Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Modi is Changing Global Perspective of India

Before Narendra Modi became the PM of India in May 2014, a huge campaign was launched by the media and politicians against him. Without going into the lengthy details, it is sufficient to note that he was snubbed as a man unable to get US Visa since 2005, a “regional leader”, a man who will do harm to India's image internationally and so on. The hatred towards Modi was so deep among the so-called secular society people of India that 65 MPs went to the extent of begging the President of United States of America to disallow Modi from coming to US, on a signed letter on an Indian parliamentarian's letter-head. Height of it!

Also, the confidence level on India among the key global investors was low.

One of the world's biggest consulting firm, McKinsey's CEO DominicBarton came on record recently summing up how the investors felt about India before Modi came on board:

"I was not (advising clients to come to India) two years ago because it was complicated... and companies and clients were deeply frustrated with the bureaucracy, no decisions getting made. Companies were saying... let us go to Africa, let us go to Nigeria, let us go to Indonesia, let us just go to the US, but that has changed. I think because if you look at the trends that are going on in the world, India is right in the centre"

And things changed.. changed swiftly since India got its first full majority government in 30 years, and the first independent Prime Minister in a decade.

By the time this article is written, Modi has already met 45 world leaders in just 6 months. These leaders are covering every inhabited continent of this planet! He is generating tremendous euphoria and positive vibration among global leaders and investors about India, which was considered as a sleeping giant till now.

So how did he do it?

For starters, Modi began his foreign diplomacy right from the word go. For his swearing in ceremony on May 16, 2014, he invited all the SAARC leaders. Needless to emphasize, even the Pakistani PM came and Modi started off with a very positive note in the immediate neighbourhood. Bhutan's leader said that Modi's swearing in was almost a mini SAARC summit! Now that's a very smart start to his international diplomacy.

Then he started his first international visit in June 2014 to Bhutan. People expect a PM to first look at big and powerful countries, but BJP's ways are very different. They started with a tiny neighbour that is having just 1/13th the population of Bengaluru city, but is strategically important between India and Tibet (China).

Next stop? 14,500 KM away in Brazil. When the whole world was gripped with Worldcup football fever, Modi was quietly working with his team on important positioning of India at the BRICS summit. India gave well thought out presents to the players for good will and came up with good initiatives. South Africa, Brazil, China and Russia were handled diligently. By the time BRICS summit was over, India was positioned to head the brand new BRICS' $100 billion new Development bank. This was an unprecedented move as the strategic vision is to give an alternative to IMF and World Bank in the long run. A completely new pole for international bank assistance that is outside North America and Europe! Big victory scored and eye brows already up in Washington, Berlin and London.

With a huge win up his sleeve just in 6 weeks of becoming PM, Modi now focused back on the immediate neighbourhood. Kathmandu in Nepal, just 100 minutes flight from India's capital, was snubbed by previous Indian PMs for 17 long years. This obviously has reasons originating from Rajiv Gandhi's disastrous Nepal policy when India imposed economic blockade on Nepal in 1989. Narendra Modi's was the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM in 17 years and the repair start process is swift and clean. A key Himalayan state that is a buffer between India and Tibet (China) was let to turn anti India over the past decades due to bad policies. Now things are quickly healing. Another strategic win for India.

Then Modi played his cards very smartly. He had visited Japan as a CM of Gujarat and had good rapport. He knows how to pit Japan against China, and China against US and so on. His diplomatic chess game is paying off big time. Japan agreed within hours to invest $35 billion in India over the next few years. That's a lot of money, almost double of what Japan was saying before! More importantly, this investment is strategically invited in Bullet Trains, smart cities and other badly needed infrastructure for 1.23 billion Indians.

Not just the robust political and diplomatic discussions, Modi also won the hearts in Japan by being a sportive foreign visitor. He sat for Japanese style tea, played with kids, and even played drums. But he didn't forget to link India's heritage city Varanasi with Kyoto to make a point on cultural side too.

As expected, Modi now expected a different perspective from China, Japan's enemy. China's head of state, Xi Jinping visited India in September. This was a Chinese head of state's third visit in 2000 years to the neighbouring India. That shows how strained the relationships have been and how cut off-ed the neighbours have been. Not to mention, China's dual strategy of pinching India at the border with aggression, and then doing smooth talk at trade meets. Modi clearly and openly raised the border issue with China, without trying to be politically correct during a head-of-state visit. Of course, this is something China did not expect after seeing weak governments in India before. Beyond border and other discussions, Modi was able to extract a pledge from China to invest $20 billion over the next 5 years. Note that China has hardly invested anything in India till date. Some figures I have seen show that only $1 billion or so from China into India over the past 2 decades! So this 20 billion $ number is quite a huge number showing the importance of India with China now.

