Despite a shift towards USA and Japan, India maintains close friendship with Russia and a “multipolar” world view

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov address a joint press conference, in Moscow. The visit was aimed more at reiterating the importance both nations accord each other.

India has long been able to see both sides of an argument in international affairs – and today is a champion of a multipolar global order.

This frustrates countries like the USA and Australia, which clearly see the world in terms of goodies and baddies – for them, the world order is either run by “us or them”.

India’s independent approach was seen in the recent reinforcement of its long held close friendship with Russia. At a time when the rise of China has pushed India into closer relations with the US and Japan, the Indian External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar held a three day visit to Russia, to reassure an old friend.

Russia could be described as India’s oldest and strongest allies since independence.

“I think what makes our working together so natural and comfortable is our belief in a multipolar global order,” Jaishankar said.

In the complexity of our pandemic world, “multipolar” could be something that takes us forward in peace.

Can India teach the west and China about co-existence?

With India’s role as a rising power, plus its long record of peaceful co-existence with multiple countries, can it help the west and China live together?

Here is the situation as outlined by Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate in economics, Professor of Economics Emeritus and a former dean of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University:

“At the recent G7 and NATO gatherings, China was singled out as a strategic competitor, a calculating trading partner, a technological and national-security threat, a human-rights violator, and a champion of authoritarianism globally.”

Not a great recipe for co-existence.

Spence continues: “China denounced these characterizations, which its embassy in the United Kingdom called “lies, rumors, and baseless accusations.” The risks that such rhetoric poses should not be underestimated.”

Also not a recipe for co-existence.

He concludes: ” The real danger, however, is that officials on both sides seem to have embraced a zero-sum framework, according to which the two sides cannot simply co-exist; one side must “win.”

But India has long experience of getting along with all sorts of regimes and managing to see both sides of the argument.

As India plays a bigger role in global groupings, can it influence both the west and China to drop “zero sum” thinking and work to co-exist?

10 tips for creating trusting cross-cultural teams

No trust, no team.

When trust is absent, you do not have a working team.

Creating teams across cultures is not easy – and even once you have trust, you can accidentally break it in one meeting.

Why?

Communication styles differ across cultures. Some (like Australia) are blunt and direct. Others (like India) are very polite and indirect.

Some cultures (USA and others) like a lot of social talk before getting down to business. Others prefer business first.

Add to this differences over how to give feedback and disagreements in public and you have a potential minefield that will destroy trust in an instant.

We know that diversity has an upside and succeeding across borders is a business imperative.

So, how do you avoid destroying trust? My 10 tips:

First, learn about cultural differences. Ignorance is your own personal enemy. Too many global business leaders have little or no awareness of differing cultures. It is time to change by learning about these cultures.

Second, creating a strong starting point is essential – which means having a clear direction and an optimistic and compelling goal.

Third, ensure that at least some of the team members have been trained in cultural difference and can operate successfully across cultures.

Fourth, encouraging your team to be curious, adaptable, caring and friendly – leaders can do this by showing these characteristics themselves.

Fifth, be specifically aware of the potential explosive points of the different cultures represented in the team. This makes team leaders aware of what can go wrong, what can be misunderstood and how to involve and encourage team members who are from cultures that are reserved and indirect. If conflict does arise, address it straight away in a calm and friendly way.

Sixth, help the team understand the differences between cultures in terms of giving feedback – Australians on the team will generally be very direct, while Indians on the team will be more cautious and indirect with feedback. Talking these differences through can help both sides.

Seventh, based on the trust created by the above, team leaders can establish team standards and norms that everyone commits to sticking to. This will mean for several team members that they have to adapt from their cultural norm. If it is seen that the whole team is adapting, it becomes a shared and positive experience. If I am the only one in the team adapting, it is just no fun and will not last.

Eighth, watch out for cultural differences over starting times – this will cause simmering divisions in the team. Westerners will generally be on time and expect everyone else to be on time too. Other cultures will arrive late and be surprised that others are already there. Create an agreed standard for the starting time and everything else has a better chance of success.

Ninth, have a predictable and mutually agreed timetable for information sharing, such as zoom meetings, email information, one-on-one sessions and physical meetings. Some cultures do not respond well to variations and unpredictability – so try for stability but also allow for those urgent meetings that just need to occur.

Tenth, work hard on creating personal connections with every member of the team. This can take time and seems like a distraction to many leaders, but it is your strongest tool in reducing conflict in cross-cultural teams. Know what their non-work interests are and you will be surprised how well you connect.  

