I hope you all and your families had a wonderful festival season in the month of October 2019 starting with the Navratri, the Durga Puja, the Dusherra, the Diwali and the Bhai Dooj. I wish you all ever lasting peace, happiness and prosperity. In the back drop of this month of festivals, there was a host of events which have significance, and will impact the peace, well being and prosperity for our people and the country as a whole. Let us now go straight to business.
Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra were held on October 21 and the results were declared on October 24. By-elections for 64 seats in 17 states and Union Territories were also held on October 21. In both the States, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the single largest party albeit with reduced numbers. Shri Manohar Lal Khattar in alliance with the Jannayak Janata Party took oath second time as Chief Minister in Haryana. Since the BJP did not get an absolute majority in the Maharashtra Assembly, it is reportedly making efforts to obtain support from other political parties for formation of a new government. According to Rules, formation of the new government must be completed before 8th November. It is now time that the new governments in both the States immediately initiate actions to address, besides other issues, the immediate issues of unemployment and agrarian and rural distress. It is time for urgent administrative reforms to infuse greater efficiency and efficacy. Both the governments must work for the upliftment of the people keeping in mind the Prime Minister’s vision of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas”. Both the governments must work with utmost urgency in view of the ongoing slow down of the Indian economy.
Friends, effective from the mid-night of 30-31 October, 2019, the State of Jammu & Kashmir was reorganised as two Union Territories, namely the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, and that of Ladakh. While the former will have a legislative assembly, the latter will be administered by a Lieutenant Governor. Ladakh will include the two districts of Leh and Kargil, while all other districts will be under the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Out of the six parliamentary seats allocated to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, one will be allocated to Ladakh and five will be allocated to the Jammu and Kashmir. The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will function as the High Court for both the union territories. Only permanent citizens of J&K State had exclusive rights to own property and apply for government jobs. Now the laws related to ownership of land and property in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be amended and be applicable to others as well. All welfare schemes of the Centre will be applicable to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Prime Minister Modi said “Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are taking a step towards a new future…..Article 370 only gave separatism and terrorism to Jammu and Kashmir. It was the only place in the country where Article 370 was present, where in the last three decades, over 40,000 people were killed and several mothers lost their sons due to terrorism. Now this wall of Article 370 has been demolished”. He asserted that “the government's decisions on Jammu and Kashmir were not to draw new territorial lines on the ground. We wanted to build a strong link of faith, the sort of faith that even Sardar Patel had dreamed of for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,"
Local Body Elections were held in Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh on 24th October. Block Development Councils form the second tier of the Panchayat Raj system. All the 23,629 ‘Panches’ and 3,652 ‘Sarpanches’ of the Panchayats voted to elect the chairperson of the Block Development Councils. There are a total of 316 blocks of which elections were held on 283 blocks. 27 candidates were elected unopposed. After the final withdrawal of nomination papers, 1,092 candidates were in the fray. There were 26,629 electors - 8,313 women and 18,316 men. Most interestingly, Srinagar district recorded 100 per cent polling followed by Reasi (99.7 per cent) and Jammu (99.5 per cent). Among the national parties in J&K, the Congress, the National Conference and the PDP stayed away from the elections. BDC elections will pave the way for elections to the District Planning and Development Boards (DPDB), the third tier of Panchayati Raj, and thus spur development in the state. This was the first democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir since the government’s August 5 decision to scrap the special status under Article 370. Congratulating the people for peaceful and successful conduct of the lection process, the Prime Minister said this demonstrates “the people’s unwavering faith in democracy and the importance they accord to grassroots level governance,"
A group of 27 MPs from the European Union visited Jammu and Kashmir. This was not an official visit. Before the visit, they met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said the visit "should give them a clear view of the development and governance priorities of the region". In a communiqué, the PM's office said, "Prime Minister, while welcoming the delegation to India, expressed the hope that they have a fruitful visit to various parts of the country, including to Jammu and Kashmir. Their visit to Jammu and Kashmir should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh; apart from giving them a clear view of the development and governance priorities of the region."
