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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UK last week (April 17-20) to participate in a multilateral Commonwealth summit and hold bilateral talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May. This was Modi’s second visit to the UK in 2.5 years and the first time in nearly a decade that an Indian prime minister had attended the biennial Commonwealth summit.

 

Although Modi’s participation in the Commonwealth summit was partly due to the UK’s invitation as host, India’s aim to ‘step up’ its role in the Commonwealth could serve to enhance India-UK relations post-Brexit.

 

Bilateral

 

Right from the start it was clear that the UK intended to accord a special status to Modi, among the other 52 leaders attending the Commonwealth summit. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson welcomed him on arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport; Modi was one of only three heads of government to be granted an individual private audience with the Queen and he had two meetings with May.

 

The main agreement between the two countries was an India-UK Tech Partnership for the creation of high-value jobs and the promotion of trade and investment. A significant, though less-noticed, development was the use of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ in the bilateral joint statement. This highlighted that “a free and open Indo-Pacific area is in the interests of the UK, India and the international community”.

 

This term has gained currency in India and ‘like-minded’ countries like Japan, the US and Australia concerned in varying degrees over China’s expanding influence in the region. This indicates growing bilateral consensus on the importance of this region as well as the freedom of navigation and overflight and adherence to the rules of law. This takes place soon after May’s decision to refuse to officially endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative during her visit to China last January, a project which India is staunchly opposed to.

 

Surprisingly, an MoU on the return of illegal immigrants was not signed; reportedly due to a failure to agree upon the number of returnees and the speed at which they would be required to be returned.

 

This visit was in marked contrast to Modi’s previous visit in November 2015. The reasons for this were clear. There was then no sign or sight of Brexit; the referendum for Britain to exit the EU (Brexit) took place seven months later – in June 2016, disrupting the UK’s energy and enthusiasm for boosting relations with India. In November 2015, Modi had been in office for just 18 months; it was the first bilateral visit of an Indian prime minister to the UK in nearly a decade; and there lay ahead an exciting domestic developmental agenda. This time round, India’s domestic political agenda held sway with five state elections and the next general elections less than 12 months away, about the same time as Brexit takes place. 

 

Commonwealth

 

Even though India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, played a key role in the creation of the modern Commonwealth, an international political and development organisation, in 1949, India has largely considered it as a relic of empire and steeped in colonial legacy. As a result, the interest taken in the Commonwealth by Indian governments has been sporadic and generally lukewarm.

 

For the past 8.5 years, Indian prime ministers have been absent from Commonwealth summits. But with the UK hosting the Commonwealth summit at Lancaster House and Windsor Palace, the British government made extraordinary efforts to seek Modi’s confirmation, including a letter from the Queen and a visit by Prince Charles to Delhi; largely as a result of which Modi provided an early confirmation.

 

India comprises over half the total Commonwealth of 2.4 billion people. More importantly, as the fastest-growing large economy in the world expecting to overtake the UK as the largest Commonwealth (and fifth largest global) economy later this year, India possesses a certain gravitas within the organisation. A recent report of the Commonwealth Secretariat recognised India’s key position in driving intra-Commonwealth trade and investment to over $1.5 trillion by 2020 and pointed out that intra-Commonwealth investment had seen a dramatic rise driven by India in recent years, as a leading recipient of greenfield Foreign Direct Investment, more than doubling the amount it received over the last ten years.

 

India now seeks to ‘step up’ its role in the Commonwealth for four reasons:

 

First, as a prospective leader

 

With the UK seeking to provide new momentum and a sense of purpose to the Commonwealth, which Australia and Canada are unable to lead, there is a natural focus towards India. During the summit, India made clear that it is willing to ‘step up’ its role in the Commonwealth. It has announced the doubling of its contribution to the Commonwealth fund for technical cooperation to $2 million; raised $2.5 of $5 million for the trade financing facility for small states; and doubled the country’s contribution to the Commonwealth offices of small states. India also aims to help build the capacity of the coastal nations through training programmes at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa.