India consumer spending skyrockets

India’s consumer spending a “revolution”

Austrade’s Ashley Brosnan on India’s consumer spending “revolution”:

The biggest revolution taking place is the rapid rise of a huge, diverse and wealthy consumer market. Despite the impacts of the pandemic, domestic demand is likely to be a major driver of recovery and growth over the next decade, making up 60% of the overall economy.

E-commerce is taking off as smartphone usage multiplies. India already has over 1 billion internet users and the digital economy’s contribution to GDP is projected to grow 15–20% by 2024.

Incomes are also rising strongly. India’s median income per household is expected to reach A$13,867 by 2025. The World Economic Forum considers that consumer expenditure in India will grow by a factor of four up to 2030.

This means over 80% of Indian households will be middle-income in 2030 – an increase of 140 million. Another 20 million will be considered high income.

India’s emerging and aspirational middle class is seeking premium food and beverage, healthy lifestyle products, technical infrastructure, quality healthcare and education, entertainment and consumer goods.

Trends in consumer demand are encouraged by a substantial, highly-skilled Indian diaspora in Australia, which is set to number 1.4 million in 2031.

Let’s build a secure Indo-Pacific but talk of war is not helping

First mission of the UK’s new mega aircraft carrier The Queen Elizabeth, was into the Indo-Pacific which is the world’s hottest region right now.

Globally the key strategic location of the world is moving this way – to the Indo Pacific region – and it is happening with some urgency.

Why?

Because of the economic success, military preparedness, activity in the region and the general rise of China.

Urgent discussions are happening among democracies and those in the region – such as India – are seeking defence support to balance things with China.

It is all happening in a rush.

India is fast tracking strategic discussions and arrangements and just completed some ground-breaking strategic deals with the UK and the European Union.

Of symbolic importance, the first mission of the UK’s new mega aircraft carrier (The Queen Elizabeth) was into the Indian Ocean.

The language of all these deals is about China – without mentioning the name. For example, most seek “an open, free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight in the international seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes”.

That’s a lot of words but it adds up to one word – China.

A secure region is good for us all. A region too keen to go to war is not good for us.

On the extremes of the discussions are those who eagerly await the “drums of war” – let’s just remember that these are either the same people or in the same lineage as those who took the west into disasters such as Afghanistan, Iraq and many more right back to and including the Vietnam War.

They have been wrong every time.

Can the Indo-Pacific region achieve peace without repeating these mistakes?

UK and India pragmatic negotiators achieve a trade and investment deal

INTO INDIA has been advocating for Australia to do what deals can be done with India, and “park” a Free Trade Agreement for later on.

The UK-India Virtual Summit has done just that.

Their newly created Enhanced Trade Partnership (bureaucratic speak for “these are the things we can agree on now) will create immediate opportunities for British businesses in India across industries including food and drink, life sciences and the service sector.

Non-tariff barriers on fruit and medical devices will be lowered, allowing British businesses to export more of their products to India and boosting UK growth and jobs. It also commits both sides to addressing immediate market access barriers as well as continuing to seek further opportunities on the road to an FTA. That is, “parking” the FTA for later on – it is just too hard to achieve.

Prime ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson held their Virtual Summit this week and agreed on a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” – the first European country to gain this status.

Australian PM Morrison achieved a CSP with India in 2020 and set out collaboration across science and technology, maritime issues, defence and more.

CSP deals are a sign that India is become more outward looking and – like everyone else – concerned about the behaviour of China.

The trade and investment package unveiled by the British government contains over £533 million of new Indian investment into the UK, covering areas such as healthcare and technology.

British businesses have also secured new export deals with India worth more than £446 million, which is expected to create more than 400 British jobs.

I hope our Australian trade officials are going through all the detail to see if any deals Australia has with India can now be updated on a deal-by-deal basis.

Pat Cummins role model for how all of us can help India

Many of us in business relations with India are wondering what is the right thing to do in the midst of India suffering so much from the pandemic.

Pat Cummins has showed us what to do.

He is staying because IPL creates some joy for lockdown people – and he has made a big donation.

For business and trade the message is striking – keep in touch, build business relations and where you can, donate to support India.

Cummins has starred for the Kolkata Knight Riders so far this season.

The Australian superstar wrote on Twitter on Monday night to announce a donation in the fight against the virus, and to urge fellow cricketers to donate.

I am reproducing his entire Tweet because it is moving and inspirational:

“India is a country I’ve come to love dearly over the years and the people here are some of the warmest and kindest I’ve ever met.

