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e-Visa in return of stapled Visa – Is this Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomacy?

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Modi Xi (1)

By Harshmeet Singh

Before Narendra Modi left for China, his list of agendas included discussion about stapled visas issued to the citizens of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir by China. So when the Prime Minister overlooked it and extended the facility of e-visa to the Chinese tourists, it drew sharp criticism from many corners.

As expected, the Congress party latched on to this opportunity to criticize the PM and accused him of going too far ahead in the name of diplomacy. “Diplomacy is all about quid pro quo and reciprocity”,Congress spokesperson RPN Singh told PTI. Interestingly, just a few hours before the announcement, S Jaishankar, India’s foreign secretary had said “no decision has been taken yet” on the issue of extending the e-visas to Chinese tourists. While the sequence of events highlight that the decision was taken in haste, it would be worth analyzing the pros and cons of this spontaneous decision by the Prime Minister before arriving at a conclusion.

There are said to be contrasting views about the decision among the ministries. While the Home Ministry put forward its concerns regarding the misuse of such facility, these concerns were overridden by the Tourism Ministry’s support to the proposal.

All this for tourism?

According to the numbers furnished by the World Travel & Tourism Council, 6.6% of India’s GDP in 2012 was generated through tourism related activities. Modi Government’s push towards increasing tourism revenues in the country has been evident ever since it assumed office. According to the new Visa policy, citizens from close to 180 countries would be offered the facility of e-Visa in several phases.

According to the Indian Tourism Statistics 2013, published by the Ministry of Tourism, Chinese tourists accounted for a meager 2.51% of the total foreign tourists visiting India in 2013. At the same time, Indian tourists made up over 5.5% foreign tourists in China. Looks like our deficit with China goes much beyond trade!

Since the Government started offering e-visa facility from November last year, as per the Government’s assumptions, this should have increased the tourist inflow in the country, and made the rupee much stronger. On the contrary, rupee came down to a 4 month low level by the end of April. This is a clear indication of things happening contrary to the Government’s assumptions. May be it is time for the Government to understand that attracting tourists would take much more than extending the e-visa facility.

Would it give us FDI?

Some other experts also say that this move may help in the inflow of FDI into the country, which in turn, would boost the country’s infrastructure. But it would be immature to assume that a mere e-visa facility would open the floodgates for the flow of FDI into the country. Unless the Government gets rid of the red tape in the country and prepares an attractive ground for the investors, such facilities would hardly make any difference on the ground.

All diplomacy and no security?

The national security agencies were also opposed to the Government’s decision to offer such a facility. A Government official was later quoted saying, “The government has overruled the Intelligence Bureau and R&AW. So you can imagine the position of the government. We don’t want to bog down the intelligence agencies. The government has decided to bring their relationship with the most important country to a certain level, we have to take it forward,”

Such decisions which overlook feedback from all the concerned authorities and lack consensus are reminiscent of a Monarchy where one ruler has the final say irrespective of others’ voices.

Did India really have to offer this to China?

India and China have always been in an awkward relationship. Since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, several Governments have tried to read the mind of the dragon, but failed. In September last year, while Xi Jinping and Modi were on a swing at Sabarmati River Front, supposedly writing a new chapter in Indo-Sino ties, China’s troops were intruding into the Ladakh region.

Just a day before Modi’s gracious e-visa offer to the Chinese tourists, China’s national television broadcaster showed an Indian map sans the areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. While this brought some strong reactions on the Social Media, there wasn’t any ‘official’ complaint from the Indian Government. The channel wasn’t asked to offer any apology either. This reaction is in stark contrast to a similar case in Australia last year before the G20 summit. The Queensland University in Brisbane, in Modi’s presence, showed an incorrect Indian map, with Jammu & Kashmir missing from top. At that time, India had registered a ‘strong official protest’ and demanded an apology from the officials. On the contrary, this time around, Modi went ahead and offered a freebie to China the very next day. It seems like all those strong words about protecting India’s sovereignty have been overlooked just for getting some tourists into the country.

Last month, China called Arunachal Pradesh issue a ‘Huge dispute’ and formally opposed Modi’s visit to the state. All this was done when Modi was supposed to visit Beijing in a month’s time. If the PM wants to go around the real issues and offer freebies in a hope that it will soften China’s stand on various disputes, he would be well advised to refer to the history of Indo-Chinese relations and learn the lesson!

 

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Microsoft Ready to Help Indian Startups, Says President Anant Maheshwari

Microsoft is focused as much on selling third party solutions as their own, and this co-sell motion has helped generate $8 billion in revenue for partners within 18 months

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

Armed with a cutting-edge technology platform, a well-established partner organisation and an expansion of M12 venture fund, Microsoft is ready to help Indian startups across the spectrum embrace the next phase of growth, Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, said here on Monday.

India, which saw a tremendous growth in the startup space in the last couple of years, is now witnessing a growth in the business-to-business (B2B) tech startups coming up with innovative ideas to deal with local problems.

“With our intelligent tech expertise, deep focus on trust and unique global go to market partnering, we empower unicorns and startups to scale sustainably at a global level,” said Maheshwari.

“We remain excited about India’s entrepreneurial startup potential and will continue to accelerate it as a growth engine for the economy,” he added.

India witnessed a dramatic rise of eight unicorns in 2018 from among the start-ups across verticals as against a mere nine in six years from 2011 till 2017, according to IT industry apex body Nasscom.

The start-ups joining the select club for their valuation over $1 billion are Oyo Rooms (hospitality), Zomato and Swiggy (food delivery), Udaan (retailer marketplace), Byju’s, (edu-tech), Paytm Mall (e-tail), Freshworks (software programmer) and Policybazaar (digital insurance).

Maheshwari said Microsoft is uniquely positioned to support Indian startups to achieve scale and evolve from market ready to enterprise ready.

Microsoft, Taiwan AI
A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

The introduction of M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, in India in February is creating new value for startups, VCs and the company itself to maintain the pace and direction of innovation.

“M12 is looking at investing in innovators who have aligned their focus on cutting-edge technologies that better enable digital transformation. The portfolio development team at M12 is specifically built to help support and scale companies by leveraging the expansive resources of Microsoft,” said the company.

According to reports, venture capital investments in Indian tech business-to-business (B2B) start-ups have been trending upwards, with over $3.09 billion raised in equity funding across 415 deals in 2018 — 28 per cent more than $2.41 billion in 2017.

Also Read: Facebook’s Push to Become China’s WeChat May Kill it

Under the “Microsoft for Startups” initiative, startups can co-sell with Microsoft sales teams, get access to top tech VCs in the global arena and mentorship from industry veterans.

In less than 18 months, Microsoft for Startups has closed more than 120 co-sell deals with more than $126 million in active pipeline for startups.

Microsoft is focused as much on selling third party solutions as their own, and this co-sell motion has helped generate $8 billion in revenue for partners within 18 months. (IANS)