This was the first time an international team has been allowed in Jammu and Kashmir since the government ended its special status in August and split it into two union territories. At the end of the visit, the lawmakers addressed the Media, and said they were not here to interfere in India's politics and "fully supported the country in its efforts for lasting peace and end of terror". Mr. Newton Dunn from UK said "We belong to a place Europe which is peaceful after years of fighting. And we want to see India becoming the most peaceful country in the world. And for that we need to stand by India in its fight against global terrorism. This visit has been an eye opener and we would definitely advocate what we have seen on ground zero". Mr. Ryszard Czarnecki, MP from Poland, said, "The international media coverage seems biased. Once we go back to our countries we will inform them of what we saw". Mr. Henri Malosse from France said “If we talk about Article 370 it is India's internal matter. What concerns us is terrorism which is a global menace and we should stand with India in fighting it,"
The government of Telangana in collaboration with Apollo Hospitals and the World Economic Forum has formalised the plan for a six-month pilot project called ‘Medicines from the Sky’, starting in 2020. The project aims to explore the use of drones to increase access to healthcare for communities across the Telangana State. To create an ecosystem for drone applications, WEF has collaborated with multiple drone startups which also include Indian startups such as Marut Drones, India Flying Labs, Asteria, Adani, Aarav Unmanned Systems, IO Techworld, Ideaforge, Marut Drones, India Flying Labs and GEN India are specifically contributing to the ‘Medicines from the Sky’ project.
33rd India Economic Summit was held in Delhi on October 3 and 4, 2019. Bringing over 800 leaders from government, private sector, academia and civil society together, the India Economic Summit was held under the theme of ‘Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World’. The influential attendees convened to address issues of significance including geopolitical shifts, inclusive growth, digitization, climate change, automation and Industry 4.0, innovation and entrepreneurship among others. The discussions at the summit ranged from India-US trade relations, to India’s economic reforms, to the digital divide in the internet economy to more pressing issues such as healthcare innovation, sustainable mobility, skill development and the economic slowdown.
NCDC, NEDAC, NAFED, APEDA, and ITO jointly organized the first ever India International Cooperatives Trade Fair (IICTF) during 11-13 October, 2019 at the Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. Our Chamber MIICCIA was associated with this big event. The Ministries of Commerce & Industry, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, External Affairs and six State Governments and prominent organizations like IFFCO, AMUL, IPL were partners in organizing the IICTF.
IICTF aimed at promoting cooperative-to-cooperative trade within India as well as abroad. The 3 day event was packed with sales & exhibition, B2B meeting, B2C meetings, products display and business networking in tune with Agri Export Policy of the government. A large number of Indian and foreign cooperatives participated at the fair.
The inaugural ceremony was attended by (Chief Guest) Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Shri Giriraj Singh, Hon’ble Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries and several other Ministers and senior officials from the government including Commerce Secretary Shri Anup Wadhawan. The closing ceremony was attended by (Chief Guest) Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Minister for Commerce & Industry, several other Ministers and Commerce Secretary Shri Anup Wadhawan.
Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, Shri Piyush Goyal participated in the 3rd edition of India Energy Forum 2019 by CERAWeek in New Delhi. The Minister said that India has naturally emerged as the startup capital of the world with the highest registered startups and he applauded the suomoto decision of the oil PSUs to set up a startup fund that will encourage Indians to innovate and set up their own companies. He further said that he is not worried about the state of the world in this time of trade wars as these were issues waiting to be addressed. He further added that countries of the world cannot develop when few countries are giving subsidies and nurturing an eco system of unfair trade and competition among industries. It is the need of the hour to have a more balanced development across the world and distributed sources of wealth creation. The Minister felt that there is need for free trade but there is greater need for fair trade
Commerce and Industry & Railways Minister, Shri Piyush Goyal addressed the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) in New Delhi. During the interaction the Minister said that Indo-US relationship is at their best ever now and trade relations between the two countries have a huge potential which is yet to be tapped. India and the US must look at a much larger agreement like a bilateral agreement said the Commerce and Industry Minister.
With regards to the trade talks between India and the US, Commerce and Industry Minister said that things are on the right track and India is looking to the US for technology, innovation, skills and quality education. India on the other hand offers an attractive market to US businesses and skilled labour that can add value to American companies. The Minister informed the Forum that the Commerce and Industry Ministry is working to create a single window for investments into India and he welcomed innovative ideas and solutions for the creation of this single window. According to USISPF estimates, India-US bilateral trade is projected to grow to USD 238 billon by 2025. Sectors like defence trade, commercial aircrafts, oil and LNG, coal, machinery and electronics are areas of potential growth in US investments and commerce into India. Indian industry has an opportunity to promote automotive, pharmaceuticals, seafood, IT and travel services to the US market.
