Putin, Xi and Modi likely meeting at the SCO starting today – is it a challenge to the QUAD?

India has always been skilled at dealing with both sides of diplomatic arguments – and it has an inclination towards “multilateral” and even “multi-bilateral” arrangements while western friends prefer “bilateral”.

So, it will be interesting to see what role Indian PM Modi will play at the 22nd leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, to be held on 15–16 September – the first in-person gathering of the central Asian grouping since 2019.

While it might not make page one news, politicians and diplomats around the world will be closely watching this summit to be held in the ancient Uzbek Silk Road city Samarkand. Not only is it providing Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin their first face-to-face meeting since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and declaration last year of a “forever partnership” – but it also comes after an interval where Indian PM Modi became closer and more impactful at the QUAD.

The members of SCO are China, India, Tajikistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. Four Observer States were involved in granting full membership (Belarus, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mongolia) and six “Dialogue Partners” (Nepal, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, and Turkey).

The QUAD nations are India, USA, Japan and Australia.

If he attends, Modi is expected to have meetings with Putin and Xi, giving a further glimpse as to how India is likely to map out its relationship with Eurasia’s great powers.

Modi has previously stood up to pressure from QUAD countries to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so as a leader he has a track record of combining non-confrontation with firm commitment to his own position.

Find the right business partner in India

 One of the most frequent questions for INTO INDIA is how do we find the right business partner in India? Most case studies of Australian businesses succeeding in India reveal one key element – finding the right local partner.

What is the right local partner?

It is much more than someone who says “yes”. Too many have been frustrated in Indian market entry because they forged alliances with any and everyone who said “yes” – which means everyone they meet. India is a culture that cannot say no, so be wary of the yes answer.

The right partner is already active and successful in your field. They can show you their track record.

Your right partner will have connections among suppliers and customers, and will be keen to introduce you to them so you can form your own judgement.

In the collective culture of India, your right partner will be well connected in the various business chambers and will have good connections in government – central and state. This right partner will demonstrate these connections by organising meetings for you, rather than just saying “yes” we are connected.

Your right partner will be someone you double check with Austrade and with other reliable connections you have in India or Australia.

Your right partner could ultimately become an agent, a joint venture or more. They might just be a trusted individual who willingly offers to make connects for you – this freely opening doors does occur in India.

Your right partner might be a talented individual who you hire into your business. Or it might be a combination of external and internal. Patience will be your best friend as you make these choices.

Finally, your right partner will develop relationships for you – because in Indian culture relationships matter. Relationships first, business second is the path to long term business in India. Quick deals are just that – one transaction that might not lead to anything.

So, how are you going finding the right partner in India?
 

Online meetings present the challenge – how do I introduce myself?

Zoom, Teams and other online meetings are now part of our lives. In many of these meetings, you are called upon to introduce yourself. Maybe everyone is introducing themselves.

It can get the pulse raising and the mind in overdrive. What will I say? Where should I focus? Will they like me? Meanwhile, we are missing out on all the other interesting introductions happening.

The stress can be negative – or positive. Through practice, we can come to recognise stress when it arises and use it for good – ah, now, better concentration, sharper reflexes, and so on. In contrast, if we have a negative reaction to stress it can mess up our introduction – nervous, shaky voice, tongue-tied, rambling on….

So, what is the easiest way to introduce yourself?

Like all public communication, the secret is to keep it simple.

The simplest way to introduce yourself is in three parts (and this might mean just three sentences) – present, past and future. People love this approach – they recognise the structure, simplicity and like a note about the future.

A present-tense statement to introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Stephen, and I’m a communication consultant and author. My current focus is mentoring and writing.”

Past tense might be just two or three points about your background and gives you credentials and credibility. An example: “My background is in corporate communication, and I have previously advised top 100 corporates and big four professional services firms.”

Future tense is all about projecting optimism and enthusiasm – two very likeable characteristics. In a meeting this should relate to the topic. “In the next 12 months I plan to do more writing towards a new book and meetings like this give me not only content, but the motivation to keep exploring”.