 

It is also unlikely that key political decisions, such as an attempt to bring back Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth fold, can now be made in the absence of India. Yet, India will shy away from any overt leadership role for the time being, instead focusing on trade and investment promotion; the small states; and, importantly, a key change in approach.

 

As India’s highly successful high commissioner to the UK, Yash Sinha, has pointedly written:

 

“While the advocacy agenda of the Commonwealth has focused for too long on a prescriptive approach, we need to find a way to assist most member states in meeting their developmental goals through an institution building or capacity building approach, rather than a rights-based approach.”

 

Second, to enhance its global role and maximise its bilateral relations

 

The Commonwealth, virtually spanning the entire globe, has a membership of 53 countries, making it the third largest organisation after the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Of these, 19 are located in Africa and 12 are littoral or island states of the Indian Ocean; a high proportion, 31 states, are small states with a population of 1.5 million or less.

 

In some of these states, India has no diplomatic presence; diplomatic contact usually takes place at the UN. As a rising great power seeking changes in international institutions, as made clear through India’s recent bruising but successful battle against the UK for the continued presence of an Indian judge at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, India seeks to reach out to these states to help it secure votes during key UN and other multilateral fora contests. It was notable that Modi had 12 bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, nine of which were with leaders of small states.

 

Third, the absence of China

 

The fact that China is not and will never be a member of the Commonwealth is a huge plus for the Modi government. Despite its recent ‘reset’ in bilateral ties, China has risen dramatically as India’s principal foreign and security challenge. India has real concerns over its territorial dispute with China and China’s expanding influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, there is some concern that Pakistan may seek to curb any Indian leadership role in the Commonwealth at the behest of its close ally China.

 

Fourth, Commonwealth-wide presence of the Indian diaspora

 

For the Modi government, the Indian diaspora is an important cultural, and potentially political, priority for its foreign policy, in contrast to previous governments. The fact that there are diaspora Indian communities in virtually every Commonwealth country further underscores the importance of the Commonwealth.

 

As India ‘steps up’ its role in the Commonwealth, India-UK relations post-Brexit are expected to be enhanced. For the next two years, the UK will be the chair-in-office of the Commonwealth till the next summit in Rwanda in 2020. India is expected to work closely with the UK on Commonwealth reforms and governance.

 

The UK sees India as one of its leading economic partners in the world post-Brexit. The first visit of Theresa May as prime minister outside the EU was to India in early November 2016. This also signifies an important power shift between the two countries – whereas earlier the UK was more important to India than India was to the UK, today the reverse is true, namely, that India has become more important to the UK than the UK is to India.

 

Source:-The Wire

A strong ‘Make in India’ theme will be behind US aircraft maker Boeing’s pitch for the Indian Air Force’s order for 110 fighter jets. The order, worth around Rs 800 billion, seeks commitment from vendors to supply sensitive technologies as well to carry out a bulk of manufacturing in India.

 

For the current order, Boeing has tied up with Mahindra Defe­nce System and Hindu­stan Aero­na­utics Limited for producing F/A-18 Super Hornets. “The RFI (request for information) is much contemporary this time. It broadens the scope and competition. It focuses on the IAF’s real war-fighting capabilities. Our joint venture is an optimum mix of capability, cost and industrialisation,” Pratyush Kumar, president, Boeing India, said in an interview.

 

Kumar said the US government’s willingness to liberalise rules on transfer of technology (ToT) gave them a leg-up against competitors. “I don’t think ToT is an issue. It is not us but the US government is saying that rules will be more forward-looking. The US now recognises India as its ‘major defence partner’ and they are much more forward-leaning and sharing technology with India,” he said.

 

Recently, Kenneth Juster, the US ambassador to India, indicated the same. “The United States plans to offer India certain technology and platforms that we have offered to no other country in the world. We are going to be very forward-leaning in technology, the transfer of technology, and indigenous production that we can offer to India,” he had said.

