India’s “vaccine diplomacy” a template for the region

We have heard about soft power diplomacy and hard diplomacy, but India is showing another way through “vaccine diplomacy”. It could show Australia and other Indo-Pacific Region countries an alternative diplomacy template.

Right now, Australia is too often the first country to call others out, it is known for “hard talking diplomacy” (sometimes at great cost such as the recent trade dispute with China) and Australia is also known predominately as a close ally of the United States of America. These are not positions that find much favour in a rapidly changing region.

How has India created an alternative diplomacy?

First, India accepts global realities, such as the future dominance of China and the USA, so it tries to find the right niche or niches for itself. It has worked hard to develop and promote a reliable reputation in global pharmaceuticals, to the point it is more trusted in this area of production than Russia or China. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called India’s vaccine manufacturing capacity the “best asset in the world.”

Second, in a distinctively Indian way, India has built generosity into its diplomacy. India has already supplied more than five million vaccines to its neighbouring countries—Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar—as well as additional quantities to other emerging economies like Brazil. This Vaccine Maitri (Vaccine Friendship) will not be forgotten by the people of those countries.

To put this generosity in context, India is the worst affected by Covid19 in terms of numbers and needs to vaccinate 700 million people at home.

Third, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a strong advocate of business and of building transparency and trust across business activities. This, in part, has led to the development of a globally competitive pharmaceutical and biotech industry in India. The “vaccine diplomacy” is built on this foundation of strong private industry.

Part of the success of India’s pharmaceutical industry is an almost accidental outcome of long-term price controls in their domestic markets which forced the pharmaceutical sector into world markets, thereby becoming more competitive with higher quality.  

It is one thing to have a strong pharmaceutical sector – it is quite another creative step to use “vaccine diplomacy” as India seeks to define its niche in the modern world.

For countries that struggle with the subtleties required in diplomacy, India has created a template – accept the reality of global power, find your niche and use “out of the square” thinking such as generosity to reinforce that niche.

Australia Day honours for Robert Johanson – still changing relations of India and Australia for the better

Below (L-R) Robert Johanson, Chairman Bendigo Bank and Australian Friends of Asha Slums; Dr Kiran Martin; Anne Rathbone, Owner of Yering Station Winery, and Harish Rao from Friends of Asha Australia

Robert Johanson AO was honoured in the Australia Day honours by appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia. This recognises his distinguished service to the banking sector, to relations between Australia and India, and to tertiary education governance and financial administration.  
Robert has brought respect for all and considered commentary to his many roles and especially as Chair of the Australia India Institute – from 2010 to 2019.   He served for 31 years on the board of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, 13 of which were as Chair of the bank’s board.
 
Robert was also Deputy Chancellor of University of Melbourne from 2007 to 2017.   He has also been the Chair of the Board of the Australia India Institute in Delhi since its inception in 2015, a role which thankfully he continues to hold – this continues his relationship with India and ongoing support of Australia India connections. 
 
Robert has a strong personal commitment to making a difference for those in need and has served as the Chair of the Australian Friends of Asha, the Australian branch of Asha India. Asha is a charitable organisation created by Dr Kiran Martin in 1988 which works with people in India residing in slums and benefiting more than 700,000 people from over 91 slum colonies of Delhi. Australian Friends of Asha was launched by former Governor of Victoria The Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC in November 2012 and aims to provide support to Asha and promulgate its work throughout Australia.

Gandhi exhorted us to “be the change you want to see in the world” and Robert has contributed more than any other to the positive change in the relationship between Australia and India.  
Below is Robert Johanson with Mahinder Shrivas who thanks to Asha went from a Delhi slum to Trinity College at Melbourne University

Business and investment can ride the wave of closer relations between India and Australia

Yesterday was both Indian Republic Day and Australia Day – and in these times the closeness of the two countries makes us more aware of what we have in common.

Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison wrote yesterday that: “While, for now, our people are separated, the truth is that Australia and India are closer than we have ever been. Our progress is unchecked. We’ve taken huge strides in the last year, and, despite its enormous hardship and loss, 2020 will be remembered as a pivotal moment in our friendship.”