Simple? Present, past and future. Each can be as long or short as the occasion requires – but always err on the side of shorter. Trust me – you will gradually enjoy (and smile) while introducing yourself.

7 myths about doing business with India

In India take time out to look and learn – like me at India Gate in Delhi.

Myth one

Do everything their way and let your Indian host lead

Yes, always let your Indian host lead the conversation. But no, they might not want to. And no, you might have a simple offer or point to make. So – how to converse? I always let Indians know (and remind them) that as an Australian I am informal and friendly and direct – so please I hope that is OK with you (of course it is) – then make your point.

Myth two

Indian companies are family businesses

Yes, a lot of them are. No, many of them are not. And no, again, many are now a mixture as family businesses look for more innovation and more skills. And by the way, a high number of Australian and western companies are family businesses too – just find the way each company wants to do business.

Myth three

Always wear formal business clothes

In my almost two decades of engagement with India, this has changed. There are times for formal (less of them) and times for informal (lots more of them). Yes, Delhi is more formal. Yes, Mumbai is more informal. Most of your business or smart casual clothing will be fine over there.

Myth four

Always negotiate

True, India is a culture where negotiating over price and service is a constant – like a way of life. But business can be different. Indian companies know an enormous amount about western business preferences. More important than negotiating for the deal, be prepared for changes as you go along the relationship – Indians are flexible and accepting of change, so you should be too.

Myth five

Get to know your business partner first

This one has been my mantra for a long time – but I am also now seeing demand and hunger for products and services grow so fast in India that sometimes they are ready for business – now. Get to know them later. Be ready for anything – and where you can take time to build relationship.

Myth six

Be clear and direct in communication

I have tried this one and it rarely works for me. Communication takes two, right? If the other side is ready for clear and direct, then do it. But if not, you will fail in communication. One thing more important – be patient, the deal can always be done later, let things settle, exchange some emails, chat a bit – you will find a way. Again – whenever I feel direct communication is helpful, I always preface it with “You know that we Australians like to be very direct – especially on the cricket field”.

Myth seven

Make the most of your time in India by filling the day with appointments

This has never worked for me. Indians are proud of their country, the culture, history, architecture and more – so it seems to me it makes good sense to go see and learn about this. When you can talk to your Indian host about something you have seen, it enlivens everything. It’s much the same for us in Australia isn’t it? So, have some “free” time for looking around.

Can Australia balance its Pacific Ocean strategy (USA) with an Indian Ocean strategy (India)? Seems it can.

The four leaders of the QUAD – a new closeness transforming this region

There’s a big change happening and it is spearheaded by the new dynamic of the Australia-India trade and security relationship – this is growing to provide a balance for Australia’s historic close alliance with the USA.

INTO INDIA has long felt that Australia has “looked north east” for too long and now is looking more “north west”.

For a while our diplomats and politicians talked about “the Indo-Pacific” as a way to introduce the change. But it is not a sustainable concept and there is no such region.

Australia has a Pacific Ocean strategy (USA) and is now building an Indian Ocean strategy (India). These relationship shifts affect our defence and security, as well as our trade and investment.

Matching that change, it is more than symbolic that an organisation such as the Australia India Chamber of Commerce is focussing on the key industry areas of greatest potential under the deal – and moving away from the old “federal” and state based approaches. Great! Under the old structures, outcomes were often lost in rivalries and politics.

The AICC model has one national organisation – supported by National Industry Groups. This frees up resources to make a difference.

So far the NIG’s include Education, Power and Renewables, Critical Minerals, Defence and Security, and Technology and Innovation. Small steps, but steps they are!

One step at a time, one change at a time, at so many levels, Australia is looking “north west” and taking a role in the Indian Ocean region by a close relationship with the new regional and global power, India.

The new strength of the QUAD (India, Japan, USA and Australia) is also part of the change and the new world of moving alliances.

If the move keeps going, Australia will have strength in two main regions and close relations with two major powers – India and the USA.

