Will we look beyond the photo opportunities?

Rohit Chandavarkar
Saturday, 20 January 2018

Any government in the developed world looks at promoting their companies in the international markets. Americans promote Boeing, Ford, General Motors and other companies all over the world, similarly the Japanese would obviously promote the interest of their companies that build the bullet trains! The Bullet Train is going to be a more beneficial project for the Japanese according to reports in some national business dailies. Now it remains to be seen if the deals we have signed with the Israelis are going to benefit India. The Israelis want to sell us various things. All this international diplomacy is not about ‘friendship’ it is about “business” !

Last week, we saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi doing what he does best! Welcoming a head of state at Delhi airport, breaking conventional security restrictions and then taking that head of state to Modi’s home turf of Ahmedabad, where some great photo opportunities were seized before national and international media. But beyond this hype and hoopla, was something concrete really achieved? It will perhaps take some time to know this.

The media was informed that India and Israel signed many multi-million dollar business deals but now there is some element of suspicion about what has been put in fine print in these agreements and what India is going to really gain out of these deals. The reason for this scepticism is as follows:

A prominent Indian national business daily reported on Thursday that “Japanese steel and engineering companies are in the driver’s seat to bag major supply contracts for a $17 billion Indian bullet train, several sources said, undermining a key component of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policy a push to ‘Make in India”. It seems that the much hyped Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project is mainly going to be beneficial to the Japanese and not to India! Japan is funding most of the project and Japanese companies are likely to supply at least 70 per cent of the core components of the rail line, said five sources in New Delhi with direct knowledge of the matter. 

A Japanese transport ministry official involved in the project said the two countries were still working out a strategy for the supply of key components and will unveil a plan for procurements around July. 

The September 2017 agreement between Japan and India for the bullet train project included two clauses i.e. the promotion of ‘Make in India’ and ‘Transfer of Technology’ through which New Delhi had hoped to set up manufacturing. Now, it transpires that Japan is going to be the main beneficiary. The Japanese are past masters at all this. They have captured the American automobile industry to such an extent that now American automobile lobby is up against them and is asking for restrictions to be put on their operations.

Japanese industry and government work in tandem. In the international arena, they work hand in hand to capture markets and dominate technologies. How and why did our government think that the Japanese were here to contribute to the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’? They were here to promote their business!

Any government in the developed world looks at promoting their companies in the international market. Americans promote Boeing, Ford, General Motors and other companies all over the world, the Japanese would obviously promote the interest of their companies that build the bullet trains! Obviously, they are selling their goods to us and we are going to pay through taxpayers’ collections for this!

So behind the photo opportunities and niceties of international diplomatic events, there is mainly business motive and self-interest of every nation. The perception being created by the government of ‘friendship between two countries’ is only a façade and what drives these meetings and agreements is economic interest and international business.

It now transpires that the Japanese have smartly drafted the bullet trains agreements so that their engineering and technology giants gain the most out of this project. It remains to be seen if the Israelis have done something similar!

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