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Strategic convergence sans robust economic engagement unsustainable

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the personal attention he has paid to foreign policy, lifted bilateral engagement to an entirely different level within a year of assuming office. There was international relief when he released the pause button that the engagement with the global community had been put into and injected the much-needed vigour that had somehow dissipated during UPA-II.

narendra-modi_505_051214102741However, the prime minister needs to urgently recognize that in a globalizing world, genuine engagement is measured principally in economic terms. India, in other words, needs to be perceived as being good for international business, especially at a time of global economic slowdown and fears of recession. If this were to happen, it would be Modi’s greatest foreign policy achievement. In the eyes of the international community, India would have finally and truly arrived.

Perhaps this is best understood in the context of India-Australia relations. For various historical reasons, starting from India’s advocacy of non-alignment, its perceived alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, its nuclear tests followed by the spate of attacks on Indian students, bilateral relations had been static and even, at times, antagonistic.

In recent years, especially after the 2009 incidents on Indian students, efforts to seek a closer engagement were largely one-sided with Canberra reaching out to an aloof Delhi. Modi’s visit to Australia last year genuinely got the people to believe that the moribund relationship was finally set to dramatically change for the better. Words like “strategic partnership” entered the lexicon and the joint statement issued by the two prime ministers was positive and exciting.

Some identified areas of cooperation, such as in the fields of defence, security and transnational crime were entirely government-led and government-administered. People would read and hear about such cooperation. They did not, however, directly participate either in the decision making process or its execution. Nevertheless, such cooperation sends out a powerful political signal that the heads of government are now committed to cutting across a gamut of sectors because they see a strategic convergence.

Where people get directly involved is with regard to people-to-people contact and more significantly, in trade and commerce. In neither of these, despite a prime ministerial endorsement, do we find any significant shift in mindsets, especially from the Indian side. Unless Modi personally intervenes, the spring of heightened hope will become the winter of lost opportunity.

Let me explain. At the end of this year, India was to hold, in Australia, as announced by Modi, the Make in India and Festival of Indian Culture. Six months into the year, the coordinating agency from the Indian side is yet to be decided upon, a calendar of events is yet to be drawn up and venues are yet to be booked. In countries like Australia, where world-class venues, such as the Sydney Opera House, are decided at least a year in advance, this is clearly unprofessional. When the image Modi is trying to project is that of a ‘will-do’ India – young, hungry, professional and competent – all we have succeeded is to demonstrate that we are none of these.

Consider again the strong message India could have sent with Modi’s flagship Make in India project, if we were to showcase examples of joint collaboration with Australian industry and other international partners in actually manufacturing in India. However, this requires planning and preparation.

Consider also how a major fillip could have been given to his related Skilling India flagship project. Australia has some exceptional vocational training institutes that could largely enhance skills in India. This could have been used as an ideal platform to begin a dialogue that engages both the Australian and the Indian public. If we get a buy-in to the Skilling India idea from the public, significant participation and thus, endorsement, could have followed.

Move now to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement [CECA] or the India-Australia FTA that is currently under negotiation. This truly would be an area of significant impact, in tangible terms, on India-Australia relations.

Less than a week ago, Australia and China entered into a historic FTA. Australia-China trade is already at $150 billion, whereas India-Australia trade is barely in double digits. Ch-AFTA, as it is referred to, is expected to unlock significant opportunities for both sides and further strengthen economic cooperation. It is anticipated that after the agreement takes effect, 85 percent of products from Australia would enter the Chinese market tariff-free.

Tourism is also expected to be a significant gainer through the FTA, with Australian service providers receiving guarantees that they can construct, renovate and operate wholly-Australian hotels and restaurants in China. This guaranteed access is also extended to travel agencies and tour operators and is expected to boost Australian tourism into China.

The India-Australia FTA will be bench-marked by the Australian business community vis-à-vis the FTA with Beijing. If we fall grossly short, this would infect the way in which we are perceived globally.

Our big handicap is that we continue to mollycoddle our industry through high tariffs to prevent market entry. Stiff opposition from the business community prevents us from flattening the playing field. It is time for the next generation of economic reforms that opens up the market and dismantles archaic legislation. Unless this happens, the Australia-India FTA would not realize its potential.

