The rise of new India as Modi fulfils his promises
Prime Ministerial speeches on 15 August is not a new phenomenon in India. This year it was the 74th Independence Day of India and so the 74th such speech by Prime Ministers.
So how was this speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi different from previous speeches, if at all, including his own?
First, this speech came with the credibility of six previous speeches in which all promises made by him have been kept. As an example, in 2014, in the very first speech, Prime Minister Modi promised a bank account for every Indian. Then only 58% Indians had it. Now everyone has it with almost 400 million new accounts opened.
This, a billion plus scale financial inclusion, has since been used along with Aadhaar (biometric countrywide data base) to affect the largest and most successful Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) policy in the world.
During the recent COVID-19 induced lockdown, while many developed countries struggled to quickly reach some cash in the hands of the poor, India did it instantly within days of the lockdown utilising this DBT regime.
The mention to LAC (line of actual control) in the Prime Minister's speech was a direct reference to China, a first from the Red Fort. The import of the unambiguous assertion against expansionist forces would be unmistakably heard in all national capitals in the region
- Akhilesh Mishra
In the 2015 speech, the promise was to electrify every village in India. That was done ahead of schedule and then every household was electrified too.
In 2016 the new target set was to make every home in India smoke-free and to make available health insurance to every poor in India. Since then, more than 80 million new households have been connected through LPG cylinders and the world’s largest health insurance scheme covering 500 million Indians has been launched.
It is the background of this credibility, earned through delivery, that Prime Minster Modi made many game-changing promises in this years’ speech. Few of these stand out. Like the promise to connect every village of India by high speed broadband fibre.
India already has more than 500 million mobile internet users and this next generation broadband connectivity is going to open massive opportunities for the next wave of digital market players in the largest democratic market in the world.
National Infrastructure Mission
Next is the launch of national infrastructure mission with more than 7,000 projects already identified and an investment commitment of almost $1.5 trillion in the next four to five years. This will provide immense opportunities for both domestic as well as foreign infrastructure players, especially from friendly countries.
Finally, the unshackling of India’s agriculture sector and allowing of private enterprise to bloom without restrictions may turn out to be the most significant agricultural disruption in the world in the coming years.
Second, Prime Minister’s Modi’s pivot on foreign policy was both refreshingly new as well as paradigm defining. He redefined the concept of neighbors to not just mean geographical neighbors but also included in the ambit the philosophy of extended neighborhood.
Narendra Modi waves at the NCC cadets participating in India's Independence Day function at the Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15, 2020. Image Credit: PTI
The new era of friendship that India and countries of West Asia, including and especially UAE, have seen in recent years is only a precursor to the immense opportunities that exist in such areas as trade, cultural ties, investment opportunities and tourism that will now be even more open with this new paradigm.
The mention to LAC (line of actual control) in the Prime Minister's speech was a direct reference to China, a first from the Red Fort. The import of the unambiguous assertion against expansionist forces would be unmistakably heard in all national capitals in the region.
Third, the expansive pitch for Aatmnirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) and the universal acclaim that the philosophy has received has the potential to start a new era.
As PM Modi said, self-reliant India does not mean a closed India, but one which is more competitive, more open, where ease of doing business is even easier and where innovation will be at a premium.
As India demonstrated during the recent COVID crisis, when it became a country with zero production capacity in PPEs to an exporter to many regions within a matter of just weeks, a self-reliant India is not just a force of good for itself but for the entire region in Asia and beyond.
But the last fortnight was not restricted to PM Modi’s speech alone. A few other events happened which make this fortnight a truly historic one. On 1 August, India celebrated the first anniversary of delivering gender justice of millions of Muslim women by banning instant triple talaq.
5 August marked the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and fully integrating Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian Union, with all the rights and privileges flowing from Indian Constitution now extended to all the people of the region.
And on 5 August, a billion Indians also welcomed the ground laying ceremony for a grand temple at the birth place of Shri Ram.
As Prime Minister Modi mentioned in his speech there, the vexed issue was resolved peacefully through a fair judicial process and the entire country collectively came together to accept the word of the Indian Supreme Court as final.
One way to look at this last fortnight is that it was just a fortnight like any other. Another way to look at the first fifteen days of August 2020 is that in just a space of few days, India demonstrated that it now had the wherewithal to amicably settle complex issues that had long defied a solution and also had the vision to chart out a bold new path of economic development that would bring prosperity to not just Indians but by implication to the entire region.