At the invitation of President Duterte, Rashtrapati-ji visited Philippines from 18th to 20th October, 2019 and had a one-to-one restricted meeting as well as a bilateral delegation level meeting with the President of Philippines. The visit of a President from India took place after a gap of 13 years. It was agreed to build our relationship further in all fields whether it is political, economic, defence, security, people to people as well as in capacity building and other areas.
India and Philippines are two fast growing economies in the region and there is great potential for cooperation not only because of the aspiration that these two countries have but also in terms of the complementarities that exists. In terms of aspirations, Philippines has their Build-Build-Build program and India has its Make-in-India program. Hence both of the countries are looking at building infrastructure and there are complementarities. In fact they do really exist because we have Indian companies in Philippines some of whom are in the airport sector. Similarly there are Philippines companies in India and some of whom are in the LNG sector.
Rashtrapati-ji emphasized that as a part of the healthcare systems and to make the healthcare system affordable, India is an example, in terms of its medicines, our pharmaceutical sector can make available drugs at very affordable prices and quality drugs. Indian delegation mentioned the importance of access to market on pharmaceutical sector. Similarly it was highlighted that India is a very affordable place for healthcare and medical treatment particularly the liver transplant cases.
President Duterte mentioned that Philippines is working towards defence modernization and will be looking more at defence procurements and in that context it was highlighted that India does have, and offers many possibilities of working within the defence sector both in terms of procurement as well as other cooperation in the defence sector. During this visit, four MoUs, agreements were concluded. One was a MoU on Shipping Cooperation, the second was on Science and Technology, the third was a Cultural Exchange Program and the fourth one was on Tourism Cooperation.
Rashtrapati-ji also visited Japan from 21-23 October to attend ceremonies related to the accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne by His Majesty the Emperor Naruhito who had ascended the throne on May 1, 2019.
Hon’ble Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu went on a two-nation state visit to Comoros and Sierra Leone during 10 to 14 October, 2019. He was accompanied by a high-level delegation including Shri Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Hon’ble MoS for Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairying, Shri Ram Vichar Netam, Hon’ble Member of Parliament and senior officers of the government of India. He was received on arrival by the President of the Union of Comoros H.E. Mr. Azali Assoumani himself and members of his Cabinet and other dignitaries. This was the first-ever high-level visit from India to Comoros.
In Comoros, President Assoumani expressed his happiness at the various agreements signed, especially in the areas of health, defence, culture, Foreign Office Consultations, etc. He added that as a co-founder of International Solar Alliance, Comoros will also look at India for solar projects.
Hon’ble Vice President recalled the historical and close bilateral relations and similar challenges being faced by both countries. He underlined that our maritime security is interlinked and recalled Prime Minister Modi’s vision for a collaborative security architecture in the Indian Ocean. Both sides signed a MoU on Defence Cooperation. India also announced a grant of US $ 2 million for interceptor boats to Comoros and a LoC of US $ 20 million for procurement of High speed Interceptor Boats.
Hon’ble Vice-President also expressed India’s desire to share our development experience, expertise and partnership with Comoros. In this context he recalled the LoC of US $ 41.6 million being extended by India for setting up of a 18 MW power plant in Moroni and another grant assistance for a Vocational Training Centre. He indicated India’s readiness to take forward our development cooperation in solar energy projects, capacity building, especially under ITEC and ICCR, and expressed his happiness on singing the MoU on e-VBAB tele-education and tele-medicine Pan-Africa project being undertaken in Africa by India. A MoU on Health Cooperation was also signed and both side noted that many Comorians chose India for medical treatment.
Vice President visited Sierra Leone from 12th to 14th October, 2019. India has a long history of cordial relationship with Sierra Leone and had played an important role in achieving peace and stability in Sierra Leone, and also assisted Sierra Leone in the post conflict peace-building phase. He had detailed bilateral meeting with President of Sierra Leone, H. E. Brig (Rtd.) Julius Maada Wonie Bio, Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament Mr. Abass Chernor Bundu and Foreign Minister Mr. Nabeela Farida Tunia. Hon’ble Vice President also interacted with the Indian community there.