The manner in which India economically engages with the global community will determine whether the efforts the prime minister has made in the past one year on the foreign policy front would yield dividends. Strategic convergence without robust economic engagement is not sustainable. (IANS)

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Submarine INS Kalvari Commissioned by PM Modi : Best Example of Make in India

INS Kalvari is the first of the six Scorpene-class submarines handed over by shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Limited, real boost to Make in India project

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INS Kalvari, Indian Army
INS Kalvari, Indian Navy (Photo: Twitter/Indian Navy)
  • “INS Kalvari is a great example of ‘ Make in India ‘. I would like to congratulate everyone associated with this submarine,” PM Modi said. PM Modi also thanked France for its co-operation

    In Mumbai PM Modi has commissioned scorpene-class submarine INS Kalvari into the Indian Navy. INS Kalvari has been named after the maritime force’s first-ever underwater craft.

The commissioning ceremony was attended by Prime Minster Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba, Maharasahtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, other senior Indian Navy officers, and delegates from France.

The Scorpenes are being built by the Mazagaon Dockyard Ltd under Project 75 with transfer of technology from a foreign collaborator — DCNS of France.

INS Kalvari
INS Kalvari is named after the dreaded tiger shark (Photos: Twitter/Indian Navy)

INS Kalvari : Proud Moment for Indian Navy and Entire Country

It is a proud moment for the the entire country as the submarine is a prime example of flagship program of PM Modi government’s ‘ Make in India ‘ project. The special combat features of the Scorpenes include superior stealth and ability to launch crippling attacks with precision-guided weapons. The attacks can easily be carried out with torpedoes while submerged or on the surface, making it a deadly weapon.

Facts about INS Kalvari

  • The submarine has a length of 67.5 metre and a height of about 12.3 metres. The hull form, fin and hydroplanes are specifically designed to produce minimum underwater resistance.
  • The boat has 360 battery cells, each weighing 750 kg, to power the extremely silent Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor. The stealth of the boat is further enhanced through the mounting of equipment inside the pressure hull on shock absorbing cradles.
  • This is first of the six Scorpene-class submarines to handed over by MDL. The six submarines are being built as part of the Rs 23,652 crore “Project-75” of the Indian Navy.

“The technology utilised in the Scorpene has ensured superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels, hydro-dynamically optimised shape and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision-guided weapons,” an official of the MDL said.

It is really very positive to see Make in India boosting the defence sector. INS Kalvari will surely add more strength to mighty Indian Navy.

– by Shaurya Ritwik, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Rahul Gandhi Points at PM Modi to Vacate the Seat over Gas price Hike

Rahul Gandhi's twitter attack on PM Modi: Vacant your seat over the gas price hike.

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Rahul Gandhi's verbal attack on PM Modi
Rahul Gandhi's verbal attack on PM Modi wikimedia commons

NEW DELHI: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday attacked the Narendra Modi-led central government after the prices of cooking gas was again hiked, asking him to “vacate the ‘Sinhasan’ (post of the Prime Minister)”.

“Mehangi gas, mehanga rashan. Band karo khokala bhashan. Dam bandho kam do. Warna khali karo sinhasan (Expensive gas, expensive ration. Stop making hollow promises. Fix the rates and give employment or else vacate the post),” Rahul Gandhi tweeted attaching a news report of the hike.

Gandhi was referring to the price hike announced by the state-run oil firms on Wednesday.

The prices of the LPG cylinder’s went up by Rs 4.50, while the non-subsidised rates were hiked by a steeper Rs 93 per cylinder.(IANS)

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Greet nation on Diwali

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Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation. VOA

New Delhi, October 19: President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday greeted the nation on Diwali.

Modi said: Deepawali ke pawan parv par sabhi deshvasio ko hardik shubhkamnaye #HappyDiwali to everyone! (On the auspicious occasion of Diwali, greetings to the nation).”

Rajnath Singh said: “Warm greetings and best wishes to you and your entire family on the auspicious occasion of Deepawali. Wishing you a Shubh and #HappyDeepawali.” (IANS)