In a sense, this week represents the coming out of a New India, one which is ready to lead the economic revival in the post COVID world.
Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar to visit Bahrain, UAE and Seychelles
S. Jaishankar will visit Bahrain, UAE, and Seychelles from November 24 to 29 in what will be the Indian Foreign Minister's visit to West Asia and the Western Indian Ocean since the pandemic.
During the visit, Jaishankar will meet his partners and furthermore the top authority of Bahrain, UAE, and Seychelles.
Jaishankar's visit to Bahrain on November 24-25 will be his first visit to the nation as the Foreign Minister. He will actually pass on sympathies to the Bahraini administration on the death of Prime Minister of Bahrain Prince Khalifa receptacle Salman Al Khalifa on November 11.
He will hold chats on two-sided issues just as territorial and worldwide issues of shared interest. Bahrain has in excess of 350,000 Indians and the two nations have cooperated to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. Flights are operational between the two nations under an air bubble course of action.
The Minister will visit UAE on November 25-26. He is planned to meet the Foreign Minister of UAE, Sheik Abdullah receptacle Zayed Al Nahyan on November 26. The two chiefs will take forward the great collaboration among India and UAE under our exhaustive vital organization and trade sees on different provincial and worldwide issues, as per an MEA proclamation.
The Minister will likewise examine ways for Indian laborers to continue their positions in UAE in the post-Covid situation. In excess of 3,000,000 Indians live and work in UAE.
India and UAE have kept up close elevated level contacts during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheik Mohamed container Zayed Al Nahyan during the pandemic. Jaishankar himself has additionally addressed the UAE Foreign Minister a few times in the previous few months. They likewise co-led the India-UAE Joint Commission Meeting in September 2020.
A gathering of the High Level Task Force on Investments (HLTFI) was co-led by the Minister of Commerce and Industry and Railways and Chairman, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) toward the beginning of November.
Jaishankar will venture out to Seychelles on 27-28 November and will approach the recently chose President of Seychelles Wavel Ramkalawan to introduce welcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and examine with him the needs of the new Government and roads for additional reinforcing India-Seychelles reciprocal relations. He will likewise hold two-sided meetings with the recently selected Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde.
During the visit, Jaishankar will meet his partners and furthermore the top authority of Bahrain, UAE, and Seychelles
Jaishankar discusses cooperation between India, UAE with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince
Meet assumes significance as it comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has discussed the advancement of strategic cooperation between India and the UAE in the post-Covid era with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during his visit to the Gulf kingdom.
The two leaders also exchanged views on important regional and international issues.
Jaishankar arrived here on Wednesday night on the second leg of his six-day three-nation tour to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Seychelles, which began on Tuesday. The visit is seen as important as it comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the world.
“Thank HH @MohamedBinZayed for receiving me on arrival at Abu Dhabi. Conveyed the greetings and good wishes of PM @narendramodi. UAE’s care and consideration of its large Indian community is deeply appreciated,” Jaishankar tweeted late Wednesday night.
“Discussed advancing our strategic cooperation in the post-COVID era. Exchanged views on important regional and international issues,” he added.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 163,000 people and claimed 563 lives in the UAE. More than 3 million Indians live and work in the UAE, the MEA had said in a statement before the commencement of the minister’s visit.
According to the website of the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Indian expatriate community of approximately 30.4 lakh is reportedly the largest ethnic community in the UAE, constituting roughly about 30 per cent of the country’s population.
Among the Indian States, Kerala is the most represented, followed by Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. However, Indians from the northern States, all put together, also form a significant portion of the UAE Indian population, it noted.
In the last leg of his tour, the external affairs minister will travel to Seychelles on November 27 and 28.
Army chief’s visit to Saudi Arabia, UAE signals India’s intention to boost security cooperation, say experts
Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signals New Delhi’s intention to boost security cooperation amid the rapidly changing scenario in West Asia, experts and former diplomats said on Friday.
The army chief is set to make a four-day visit to the two key West Asian powers from December 6 against the backdrop of the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan normalising relations with Israel. Commentators said this is possibly the first visit to Saudi Arabia by an Indian Army chief.