 

Several foreign manufacturers have objected to ToT without a majority stake in a partnership. Under the current strategic partnership model, it is mandatory for an Indian firm to have at least a 51 per cent stake. Kumar said that having a public sector player as partner made their case of indigenisation stronger. “With a public-private partnership approach, I am bringing the best of public sector and private sector — the only two companies in India which have manufactured airplanes,” he said

 

ALSO READ: PM Modi's 'Make in India' will not work unless there is a strategic plan

 

Boeing’s probable rivals in the process, Dassault, Saab and Lockheed, have chosen private players Reliance, Adani and the Tatas as their respective partners. “The only company which has achieved something in aircraft manufacturing is a public company. The industry I believe cannot suddenly ignore them and go for other, that’s not wise. We brought our industrial partners and spoke to almost 400 companies in the sector. We realised ignoring HAL is a bad idea,” he said.

 

After criticism that the new defence policy did not envisage any role for defence PSUs, the government is now mulling a change to allow them to forge joint ventures with foreign partners.

 

In terms of capability, Boeing will be pitching the latest design of F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft, the most advanced and cheapest to operate. “We are capable of supplying aircraft to India that we are supplying to the US today. It brings advance capability that will be supplied to US defence forces in the foreseeable future. Cost-wise, it is much more affordable, having the lowest cost per flight hour than any aircraft in the US air force inventory,” he said. Recently, the US navy ordered 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets.

 

ALSO READ: India's F-16 India will be exclusive, in line with Make in India: Lockheed

 

Kumar also stressed that an order was essential to kickstart the defence indigenisation story and encourage global giants to invest in India. “In defence, it’s a monopoly situation. You have only one buyer. So if we don’t have that buyer with any order in near foresight, it’s too much risk to invest in capacity. The best way for the government to catalyse investment is to make orders. Not simple RFI and RFPs. We need actual orders,” he said.

 

Source:-Business Standard

India and Zambia today signed four agreements including on double taxation avoidance and judicial cooperation as President Ram Nath Kovind held delegation-level talks with his Zambian counterpart Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

 

President Kovind, who arrived here yesterday on the final leg of his visit to three African countries, had "meaningful and wide-ranging discussions" with his Zambian counterpart, said a statement issued by the Indian President's Office.

 

"The two Presidents exchanged views on bilateral and global issues. Committing to India's long-standing developmental partnership with Zambia, President Kovind also expressed appreciation for Zambia having signed the International Solar Alliance agreement. He looked forward to early ratification of the agreement from the Zambian side," the statement said.

 

The two sides signed four agreements - on double taxation avoidance; on judicial cooperation; on mutual visa waivers for officials and diplomats; and on the Entrepreneurship Development Institute that India will build in Zambia.

 

This is the first visit to the country by an Indian president since 1989.

 

President Kovind also addressed the Zambia-India Business Forum.

 

"Zambia and India are time-tested friends. Built on this strong foundation, our bilateral trade and economic engagement has prospered," he said.

 

"Indian companies have invested significantly in Zambia, especially in mining, telecom, energy and manufacturing. But we can do more. There are opportunities for our businesses to explore - from social enterprises to new technology; from community projects to highways; and from 'Digital India' to 'Smart Zambia'," the President said while addressing the Forum.

 

Noting that the trade between the two countries has picked up significantly in the past few years, President Kovind urged all stakeholders - small and medium enterprises, Chambers of Commerce, large companies, new entrepreneurs - to diversify and expand the Zambia-India business corridor.

 

"Both Zambia and India are blessed with a youthful population. We need to connect our young people through start-ups, skills, technology and new ideas," he said.

 

As part of President Kovind's visit, India has agreed in principle to provide concessional finance and support towards the construction of the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Lusaka. India has also gifted Zambia medicines and medical equipment worth USD 3 million as well as presented USD 100,000 for the Mahatma Gandhi School in Lusaka.

