to the next G-7 summit, which will take place in the Bavarian Alps in June. He will also have an eye on unwinding India’s tight defense relationship with Russia by pushing European defense firms to fill the gap, Bloomberg reports.

The meeting could mean good news for Indian workers, too, with discussions expected to include relaxing immigration rules to address labor shortages in the tech sector, something Modi and Johnson also spoke about last week.

And while India has been criticized for increasing its oil imports from Russia, it won’t be lost on Modi that the leader of the second-largest importer of Russian oil in the world will be sitting across from him in Berlin. That may change soon, after one of Scholz’s key advisors suggested a Russian oil embargo could be put in place in a “few months,” putting the country on the side of Poland and the Baltic states in the European Union-wide debate.

Modi’s European tour kicks off a busy month of travel for the Indian leader. On May 24, Modi is expected at the next meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, in Tokyo. The meeting will be the second time in two months that U.S. President Joe Biden and Modi will interact following a virtual summit between the two leaders in April.


The World This Week

Monday, May 2: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha holds talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Bangkok.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.

EU energy ministers hold a meeting on gas supplies following Russia’s decision to suspend deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria.

Tuesday, May 3: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosts Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson during a cabinet retreat at Schloss Meseberg.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins a two-day visit to Denmark.

Wednesday, May 4: The U.S. Federal Reserve announces whether it will raise, lower, or maintain U.S. interest rates.

Scholz hosts separate meetings with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Modi meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hosts talks with Japan’s Kishida in Rome.

Thursday, May 5: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai begins a two-day visit to Canada.

OPEC+ oil ministers meet in Vienna.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador begins a five-day regional tour, stopping in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Cuba.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Sweden’s Andersson co-host an international donors’ conference for Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts Japan’s Kishida in London.

Local elections take place across England, Scotland, and Wales.

Friday, May 6: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly report on the U.S. employment situation.

Sunday, May 8: Europe marks V-E Day, commemorating the end of World War II in Europe. Russia’s Victory Day celebrations take place on Monday, May 9.


What We’re Following Today

Pelosi in Warsaw. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Warsaw, where she is expected to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Pelosi’s visit comes a day after she met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on an unannounced visit to Kyiv. U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, who traveled with Pelosi to Ukraine, said the trip’s focus was on “weapons, weapons, weapons,” suggesting a smooth ride for President Joe Biden’s latest $33 billion funding request.

EU energy policy. EU energy ministers meet in Brussels to discuss responses to Russia’s decision to cut off gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria last week. The meeting comes as EU leaders are expected to sign off on a further Russian sanctions package later this week.


Keep an Eye On

South Africa’s COVID-19 wave. South Africa is likely experiencing a fifth wave of coronavirus cases, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said, as the number of reported infections increased sharply over the past two weeks. Sublineages of the omicron variant, called BA.4 and BA.5, are believed to be responsible for the latest surge. A recent South African study found that prior infection did not provide adequate protection against BA.4 and BA.5 compared with a vaccination, adding further risk for the 70 percent of South Africans who have not been fully vaccinated.

Mariupol’s exodus. Dozens of Ukrainian civilians were allowed to leave Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant after the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross brokered a deal with Russia to allow for safe passage on Sunday. Ukrainian officials have suggested that evacuations in Mariupol may soon expand beyond the steel plant to include other parts of the city.


Odds and Ends

Canadian astronauts will no longer be free “to rob and kill with abandon in space or on the moon,” as the National Post put it, according to provisions buried in the country’s 2022 federal budget. The new rules close a loophole regarding the reach of Canadian law by extending it into the cosmos, applying it to space travel, the surface of the moon, and a new moon-orbiting space station helmed by NASA, the Lunar Gateway.

The United States appears to be ahead of its northern neighbor in this area of the law, applying criminal law to Americans who commit crimes “outside the jurisdiction of any nation” in 1984 after one U.S. citizen killed another at an Arctic Ocean research station years earlier.

Colm Quinn was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2020 and 2022. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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