India had extended concessional lines of credit (LoC) to Sierra Leone worth US $ 123 million for in sectors such as agriculture and water and transmission line. Sierra Leone has also availed lines of credit worth US $ 49.45 million from ECOWAS Bank for investment and Development (EBID) for projects in solar and telecom sector out of Lines of Credit extended by India to EBID. India has also undertaken grant projects through IBSA fund and provided direct humanitarian assistance to Sierra Leone during Ebola crisis in 2014 and floods in 2017. Sierra Leone is also a beneficiary of Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. The bilateral trade has remained modest in the recent years and in 2018-19, it was US$ 124 million.
The first-ever visit of Vice President to the two countries is expected to provide a new momentum to our bilateral partnership with these countries. The visit is part of India’s Africa outreach policy.
Hon’ble Vice President led the Indian delegation at the 18th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held in Baku, Azerbaijan on 25-26 October, 2019. The theme for the Summit is "Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of contemporary world”. Hon’ble Vice President delivered India’s National Statement during the plenary meeting of the NAM Summit. He also held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from other NAM member countries on the sidelines of the Summit.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation visited Chennai on 11th and 12th October, 2019 for an informal summit. PM Modi described the informal summit as Chennai connect as a follow up to the Wuhan spirit. President Xi Jinping and PM Modi had almost 6 hours of one-to-one talks. President Xi Jinping said the informal summit has produced visible progress. The leaders agreed that strategic communication has deepened and it should be continued.
Trade between India & China was discussed. One of the issues briefly touched upon was the RCEP, the discussions between sixteen countries on forming a common regional trading agreement and Prime Minister specifically said in this regard that India looks forward to this but it is important that RCEP is balanced. That a balance is maintained between trade in goods, trade in services and investment. President Xi Jinping noted this and said that China and India are ready to discuss it further and that Indian concerns would be taken into account. It was a brief discussion but an important one.
Both sides agreed that there would be greater understanding shown on trade relations and on our sensitivities relating to trade. We would try to find a way forward in addressing the trade deficit. A new mechanism at an elevated level would be created to talk about trade issues. From Indian side the Finance Minister and from the Chinese side Vice Premier will now meet to specifically discuss details on how our trade deficit can be addressed.
His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima paid a State visit to India from 14 to 18 October 2019 at the invitation of President Ram Nath Kovind. The King and Queen visited New Delhi and Mumbai, and the state of Kerala. This visit of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander was the first State visit to India, following his ascension to the throne in 2013.
The Royal couple’s programme included meetings with President Ram Nat hKovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and call on by the External Affairs Minister. The King and Queen were accompanied by a senior Ministerial delegation. India and The Netherlands have a bilateral trade of US$ 12.87 billion (2018-2019). Netherlands is the 5th largest investor in India with a cumulative investment of US$ 23 billion during the period 2000 to Dec 2017. Netherlands is also home to a 235,000 strong Indian Diaspora, thelargest in mainland Europe.
The Royal couple also attended the Inaugural Session of 25th Technology Summit in New Delhi. Netherlands was the partner country for this Summit. The Royal couple was accompanied by about 140 business houses for this technology and innovation fair, representing various sectors, including agriculture, water, health-care and climate change.The visit is expected to boost economic and political cooperation between the two countries.
At the invitation of PM Modi, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, paid an official visit to India on from 3 to 5 October 2019. Apart from bilateral engagements, Prime Minister Hasina was also invited as the Chief Guest at the India Economic Summit organized by the World Economic Forum.
The two Prime Ministers held detailed, productive and comprehensive discussions during which they reviewed all aspects of the bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional issues. Both sides emphasized on simplifying people-people movement, effective border management and cooperation in the area of Disaster Management. PM Sheikh Hasina appreciated India’s readiness to extend duty free and quota free access for Bangladeshi exports to the Indian market. They welcomed that for the first time, exports from Bangladesh to India crossed the one billion dollar mark in 2019 witnessing a year-on-year growth of 52% in the exports. Both Leaders directed the concerned officials to expedite the completion of modalities for provision of railway rolling stock supplies by India to Bangladesh, and on modernization of the Saidpur workshop in Bangladesh. Both leaders also agreed to expedite work towards drawing upon a US$ 500 million Defence Line of Credit extended by India to Bangladesh, for which implementation arrangements have been finalized in April 2019. The Leaders also inaugurated through video-link three bilateral development partnership projects on October 5, namely, (a) Import of Bulk LPG from Bangladesh; (b) Inauguration of Vivekananda Bhaban (students hostel) at Ramakrishna Mission, Dhaka; and (c) Inauguration of Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute (BIPSDI) at the Institution of Diploma Engineers Bangladesh (IDEB), Khulna.