Then Modi focused where the whole world was expecting him to focus. The Uncle Sam!
Here is a man who was in the Visa news for 9 years, suddenly setting up a very high profile itinerary in New York and Washington. Many people were expecting him to keep grudge against US, but like a mature statesman, he opened up his arms and hugged USA in style. He gave UN a lecture on how to run the world, at UN itself! It is stunning that a PM from a developing country can go to UN and give it a lecture on how to run the world affairs better. Then came his most magical moment. The Madison Square Garden. The event was such an extravaganza, paid for by Indians living in America, it caught international attention. #ModiInAmerica was the world's topmost trend on Twitter that day. Nearly 30 US Congressmen, Senators and top leaders came and stood on the stage on a Sunday afternoon. That by itself was something unheard of for any foreign head of state in US. His talks about Mangalyaan and others truly turned the table on the image of India and it's potential.

And PM Modi's speech was classy with crowd going into applause every other minute. He brought in many key issues like keeping India clean, Making in India and investing in India.

Then his visit to Central park, then to other areas, and finally a meeting with Barack Obama. Obama showed extreme interest by taking Modi himself to Marin Luther King memorial!

Not just the image make over for India as "India has arrived", Modi also used his trip very efficiently to sell India's opportunities to 11 Fortune 500 CEOs over a breakfast meeting. Whatever he does, he always has India's job creation in mind. That's a great asset for India. Modi's super success at USA, in spite of his strict fasting schedule during Navaratri, must have been a true heartburn for those 65 MPs who had begged Obama to not let Modi in. These #65Traitors as they were called on social media would have had a hard time to sleep after seeing a rock star reception for Modi, in spite of one trouble making Indian journo trying to spoil the show.

To ice the cake, Modi met with the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. This was the first Indian PM meeting with Israeli PM in over a decade. That shows how keenly Modi is playing his cards. While at it India was also balancing the foreign relationship with those who despise Israel in the region. Modi govt had carefully worked to secure the safe release of over 40 nurses from Kerala from ISIS terrorists. Modi govt also voted in UN and gave pledge to Palestine, but without affecting Israeli relationship. Nice balancing act of a statesman.

Now that Modi had captured the attention of the world at BRICS, Japan and USA, his next focus was looking east. Before heading east, India was already working on opening up a 4 lane highway to drive all the way from North East India to Vietnam, via Thailand and Cambodia. Just 3 more years :)

And he hosted the Vietnam's head of state Nguyen Tan Dung in India. This was strategically important as Vietnam is in a tough conflict with China over South China sea. And being a strategic thinker, Modi tried to check mate China here with a promise to supply naval vessels to Vietnam, in spite of China's protests. This is the first time India ever stood up with guts to China's bullying, while keeping up the dialogue with China!

After sufficiently taking care of SAARC and other immediate regions, Modi headed east now to Myanmar. The tough cookie of the neighbourhood, this secretive country has for long been a China's ally. Modi did a variety of things for smoother Indo-Myanmar relationships. The strategic ASEAN meetings, bilateral issues with Myanmar and more importantly a tough stand on South China sea to keep China guessing. And, just after 6 weeks, Modi again met with President Obama who in turn called Modi a man of action!

Now to Australia. Modi charmed the guests at the G20 summit in Australia. Modi mania was gripping Australia. For the first time ever, a special Modi train was arranged to get people to Sydney for this AllPhones arena extravaganza. And when he mentioned there that it takes just one overnight flight to come to Australia, but it took the Indian PM 28 years to get there, people just fell in love with him. His speech was as magical as his Madison Square Garden gala, if not better.

Watch from 1:55:00 onwards:

His calls in Australia for investment and partnership was well received. Just like in US, here also he talked of OCI and PIO improvements, and in fact what the government had done since US visit. Skill development and cleaning up India were his calls for help needed from Australia. Modi not only charmed the business and political leaders, he also charmed a 3 year old Indian origin girl in Australia by showing special interest!

Then Modi showed his magic in the south Pacific. For those not familiar, south Pacific islands, over a dozen of them, are independent voting countries in the UN. Whenever India has a need for large number of votes, likely in cases of mischief from Pakistan, these could come handy. They vote en-bloc in most cases.