Business and investment can become the next step in the “huge strides” in the friendship of the two great democracies.

India’s growth and demand right now means that every sector of Australian business should have an “India strategy” and become part of this amazing growth story – and the future closeness of the two countries.

Here is the link to his article:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-edit-page/what-we-have-in-common-wonderful-coincidence-of-republic-day-and-australia-day-indicates-our-natural-partnership/

First INTO INDIA blog for the year 2021 – and it has to be against racism

The disturbing instances of racism against an Indian cricketer are a reminder that racism is always there and we need to oppose it. It was good to see 6 people ejected from the ground and well done by the Indian cricketer for calling it out.

Racism hurts individuals and communities.

Individuals

A study of over 800 Australian secondary school students found that racism had huge mental health impacts on young people who experience it, including:

  • ongoing feelings of sadness, anger, depression and being left out
  • headaches, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling and muscle tension
  • a constant fear of being verbally or physically attacked
  • not wanting to go to school
  • having little or no trust in anybody apart from family. 1

Communities

Australia is now a very culturally diverse country – about half of us were born overseas or had one or more parents born overseas. When racial tensions develop, they don’t just affect one or two of us – they affect us all… as neighbours, workmates, friends and fellow Australians.

Racism creates a society where people don’t trust and respect each other.

When it’s allowed to flourish, it lessens us as a people.

Let’s all take a strong stand against racism.

(Thanks to the Australian Human Rights Commission for some of the above)

India releases its first ever “Australia Economic Strategy” as the two countries move closer

The launch by India on 18 December of its Australia Economic Strategy (AES) – the first of its kind for India – could be an exciting step along the way to increased trade. As KPMG has expressed it: “It demonstrates India’s intent to fast-track the relationship with Australia in a post-pandemic world.” Exciting.

My view is that as Australia and India move closer together, opportunities will emerge for the two to create and lead an “Indian Ocean Countries Group” – a pathway to peace and prosperity in our region.

India and Australia could lead a prosperous and peaceful Indian Ocean Region

The AES is India’s response to Australia’s An India Economic Strategy to 2035 (IES), launched two years ago.

The AES adds to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) announced by Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi in June 2020 – and both are real evidence that India and Australia are moving closer together.

Three pillars of India’s strategy

The AES is based on three pillars: resources; technology & services; and research & innovations.

Five key sectors

According to KPMG there are five key sectors:

The first is Indian investment in Australia’s mining and resources sector, especially lithium, cobalt and nickel, important for a rapidly growing e-vehicle market.

Second is Indian investment in renewable energy both in the establishment & operation of solar farms as well as the supply of EPC services with Sterling Wilson Solar Limited being a case in point.

Third is health and pharmaceuticals. Collaboration in clinical trials, cancer research, medical & health-tech and training, knowledge transfer and sharing of Australian best practices in hospital administration and patient care.

Fourth is investment in Australia’s agribusiness sector including farmlands and Australian food processing capabilities. There is also significant potential for knowledge sharing and collaboration in best practices for dairy processing.

The fifth is software & information technology. India’s tech giants already have sizeable operations in Australia with further organic and inorganic growth on the cards and an opportunity to extend their business portfolio into government accounts. Further, as Australia looks to build up internal capability and capacity, there is opportunity for the tech giants to set-up centres of excellence or innovation hubs in strategically important areas such as cyber security, cloud and digital, for Australia and the wider ASPAC region.

Make in India program

The new AES, and IES and the wider strategic partnership, all serve to complement India’s flagship Make in India program, which makes India a credible alternative for lower cost manufacturing for Australian companies as they look to diversify business and supply chain risk in a post pandemic world.

Conclusion

Close relations have historically been built on a combination of defence/strategic alliances, mutual investment and trade.

For Australia and India, the future is looking bright in all three areas.