“To know so many are suffering so much at this time saddens me greatly.

“There has been quite a bit of discussion over here as to whether it is appropriate for the IPL to continue while Covid-19 infection rates remain high. I’m advised that the Indian government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult time for the country.

“As players, we are privileged to have a platform that allows us to reach millions of people that we can use for good. With that in mind, I have made a contribution to the “PM Cares Fund”, specifically to purchase oxygen supplies for India’s hospitals.

“I encourage my fellow IPL players – and anyone around else the world who has been touched by India’s passion and generosity – to contribute. I will kick it off with $50,000.

“At times like this it is easy to feel helpless. I’ve certainly felt that of late. But I hope by making this public appeal we can all channel our emotions into action that will bring light into people’s lives.

“I know my donation isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I hope it will make a difference to someone.”

Come on India and Australia – time for an FTA to be number 1 priority

It is high time the close friendship between the PM’s Modi and Morrison led to an FTA.

It is great to see so much friendship and collaboration between India and Australia – but it is time to go to another level and have a serious shot at getting a free-trade agreement between the two countries.

Here’s 3 reasons why an FTA is now urgent:

India wants greater access to Australia’s resources.

Australia wants alternatives to China for resources and wine.

India wants investment and Australia has huge funds under management.

Patience around the FTA has been a good approach but now we have to step up the pace and get on with it.

We need some form of harvest agreements to take the heat out of agriculture – which is always a super-hot political topic in India.

Also, India seriously wants investment flows and Australia has not been forthcoming. Time for the Australian Government to lead our huge investment funds into India.

The reality is – close relations in trade mostly follow investment, and Australia has not invested heavily in India.

Wine barriers to India are huge – there is a 150% tariff – and yet wines like Orlando Jacob’s Creek have done well there.

One problem for India is they are encouraging their own wine industry, typically at the low end of the market. Perhaps they can free up tariffs on high end wine imports?

The relationship between Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison is close and could be a building block for an FTA.

Let’s put it top of the agenda!

USA coming to terms with India’s “longstanding relationship with Russia”

India’s decision to purchase S-400 missile systems from Russia sparked debate in the USA

INTO INDIA has often reminded readers that India has a close and long relationship with Russia – and is capable of being friends with both sides of international disputes.

Now they’re talking about this in the US.

Here’s what Admiral John Aquilino said during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday to be the next commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command or INDOPACOM: “The United States needs to understand that India has had a longstanding relationship with the Russians for security cooperation and military equipment.”

“India is really a terrific partner and as we’ve seen from the recent Quad discussions, I think the importance of India and the rest of the nations in the Quad will increase. We’re at a balance. However, India has had a longstanding relationship with the Russians for security cooperation and for military equipment,” he said.

Let’s hope the USA can also move away from the “goodies and baddies” approach to international affairs and see that it is possible to sustain healthy connections with apparently competing countries and ideologies.

Global “Indo-Pacific” strategies appear to target China

HMS Queen Elizabeth

Global “Indo-Pacific” strategies appear to target China

Here is a selected list of recent initiatives that might be designed to contain China:

  • The British Government is about to announce a foreign and defence policy review with the “new big idea” of a focus on the Indo-Pacific
  • The new UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and accompanying fleet will deploy in May on a maiden voyage to the Indian Ocean coordinated with the US
  • On the flight deck will be a squadron of F35 jets from the US Marine Corps, showing UK and US cooperation
  • The UK mission looks very much like a strike force, including two Type 45 destroyers, an Astute Submarine and two Type 43s
  • At the same time the recent QUAD (Japan, India, Australia, USA) meeting was the first attended by all four leaders and was strong on a free and open Indo-Pacific
  • India, Australia and Japan have an active working party examining supply chain security (code for not buying everything from China)
  • Many foreign ministries from France to Germany have recently produced Indo-Pacific strategies
  • Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer recently said “The single most geopolitical issue in the world today is the rise of China”
  • Downer went much further in his comments: “This is an issue of war and peace.”
  • Meanwhile Australia is in the 10th month of a trade war with Beijing
  • France and Germany are also deploying large warships to the region this year
  • The UK also wants to turn the G7 into an alliance of 10 democracies by inviting South Korea, India and Australia – yet another concern for China

The Indo-Pacific packs some punch – it now accounts for close to half of global economic output and more than half the world’s population: it contains the world’s two most populous nations, China and India; the world’s second and third largest economies, China and Japan; the world’s largest democracy, India.

Add these up – and draw your own conclusions. What do you think?