So Modi did something no Indian PM ever thought of till date. He called for a summit of South Pacific nations in Fiji. Not only that he is the first Indian PM to visit Fiji in over 3 decades, he also managed to keep all the south Pacific islands aligned with India. Incredible diplomacy and statesman skills of a supposedly "regional leader"! Even when dealing with Fiji, which has over 4 lakh Indian origin people, Modi balanced the economic assistance with diplomatic support.

Now back to the immediate neighbourhood. After an unofficial SAARC summit during his swearing in itself, Modi headed to represent India in the SAARC summit in Nepal. Here lots of meetings, proposals and of course, a carefully planned snub to Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif for the misadventure of Pakistan at the border during the prior weeks. In fact, Pakistani journalists reported that India's shelling response to Pakistan's shelling in 2014 was worse than 1971 war! So a strong leader had shown what Indian army could and should do for any misadventure of Pakistan.

Just like in Australia, he stopped the convoy to meet the people standing for his sight. And he was a super hit among Nepali people. India has again captured the minds of Nepalese, after the disastrous economic sanctions of Congress government in 1980s, that pushed Nepalese towards Chinese. Similarly he is repairing the relationship with other immediate neighbours. Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa went to the extent of openly praising Narendra Modi's foreign policy for the release of five Indian fishermen who were facing death row in Sri Lanka!

Similarly Pakistan released Indian fishermen from Karachi. Modi launched the bus service to Kathmandu in Nepal. He is talking to Bangladesh about the resolution of the decades old complicated enclave problem in the border areas.

So Modi addressed the parliaments of many countries. He met 45 world leaders in just 6 months. He has traveled more in the first 6 months as PM than any other PM in India's history. This immediately after he traveled the most miles by any politician in human history for 2014 election campaign! He has dazzled the Indian origin people abroad. He has signed significant treaties. He has charmed G20, SAARC, BRICS, ASEAN and South Pacific summits. He has given a lecture to UN itself in UN. Here's a man who has shown strong will to portray India's military might, young labour potential, entrepreneurial spirit and a definite aim to dominate the 21st century.

How did the world business community watch and react to this monumental vote for change in India during 2014?

In addition to all these foreign trips and diplomacy, Modi had initiated a long list of good governance tasks in India over the past six months. We can talk about them in another article, but it is sufficient to say that he is putting India's governance on the right track. So the initial results are already here.

The world's biggest whiteshoe consulting firm's CEO, Dominc Barton says Modi has turned India into a magnet! This coming within 6 months of BJP govt speaks volumes as these CEOs advice big fund managers on billions of dollars worth of investment.

India's factory growth in November 2014 is the highest in 2 years. Investors are watching Indian factories closely. Eight core industries of India were stagnating at nearly 0% growth in Oct 2013. In Oct 2014, growing at 6.3%! Foreign investors are waiting to invest now. Global oil prices are helping BJP govt as petrol, diesel and gas prices have come down, helping inflation cut back to five year lows. More than 1 lakh crore Rupees poured into Indian markets this year.. The MOST into any developing country! S&P BSE Sensex has soared 35%.

On the Corruption Perception index from Transparency International that all international investors watch closely, India is now ranked 85th best in the world out of 175. That's nine spots better than 2013's ranking which is sending positive signals that a government in India is ready to tackle corruption.

In fact, India is now ranked less corrupt than China for the first time in 18 Years! The influential Wall Street Journal highlighted this to the whole world. Business Insider went a step further and said, India is the Last BRIC standing. India needs access to foreign capital, advanced technology, resources, lots of energy, newer markets and skill set. For that, India should have a secure environment, a peaceful neighbourhood and a stable world as parliament was told, and most importantly, an open and stable global trading system.

Here's a man who has shown in just six months that he is very much capable of making India stand up to the challenges. He is not remote controlled like the prior one, nor tied down by coalition dharma. He's independent, excellent statesman and a brilliant strategist. Plus, has a very good team supporting him.

Next big show for NRIs? England's Wembley stadium in January with nearly a lakh people! Modi's 2015 schedule is already on the public domain, unlike the secretive foreign trips of prior government's power corners. For the first time in India's history, the President of USA will be at the Republic day march as chief guest. This in spite of India taking on US at WTO aggressively. Modi might have Chinese, Russian and US heads of states visit India within 8 months duration, which is a solid statement of engagement from the world.

India.. Your acche din are visible on the global trade and foreign relationship side. Here's a very hard working, smart gentleman in charge. Rejoice and expect more!

Images from: indianexpress, indiafacts and southpacificislandsforests.blogspot. Thank you!