The 8th Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) between India and Thailand was held on 10 October 2019 in New Delhi. The Indian side was led by Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister and the Thai side was led by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Ministers had a restricted bilateral meeting, which was followed by delegation level talks. During the meetings both sides reviewed the progress made in all areas of bilateral relationship, including political, defence and security, economic and commercial, connectivity, cultural, tourism and people-to-people ties. Both sides noted that bilateral trade has grown by 20% last year and the investment is also growing. Both sides decided to hold the next meeting of Joint Trade Committee to discuss ways and means to enhance trade and investment. The Ministers also discussed ways to enhance connectivity between the two countries including in the areas of physical and digital connectivity. They also identified areas for cooperation in the field of agriculture, science & technology, space, human resource development, capacity building, information technology etc.
Prime Minister Modi made a day long visit on 29th Oct to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to jointly launch with the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) a Strategic Partnership Council to enhance ties in whole lot areas ranging from trade to energy security even as PM Modi called for a new conflict resolution mechanism in an increasingly multipolar world. The Council was first mooted during MBS’s visit to India in last February. The Council will be chaired by the Indian Premier and the Crown Prince to monitor and guide strategic partnership and projects to be undertaken by the two sides. The Council will have two mechanisms, one under the Foreign Ministers to oversee the political and diplomatic relations and the other one to be under the CommerceMinisters to guide trade and industry aspects.
Delivering the Keynote address at the Future Investment Initiative Business Forum, PM Modi said the Strategic Partnership Council marks the beginning of a new era. The Prime Minister listed technology & innovation, development of infrastructure, human resources, environment and business friendly governance as the five key trends for growth of trade and economy. He said India provided tremendous investment opportunities in view of its plans to become a 5 trillion dollar economy in the near future. He invited Saudi Companies to invest in India’s energy sector and added that the government has set a target of US$ 100 billion investment in this sector alone.
Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, Shri Piyush Goyal attended the 9th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Inter-sessional Ministerial meeting held on 11-12 October 2019 at Bangkok. The Meeting comes at a crucial stage where the RCEP is scheduled to be announced as concluded in November 2019.
Reportedly, there is opposition by domestic constituencies, including farmer organizations, dairy cooperatives such as Amul, civil society organizations, and industrial sectors against RCEP as they fear it would lead to flooding of the Indian market by cheap Chinese goods and farm items from Australia and New Zealand. Considering this, India has taken a stand on market access, investment and e-commerce and has reportedly proposed to put in place an auto-trigger mechanism to appropriately safeguard any sudden surge in imports from RCEP grouping countries, especially China with which it has a $53.6 billion trade deficit. However, most analysts believe the volume-based auto-triggers on 100-200 items are unlikely to safeguard the country against a sudden surge in imports from RCEP members.
Trade ministers of the 16-nation RCEP grouping will meet once again on 1 November after failing to reconcile their positions. Negotiators have been asked to resume talks to bridge differences before the Heads of States meet on 4 November to declare closure of negotiations for the FTA.
In order to take forward the Prime Minister’s vision and focus on robust engagement with the African counties, the Millennial India International Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (MIICCIA) hosted a Business Meet titled “India & Africa : Partners in Growth, Prosperity and Shared Destiny” on October 18, 2019 at the Hotel Royal Plaza, New Delhi.The conference deliberated to collectively identify suitable economic opportunities in African countries and to create reliable networks for the Indian business and industry in a unique format where the Ambassadors of many African countries shared their perspectives and business opportunities available in their respective countries. Senior Government officials spoke on the way forward. Representatives from EXIM Bank, ECGC, WAPCOS spoke about their partnerships & success stories with African countries.
