The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind will be inaugurating a statue of India’s Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi, along with the Australian Prime Minister Scot Morrison, on Thursday, November 22.

Mr Kovind will be visiting the trans-Tasman neighbour Australia from Wednesday, November 21 on a three-day bilateral visit.

Currently, Mr Kovind is in Vietnam as a part of his first-ever two-nation visit (Vietnam and Australia) to India’s “east” as the President.

Act-East policy in action

It is noteworthy that India has been pursuing Look East policy since the end of the Cold War to re-build its engagement with the countries on India’s East (Southeast Asia and Pacific), emphasising on deepening the economic, political and strategic relationship with the countries in the region.

The Look East policy which was introduced during the government of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and seriously implemented during the following administrations of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh had been upgraded to Act East Policy by the current Narendra Modi government.

There have been many high profile visits from the current political dispensation in New Delhi in the Oceania region (Australia – New Zealand), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind tour of four cities in Australia in 2014, former President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to New Zealand in 2016, and several senior Ministers.

India not in election-mode

President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to the region is an apt reminder of the fact that the current political dispensation in India is refusing to lose focus from the foreign-economic-trade policy goals within the broader region, as many analysts argue, because of impending national elections in India.

General elections are due to be held in India in the month of April or May 2019 to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha.

Earlier, a report in the New Zealand Herald had opined that India’s impending domestic elections (2019) were largely responsible for the extension of concluding negotiations on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary

Meanwhile, the office of the Consulate General of India, Sydney, has confirmed that as part of the ongoing 150th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, Mr Kovind will be joining hands with Australian premier Mr Morison, to inaugurate a Gandhi statue in Parramatta, New South Wales on Wednesday, November 22, 2018.

The leaders will also be joined by the Mayor of the city of Parramatta, Andrew Wilson, in the inauguration ceremony.

It is to be noted that this year, the government of India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and coordinating with like-minded organisations and groups of people all around the world to host commemorative events.

Earlier, the City of Sails Auckland had organised a “Global Peace March,” which brought in thousands of enthusiastic participants along with several dignitaries, including the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, and Minister for Ethnic Communities, Jenny Salesa, and several MPs.