6 steps to bring India and Australia closer in 2021

6 steps to strong India-Australia ties in 2021

  1. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi get on well – they can turn that into specific outcomes by continuing the close dialogue.
  2. PM Modi is a politician who likes to think outside the square, so innovative ideas from Australia will be welcome in Delhi.
  3. Two-way trade is at around A$30 billion and can grow – aiming for slow and steady rather than dramatic boosts will work well for both sides.
  4. Food security and food quality provide collaboration opportunities for both countries. India offers the advantage of diversifying Australian global agricultural exports away from wheat and beef and towards vegetables and fruit.
  5. More interaction at all levels of politics (State and Federal, Ministers and Members) will help because India is a complicated political puzzle with Modi pushing more decision making down to state level and competition between states is increasing – and there are 29 of those!
  6. Creatively looking for ways to collaborate will work well and move our trade from “transactional” to “relationship”.

With these steps we will see strong India-Australia ties in 2021.

Blinken as new US Secretary of State to push India UN role and closer ties

Antony Blinken, US President-elect Joe Biden’s closest foreign policy adviser, has been nominated for Secretary of State.

What will be the Biden-Blinken approach to India?

India a “High priority relationship”

On July 9, Blinken spoke at the Hudson Institute, Washington DC. “Strengthening and deepening the relationship with India is going to be a very high priority.”

Biden role

“During the Bush administration, then Senator Biden partnered with that administration to help get the peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement, the 123 agreement through the United States Senate, usually important to solidifying our relationship,” Blinken said.

Defence Cooperation

Blinken talked about the Biden administration making India a “major defence partner”. This is a major new statement on defence.

Paris Climate Change Pact

“Having sort of set that foundation and made the relationship stronger, guess what? We then worked hard to persuade India that it would be more prosperous and more secure if it’s signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement. We succeeded… It was a challenging effort but Vice President Biden was one of the leaders of the effort to convince our partners in India and they did. I think that’s a reflection, again, of the fact that we cannot solve common global challenges without India as part of the deal,” Blinken said. 

Kashmir & CAA

Blinken flagged concerns on the human rights situation in Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

India leading role in UN

On August 15, Blinken again participated in a panel discussion on Indo-US ties and flagged the issue of UN reforms. “In a Biden administration, we would be an advocate for India to play a leading role in international institutions and that includes helping India get a seat on a United Nations Security Council,” he said.

China challenge

“We have a common challenge which has to deal with an increasingly assertive China across the board, including its aggression toward India…I think you’d see Joe Biden as president investing in ourselves, renewing our democracy, working with our close partners like India, asserting our values and engaging China from a position of strength. India has to be a key partner in that effort,” he said.

Cross-border terrorism

Blinken also addressed New Delhi’s concern of cross-border terrorism, without naming Pakistan. “We would work together to strengthen India’s defence and also I might add its capabilities as a counterterrorism partner.”

Biden’s vision 2020

Blinken quoted Biden from 2006 — just before he was going to take charge as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-2009 — “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.”

Can China become a likeable, trusted power?

China is living in a hostile external environment – mostly of its own making.

Recent aggressive rhetoric plus trade restrictions on Australia and border battles with India are leading examples of how China is projecting itself and the world is worried.

But China also means to become moderately prosperous by 2035. It will need to overcome global misgivings if this is to be achieved.

Andrew K.P. Leung is an independent China strategist and has written about this for the South China Morning Post.

Here are 10 steps China should take, according to Leung

First, get the message firmly across that China is neither able nor willing to unseat the US as the global superpower. China cannot compete with America, which has a military presence in 80 countries and whose military expenditure is 38 per cent of the global total – more than the next 10 countries’ combined.

Second, cut out the wolf warrior rhetoric, whether in diplomacy or on social media.

Third, work with the US and the World Health Organization to end the global pandemic.

Fourth, actively cooperate with the Biden administration on climate change.

Fifth, conduct regular joint naval patrols with the US forces in wider waters of the South China Sea.

Sixth, set aside territorial disputes and work with neighbouring countries in the South China Sea on the joint management and exploration of natural resources, including fisheries, habitats and deep-sea energy resources.

Seventh, embrace free and fair trade. For starters, seek to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which a Biden presidency may wish to join too.