In my brief welcome address, I pointed out that India has an umbilical connection with Africa. Lackadaisical approach of the past has changed to focused priority of the present. Not only PM Modi but also the President, Vice President and Ministers of India have crisscrossed all the African countries engaging and reassuring them. India recognises the strategic importance of Africa and feels closer cooperation in security and defence could ensure fight against terrorism. India is maintaining its unique approach of “Share and Care” as Africans themselves are focusing on “Trade not Aid” and strengthening their intra-African connectivity through the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Agreement). Africa, endowed with immense natural resources, is slated to be the biggest market with the largest youngest population in next 2-3 decades. There is a real opportunity to engage with the Continent to enhance our bilateral trade beyond the unreal $70 bn or so.
The Chief Guest at the event Dr. JenfanMuswere, Deputy Minister of Information & Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services of the Republic of Zimbabwe recalled that India has always been a partner in Africa’s political and economic emancipation. He said trade has grown exponentially during the past decade and is expected to reach US$ 150 billion by 2020-21. He thanked India for organizing several India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) at the Head of State Level to promote growth of trade & investment. The Minister felt that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) presents great opportunity for India to channel its technological expertise and the region has the capacity to absorb India’s modernized equipment. Reiterating that Zimbabwe is open for business, he sought Indian investments particularly in IT, Pharmaceuticals, Mining, Power, Water, Infrastructure, SMEs and Skill Development. In order to ease business, the Minister said, Zimbabwe has taken measures to reform investment regime and has extended visa-on-arrival facility to all Indian nationals.
The Guest of Honour, Ambassador P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ED & States), Ministry of External Affairs said that PM Modi, in his speech at the Ugandan parliament on July 25, 2018, laid out the principles of India’s Africa policy; the 10 guiding principles for India-Africa engagement. He reminded that India’s engagement with Africa was on the basis of equality and transparency, and emphasized on the need of connectivity, trade & investment, capacity building and skill enhancement. He added that India was progressing rapidly in the field of renewable energy and desire to share its experience with African countries. Ambassador Harish exhorted the African Heads of Mission to take up the ‘International Solar Alliance’ Agreement with their governments for urgent ratification of the agreement by their respective countries. He further said that while investment is good, trade is a must. Businesses must not miss on opportunities. Providing an example, he said that Africa, particularly the SADC region, has a thriving market for second-hand cars which are imported from other parts of the world. India’s second-hand automobile industry has matured enough to even have digital platform, but the industry seems to have failed to take notice of the African market.
Though a significant number of Ambassadors & Trade Commissioners from African countries attended the business meet, due to paucity of time only the Ambassador of Morocco and High Commissioners of Zimbabwe, Gambia, Ghana, Rwanda and Namibia could speak. There were some common points in the speeches of the High Commissioners and Ambassadors. The said that (1) there are 54 countries in Africa all of whom have their individual strengths and needs. Therefore, it would be unwise to club them as one entity as ‘Africa’; (2) India has been a partner in the developmental efforts of Africa. However, more needs to be done in the social sectors; (3) India has achieved high standards in education and it could be shared with African countries by establishing institutions of learning on African soils for training of Africans in Africa according to the local needs. Such institutions could be run jointly by Indians and Africans; (4) Investment in training for capacity building will be most beneficial in the long term; and (5) India’s technologies are quite high, adaptable and transferable and are most suitable for Africa. Africa is particularly looking for investments in manufacturing and development of social sectors. The High Commissioner of Ghana thought India’s concessional loan was not the most favourable. Though the base interest rate is around 1%, the element of LIBOR is also added which makes it ‘not so favourable’. His also suggested that though India extends financing of local projects, it is limited only to a part (around 75%) of the project cost while there are countries who are ready to fully finance the project.
Ambassador Dr. B. Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary (West Asia & North Africa) and Ambassador R. Ravindra, Joint Secretary (Central & West Africa), Ministry of External Affairs shared their perspectives and stressed on the need of removal of trade barriers, wherever it exists, by African governments in the interest of trade & investment. They also felt that there must be at least some semblance of trade balance.
Ms Deepali Agarwal, General Manager, EXIM Bank said that between 2009 to 2018, a total of 369 Indian FDI projects in African countries were recorded with a total investment of US$ 32.69 billion. Mozambique was the largest recipient of Indian FDI. She further said India has been pro-actively engaging with Africa which is evident from (i) duty free tariff preference (DETP-LDC) for LDCs; (ii) Pan-African E-Network, succeeded by e-VidyaBharati and e-AarogyaBharati (e-EBAB network project); and (iii) India-Africa Forum Summits. She further added that EXIM Bank is present across sectors in order to create sustainable growth and development in Africa. EXIM Bank’s partnership goals in Africa are aligned to SDGs.
