India’s Onward Thrust

India as the rising world power means business. Her thrust is bold, ongoing and purposeful. The geopolitics and economic policy combined are the main prongs of her forceful operation in a meaningful South-South Dialogue.

It is indeed remarkable how a civilization steeped in the hoary past, millennia old with its myriads of myths, legends, customs and traditions is still surviving side by side with nanotechnology! It has been able to overcome hordes of subjugation, invasion and colonial domination to rise like the phoenix from their clutches, more empowered and emboldened. The spirit is undaunted and rejuvenated, because it has in its veins the age old civilizational ethos that defies humiliation and subjugation, and percolates down to nurture its spirit. Thus it has come to epitomize the New Age with its hardly 68 years of freedom, gaining independence from the shackles of colonialism and foreign domination.

India as a global player

India has quickly learnt to adjust to the requirements of the New World and demands of globalization as well as to those of the digital age, by becoming herself a digital powerhouse. Her IT Centre in Bengaluru, termed the 2nd Silicon Valley, is moving at a stunning speed. . This has inspired a private company of a group of young people, Team Indus, to take up the challenge of landing a low cost robot on the moon by end 2017. The mission is termed “Har Indian Ka Moonshot”. Further, 100 start-up ecosystem projects are coming up. Another engineer couple, Santosh Ostwal and wife Rajashree, have invented “Nano Ganesh” that has helped several thousands of farmers in Maharashtra remote control their water pumps with a mobile phone! Today Nano Ganesh is selling on Amazon.com.

The greatest potential of India’s 1.2 billion demography is that the median age is only 26 years. This young population provides not only a vast resourceful market but is full of dynamism, innovative ideas and is quick to grasp.

The 2017 budget of Arun Jaitley reflects a demarcation from the past and is geared to improve the lot of the common people, with a focus on youth, farmers and women. But also, India’s “international priorities form part of a seamless continuum, firmly anchored in her transformational goals” as was stressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Second Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi recently.

OCI Card – An Extended Family Device

But what remains a stunning discovery is India’s ability to make use of the vast historical, geographical and emotional space afforded by a 30 million strong diaspora spread all over the globe to its advantage. And in no uncertain ways. The greatest tool has been the PIO/OCI card which acts like a bond between mainland India and its 30 million strong extended family. It is a direct connection with one’s Indian roots but which also gives pride of umbilical connectivity which acts as a springboard of immense possibilities.

That political leadership in former British or Dutch Plantation colonies has emerged from the Girmitia, indentured labour system over several generations is understandable such as in Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. But that the head of a European country would be of Indian blood is a discovery overwhelmingly exceptional.

At the 14thPravasi Bharatiya Divas, this year in Bengaluru one was surprised that the Chief Guest was Antonio Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal. How come?

The fact is simply that 56-year old Antonio Costa is of Indian origin, being a second generation PIO. His father Orlando da Costa hailing from Margaon in Goa, settled in Portugal in his early years.

Prime Minister of Portugal – a PIO!

At the inaugural session of PBD in Bengaluru, Prime Minister Costa stunned everyone when he neatly removed his OCI card from his pocket and flashed it proudly in front of the audience: “I am a proud person of Indian Origin. This is the document to prove it…” He further stated that since his father left, “we never lost touch with India”. But the fact of the matter is that instead of moaning ad nauseam of past colonialism, in this case Portuguese, the two countries – India and Portugal — reconciled to the past and proceeded to explore the new horizons and the potential economic possibilities of such a situation. Prime Minister Costa added: “Perhaps it is no coincidence that I have become the first person of Indian origin to lead a European country.”

Antonio Costa not only welcomed the Indian diaspora to also contribute to the Portuguese economy but welcomed India “with open arms” to invest in Portugal. He highlighted the fact that Portugal has a “classical position” to access to key worldwide markets as it is in the Central Zone connecting UK and other European countries. He added: “We also have excellent ties with US, Canada, Africa and Latin America.” He cited the advantage of the geographical positioning in the world that connects Europe with Africa and other continents.

He said that there is a strong need for India and Portugal to not just strengthen existing bilateral relations, but explore new areas of interest and cooperation, such as in the field of renewable energy, ocean sciences, tourism and cultural engagement.

Prime Minister Costa added that Portugal was open to collaborating with India in the fields of defence, agriculture, oceanography as well as culture and heritage.

The UAE Thrust

The other thrust is in South Asia and Middle East.

UAE crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day this year. This is perceived by political observers as the latest in a series of recent moves Abu Dhabi has made to get closer to New Delhi. The fastest growing major market for oil and gas these past months has been India. Two other goals are for Abu Dhabi to develop capacities in technology sectors such as renewable energy and software. Indian Corporations seem to be the obvious partners in such efforts. India can help Dubai aspire to become a genuine global financial hub, to give it the enhanced seriousness of Singapore. The Gulf states and Abu Dhabi have realized that they have a lack of geopolitical anchor.

India with a forceful push in geopolitical maritime plans in the Indian Ocean is slowly but surely emerging as a major pillar of “this hedging strategy”. Thus Abu Dhabi is growingly looking towards India more than elsewhere now to provide this much needed anchor.

Mauritius a Bridge not too far between Africa and India

The African Connection via Mauritius was proved more than ever on a cyclonic rainy day with class 2 warning of the impending approach of Carlos. The strong business delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry under the leadership of Mrs. Indrayani Mulay, Deputy Director of the International Division of CII dared to maintain its Business Meet at Bagatelle in collaboration with the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce at the Initiative of the Indian High Commission on Monday 6th February.

The African terra has long been neglected by both India and Mauritius. But it seems now that there is renewed vigour to seize the multiple opportunities, what with the advantages of the Mauritian membership in SADC and COMESA and the AGOA. Indian investors are thus encouraged to utilize the potential of Mauritius as a gateway to Africa.

Promising prospects of triangular cooperation between India and Mauritius and African countries such as Senegal, Ghana are ahead.

Mauritius being multilingual has the advantage of acting as a facilitator to Indian companies especially to Francophone countries thereby offering immense possibilities of cooperation. However, there is a view that sometimes things get unnecessarily slowed down or stuck at bureaucratic level . Such hurdles should be quickly eliminated by adequate follow-up in procedural matters. In no uncertain terms, said the High Commissioner of India, Abhay Thakur, “we must put our money where our mouth is”, and assured that “we are willing to walk the extra mile”.

The Indian firms that have had a successful penetration in several countries of Africa are giant groups with 150 years of proven solidity, such as Afcons of Shapoorji Pallonji. the Exim Bank of India and Ramelex among others, which offer value for money.

Sarita Boodhoo

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