India has welcomed the normalisation of ties between Arab states such as the UAE and Israel, saying such moves are in line with its efforts to back peace and development in West Asia, which is part of the country’s “extended neighbourhood”.
Zikrur Rahman, a former envoy to Palestine who also served several stints in Saudi Arabia, described the upcoming visit as a “good beginning” that signals India’s desire to upgrade the security relationship with both West Asian states. It is in line with the decision by India and Saudi Arabia during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit last year to create a strategic partnership council to monitor ties.
“The Saudis are now acting to boost their own national interests and the visit will be an opportunity for India to convey our own narrative on matters such as the border situation with China. It could even help to ensure that China is sidelined,” Rahman said, referring to the Saudi leadership’s openness to economic ties with China.
“The West was never in favour of ties with China and Saudi Arabia has remained in that bloc. Besides, this trip will allow India to focus on defence cooperation and ways to strengthen matters such as intelligence-sharing,” he said.
Both Rahman and Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said the Indian Army chief’s visit had to be seen in the context of Israel’s growing ties with Arab states and Iran’s efforts to position itself as a key player in West Asia.
“The Saudis have concerns about Iran – such as Iran’s recent agreement with China – and feel their leadership is under threat because of recent developments related to Israel but they will insist on a solution for the Palestine issue. Such a visit from India could also be a way to mount pressure on Pakistan to not get closer to Iran,” Rahman said.
“The regional dynamics are rapidly changing and even Pakistan has moved away from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and tried to form an alternative Islamic front with Malaysia and Turkey,” Patil said. “This visit sends multiple signals to multiple players.”
Patil also pointed to reports of mediation by the Saudi and UAE leadership during last year’s India-Pakistan standoff triggered by the Pulwama suicide bombing and said New Delhi’s defence and security cooperation with Arab states has so far focused largely on counter-terrorism, including sharing of information on Pakistan-based terror groups.
The upcoming visit could be seen as part of India’s efforts to broad-base security ties to include more military exchanges and exercises, Patil said. “An obvious outcome will be a reciprocal visit by the Saudi Army chief,” he added.
India and Saudi Arabia signed an MoU on defence cooperation in 2014 and both sides are exploring the possibility of joint production and joint exercises, particularly joint naval drills.
The UAE, which has deported more than 100 fugitives to India over the last few years, has also helped India with real-time intelligence from Iraq and Syria in the past. This month, its air force will refuel the Rafale fighter jets flying in from France.
The first Arab-India Energy Forum (June 8-9, 2021)
1. The first edition of the Arab-India Energy Forum (AIEF) was held in a virtual format on 8-9 June 2021 under the co-chairship of India and the Kingdom of Morocco. The event was in implementation of the Executive Programme of the Arab-India Cooperation Forum (AICF) and the decision of the third meeting of the Senior Officials of India and the League of Arab States (LAS) held virtually on 12 January 2021.
2. The inaugural session of the Forum was addressed by H. E. Shri R. K. Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, New & Renewable Energy of India; H. E. Mr. Aziz Rabbah, Minister of Energy, Mines and Environment of Morocco; and H.E. Dr. Kamal Hasan Ali, Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs of the LAS. The subsequent plenary sessions explored potential and challenges of cooperation in the fields of energy transition, intra-regional power trading, hydrocarbons and nuclear power generation. The panellists were drawn from a wide range of public and private sector institutions from India and LAS member states as also key regional organisations such as the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and Arab Atomic Energy Agency (AAEA).
3. The Forum witnessed exchange of knowledge, expertise and best practices in the fields of energy efficiency programmes for different economic sectors, accelerated development of new & renewable energy, fostering regional power sharing arrangements, enhanced oil recovery, tight gas extraction, and safe nuclear power generation etc. There was also discussion on respective national regulatory policies governing these sectors, investment opportunities as well as R&D and training collaboration possibilities.
4. The experts noted that even as India and several LAS member states strived to transition towards clean and green energy economies, their reliance on hydrocarbons will likely continue in the near future.
5. In conclusion, the participants conveyed their sincere appreciation to the two Ministers for their co-chairship and gracious patronage of the Forum, and also thanked the General Secretariat of the LAS for their excellent coordination in putting together a substantive programme.
6. They agreed to convene the second edition of the AIEF in India during the year 2023.