Shri Kumar Sumit Saurav, AGM from Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC) said they have already extended export credit guarantee of US$ 46 billion to 42,000 exporters in 54 countries in Africa under their liberalized underwriting policy. The 5 largest beneficiaries are South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria and Tanzania. He added that ECGC has so far settled ‘claims’ of Rs. 83,000 Crores. ECGC’s motto is ‘you focus on exports; we cover the risks’. Mr. Sanjay Singal, Senior Executive Director, WAPCOS Ltd. said the company has successfully executed 190 projects in diverse social sectors at a total cost of US$ 9.43 billion in African countries.
Many of you are aware that our Chamber planned a series of programme titled “Ambassadors Speak”. The first was “Exploring Latin American Business Opportunities – Prospects & Potentials, followed by “India – ASEAN: Connecting for Business”, and the third one “India – Central Asia and beyond towards Growth & Prosperity”. The India-Africa event was fourth in the chain. Next in the series will be “India-East Europe” and “India-Arab countries”.
As you may be aware, our Chamber has in the recent past hosted large business delegations and organized B2B meetings from Argentina, Guatemala, Russia, Latin America, Brazil, Thailand, Kazakhstan etc. The Chamber will now concentrate on mounting trade delegation to different parts of the world. I would urge you to take advantage by joining those trade delegations.
Once again my best wishes for your continued happiness and prosperity.
1st November, 2019
I extend my Greetings on the New Year 2019. I wish great success to our Members, the Indian Industry, Business Houses and Investors.
The New Year seems to be an encouraging one for the Indian Industry, Business and Exporting community. Economic indicators are healthy. Growth of GDP for the first half of 2018-19 was 7.6%. Current account deficit as percentage of GDP was 2.7% in the same period. Value of merchandise exports and imports increased by 11.6% and 14.7% respectively in US Dollar terms during April-November 2018.Foreign Exchange Reserves stood at US$ 393.7 billion at end November 2018. CPI inflation declined to 2.3% in November 2018 from 3.4% in the preceding month. WPI inflation was 4.6% in November 2018, as compared to 5.3% in October 2018. The growth of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) during April-October 2018 was 5.6%, as compared to 2.5% recorded during corresponding period a year ago.Though there was a slight negative growth (0.87%) in export of Services, trade balance in Services was US$ 6.57 billion in end November 2018. Therefore, the New Year starts with a positive note.
The Government launched a historic support and outreach programme for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector in November 2018. As part of this programme, the government unveiled 12 key initiatives which would help the growth expansion and facilitation of MSMEs across the country. At the inaugural session of the 15th Global SME Business Summit in New Delhi, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Shri Suresh Prabhu, said that the Ministry was examining the proposal to set up trade promotion bodies in 15 countries to promote exports of SMEs from India.
An important development for our export houses is that India is now hopeful that the Chabahar Port in Iran will be fully operational soon. Union Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari and the Iranian Foreign Minister had a fruitful meeting and the leaders agreed to resolve all the pending issues.The Chabahar Port will be a booster for our overseas shipments, particularly to Iran and the Central Asia region.Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation Minister, Shri Suresh Prabhu said that he would like to make 2019 “A new year for Exports.”
Last year MIICCIA consolidated its position further. It has signed several MoUs for mutual cooperation with other Chambers of Commerce. The most notable amongst those are:
In the context of India’s ‘Act East’ policy and Prime Minister’s thrust for deeper engagement with
ASEAN countries, MIICCIA is organizing a Business Conference “India-ASEAN Connecting for Business” on February 18, 2019 at the Civil Services Officers’ Institute (CSOI), Vinay Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. The conference will try to identify suitable economic opportunities in ASEAN countries, and create reliable networks for further boost to trade & investment. The Conference will benefit Indian entrepreneurs and business houses with updated information and also provide a platform to interact with Heads of Mission of the ASEAN countries. MIICCIA’s Secretariat would be happy to provide additional information and participation procedure.
We are all waiting for the Interim Budget of the Central Government on 1st Feb. In a bold decision and departure from the past practice, the Government has decided not to present the Economic Survey before the interim budget. They have left the Economic Survey, which outlines the vision and the economic road map for the upcoming year, for presentation by the new government before the full budget.