Why has India banned wheat exports?

India – one of the world’s leading wheat producers – has placed an immediate ban on wheat exports.

Why?

As reported in this analysis by SOUTH ASIAN TIMES, the ban serves three main purposes: It maintains the food security for the country, it helps others who are in distress, and maintains India’s reliability as a supplier.

See full report here:

Some straight talking on climate change and public policy

Patrick Suckling presents the clearest short paper on climate change and what we urgently need to do

Patrick Suckling is a non-resident Senior Fellow of Asia Society Policy Institute and former Australian Ambassador for the Environment – and former Australian High Commissioner to India.

He has written one of the clearest – and briefest – papers on the importance of climate change and how we need to respond.

Highly recommended reading –

Does India have a different world view?

A selfie at the Raisina Dialogue for Tharoor and Jaishankar – endorsing “multi-alignment”

From the west we often hear business leaders say “India wants to be more western” – but does it? Or is there a different world view in India?

Three points stand out for me:

FIRST, PM Narendra Modi recently stated that, while many countries have strayed from spirituality and towards consumerism, India should not do so.

SECOND, laying the foundation for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat, PM Modi stated that countries all over the world are focusing on traditional herbal systems to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Yoga has helped people all around the world establish mental balance by reducing stress.

THIRD, in an increasingly divided world with an “us vs them” view, India is an exception. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday thanked External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for publicly giving him credit for the term “multi-alignment” and posted a selfie of them together at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue. There is a very conscious policy of engaging all the major powers simultaneously in a world. Who else is doing this?

What do you think?

Wow! India Australia trade deal much bigger than we thought

These two Ministers are transforming the Australia-India relationship

Wow! The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement signed yesterday is a whopper.

Get on the plane now if you are in business or education! The trade and investment doors are open for you.

The two trade ministers, Australian Dan Tehan and Indian Piyush Goyal, are transforming the economic relationship and created a platform for decades of growth for India and Australia. Well done.

READ MORE DETAIL HERE:

https://www.trademinister.gov.au/minister/dan-tehan/media-release/historic-trade-deal-india

Well done on Modi deals, Scott Morrison – he “gets” India

Australian PM Scott Morrison at the virtual talks yesterday with Indian PM Modi.

In a meeting yesterday with Indian PM Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, cemented ties with India in a series of deals worth almost A$190 million. He gets (understands) India.

PM Modi is an “investment magnet”, but is also strongly wary of “multilateral” groupings and has a preference to do deals country by country.

So, PM Morrison did a country by country deal. He used some of the western rhetoric over Russia, Ukraine and China, but then got stuck into business.

What is there to “get” about India that matters in our region?

First, it wants investment.

Second, it stays away from promoting democracy as the ONLY future, instead seeing all countries as different and many having different forms of government – all accepted by India.

Third, it now buys most of its defence hardware from Russia and has a long standing close relationship with them.

Fourth, it wants to be in the QUAD (Australia, Japan, USA and India) but will only play on its own terms – that is, not condemning others and not championing democracy as the only solution.

Fifth, Modi is riding high, and he has numbers to back it up – India is the world’s fastest growing economy in 2020. You have to “get” his confidence levels, which are high.

Sixth, India is keen for more Indians to have access to Australia and to work here – PM Morrison “gets” this, and it was significant that the Monday night talks also included a taskforce to see if both countries could recognise the same education qualifications.

Seventh, India has a proud culture and history, feels rightly that much has been plundered by the west – so it was highly important that the National Gallery of Australia formalised the return of artefacts to India.

Future challenges?

There are plenty. The CECA (free trade deal) will soon announce “early harvest” deals and then plans to complete a full CECA some time this year. Good luck with that – especially as our own Aussie negotiators have always been averse to cherry picking. I think PM Morrison gets the need for flexibility and hope he is challenging his bureaucrats to do the same.

Relying more on our High Commission staff in Delhi would be a good step as we have outstanding people there.

But by and large, finally, it seems Australia is “getting” India.