 

Earlier in the morning, the President visited the Embassy Park Presidential Memorial in Lusaka and paid tributes to three former Presidents of Zambia Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa and Micheal Sata.

 

After his arrival here yesterday, President Kovind addressed a gathering of the Indian community.

 

"Members of the community are our champions in a faraway land. They have made great efforts to embellish India's reputation as well as keep alive our cultural traditions. This is commendable," he told the gathering.

 

Tomorrow, the President will ceremonially commence work on the 93-km Lusaka Traffic Decongestion Project.

 

Source:- Business Standard

Digital transformation in the country is expected to contribute about USD 154 billion to India’s GDP by 2021, tech giant Microsoft today said. The study by Microsoft and IDC, titled “Unlocking the economic impact of digital transformation in Asia Pacific”, said there has been a dramatic acceleration in the pace of digital transformation across India and Asia-Pacific economies. “In 2017, about 4 per cent of India’s GDP was derived from digital products and services created directly through the use of digital technologies like mobility, cloud, internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI),” Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari told reporters here.

 

He added that within the next four years, it is estimated that nearly 60 per cent of India’s GDP will have a strong connection to the digital transformation trends. “India is clearly on the digital transformation fast track. Organisations are increasingly deploying emerging technologies such as AI, and that will accelerate digital transformation-led growth even further,” he said. The study conducted with 1,560 respondents from mid and large-sized organisations across 15 economies.

 

The report found that digital transformation efforts for organisations range between 11 per cent and 14 per cent. “Business leaders expect to see more than 40 per cent improvements in key areas by 2020, with the biggest jump expected in productivity, customer advocacy as well as profit margin,” Maheshwari said.

 

Source:- Financial Express

New Delhi: In what will help boost its clean energy commitments, India has called for expression of interest (EoI) for the first offshore wind energy project in the country that is being set up in Gulf of Khambat, off the coast of Gujarat, according to a government statement.

 

The development assumes significance, given the 1000 megawatt (MW) size of the project, with the government’s plan to set up at least 5 gigawatt (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2022. India plans to leverage scale to bring down the offshore energy tariffs by harnessing the enormous wind power potential along its 7,600km coastline.

 

“The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) an autonomous body under the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) has called for ‘Expression of Interest’ (EoI) for the first offshore wind energy project of India,” the government said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

 

In September 2015, the Union cabinet had cleared the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, which involves wind energy mapping of the country to identify high-potential locations to be offered to firms for development through a bidding process.

 

“The proposed area is located 23-40 km seaward side from Pipavav port,” the statement added.

 

India, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015. The country plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. Of this, 60 GW is to come from wind power projects.

 

“At global level, it has been observed that, offshore wind energy while being better than onshore wind in terms of efficiency is also becoming competitive and comparable in terms of tariffs. With a large energy market in India, the EoI is expected to evince keen interest from leading players of offshore wind turbine manufacturers and developers. Indian industry can also participate along with suitable tie up with global players,” the statement added.

 

India’s onshore wind power tariffs have remained low after plummeting to a record low Rs2.43 per kilowatt hour (kWh) at an auction conducted by state-run Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd in December, beating the record low solar tariff of Rs2.44 per unit registered in May. Earlier this month tariffs remained low, with bidders quoting wind power tariffs as low as Rs2.51 per unit for 2 GW of wind power contracts. In the wind auction conducted by state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI) in February, bidders had quoted wind tariffs as low as Rs2.44 per unit for wind power contracts.

 

The offshore site, in the Gulf of Kutch of Gujarat, has been chosen after Gujarat and Tamil Nadu were identified by the government as states with a high potential for offshore wind farms. As per official estimates, the Gujarat coastline has the potential to generate around 106000 MW of offshore wind energy and Tamil Nadu about 60000 MW.

 

Source:- Live Mint