Eighth, China should help North Korea become a rising economic powerhouse like Vietnam.

Ninth, reform the Belt and Road Initiative. Make it more transparent and include more participants.

Tenth, meet more milestones on the path to reform and opening up, whether or not they have been set in the 14th five-year plan – including issues like market reciprocity, state-owned enterprise subsidies, transparency, rule of law, human rights and goals including technological self-reliance and quality growth.

Leung writes that China has vowed to double the size of its economy and become moderately prosperous by 2035.

China is unlikely to act on Leung’s 10 suggestions – but to move on some would send positive signals to the world.

Andrew K.P. Leung is an independent China strategist. 

 andrewkpleung@gmail.com

7 fatal mistakes in Indian market entry

India is super exciting, vibrant, colourful and amazingly friendly. People are accessible and available. Deals can be signed and MOU’s are much loved. The population of over 1.2 billion is soon to become the largest in the world and is soon to overtake China.

While India will probably not be “another China”, it is becoming a global power in its own right and an economy that will soon not be too far behind the USA and China.

So, it makes sense to be there real quick, yes?

YES be there – but watch out for these fatal mistakes

  1. Trying to do the whole country at once will exhaust and confuse you – even Indian companies take years to cover it. Select your best one or two points of entry and the rest will follow.

2. Going in quick on price might seem exciting – but who is actually winning out of this deal? You become a disposable and cheaper provider – so your future is very short term.

3. Appointing the first person who says “yes” seems exciting and then nothing happens. Later you might work out every Indian says “yes” – in their culture, they have to. It takes time to find a “yes” that is real.

4. Focusing on injustice, slums, inequality and the Indian way might be something you think is important but of course it is pretty offensive to your hosts. Sure the traffic is diabolical, but there is no benefit in whinging.

5. A short time frame such as one year is a real killer for Indian market entry. It needs to be a minimum 3 years. If you cannot give it time, go somewhere else.

6. Going it alone sounds brave – but is stupid and wasteful. India is all about relationships and collaborations. And you will need “hand holding” by someone who knows the ropes.

7. Ignoring cultural differences is a recipe for misunderstanding and disappointment. Cultural differences between India and the west are massive – and what we have in common is also massive. You need to understand them both.

How did India miss out on being part of the world’s biggest trading bloc?

India is missing from the world’s biggest trade bloc which has just been formed – 15 countries representing 2.2 billion people have signed on to a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Talks on RCEP began in 2012 and it has now created a bloc which accounts for about one third of the world economy.

This is a massive new initiative for global trade.

India and the USA have missed out – India because of concerns for farmers produce, and the USA because President Trump pulled the pin on the concept.

India is the mystery case in the region because opting out of RCEP is not going to help its economy. Concerns over lower tariffs hurting local producers won the day and India moved out of the deal.

Did India also withdraw because the relations between India and China are sour, with border disputes and other issues on the rise?

But India could ultimately join RCEP – the doors for India to join the bloc will remain open in future, according to the participant countries.

Otherwise, India looks like being one of the two big losers in this move.

The RCEP group is composed of the 10 Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries along with China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

Vietnam “hosted” the final deal online and said the deal will help to lower trade tariffs between the participant countries, over time, and is less comprehensive than the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“RCEP will soon be ratified by signatory countries and take effect, contributing to the post-COVID pandemic economic recovery,” said Nguyen Xuan Phuc, prime minister of Vietnam.

The actual legacy of President Donald Trump’s “America First” withdrawal from multilateralism and deals like TPP and RCEP could be a declining US role in world trade.

In contrast, China could be the big winner – experts say that this pact is a testament of China’s strong influence in the region.

The RCEP will lower or eliminate tariffs on various goods and services, although the scope of the agreement—essentially an extension of free trade under existing frameworks—is limited.

So, what is the biggest benefit of RCEP? The pact will create so-called rules of origin, which make it easier for companies to set up supply chains spanning multiple countries.

This is super important – it will be much easier to manufacture and sell goods in the region once RCEP comes into force.