Tony Abbott might have overstated it – but he is more right than wrong on India

Tony Abbott wants Australia to make a big shift towards India and away from China.

Despite some hysterical responses from two former Aussie PM’s, Tony Abbott has by and large got it right on India and we should work towards the closer relationship he believes is possible – and necessary!

Consider this verbal stoush:

“The answer to almost every question about China is India. Although currently not as rich as China … India is perfectly placed to substitute for China in global supply chains … India has revived the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and the first in-person Quad summit is expected before the end of the year. Under Modi, India has invited Australia to join the annual Malabar naval exercises that will soon involve India, the US, Japan, Australia and also the UK … It will be an impressive show of strength, demonstrating the democracies’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific … If Australian business and officialdom were to make the same effort with India that they’ve long made with China, there’s potential for a ‘family’ relationship with India that was never likely with China.”

– Former prime minister Tony Abbott in The Australian (10/8/21)

“No, (Abbott’s comment) is just wrong. We all agree our relationship with India has been underdone over the years … India has got a very deep longstanding protectionist political culture. They weren’t even prepared to sign up to RCEP … You have got to be realistic about what you can achieve in terms of trade. They are different countries, different economies. We should be aiming to have much stronger deeper relations with India …  Every prime minister should and will do that. But the idea that can sort of delete China and insert India is just nonsense.”

– Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at a La Trobe University webinar (10/8/21)

“We have got to be deeply realistic about one thing (about the Quad). Is it the assumption of future Australian governments, like Tony Abbott’s view in today’s press, that the Indian navy is going to go steaming into the South China Sea to defend Uncle Sam’s interest if the balloon goes up over Taiwan? I think not   …  We need to ask some very hard military questions about the core strategic utility of this (the Quad) for the longer term … We need to go into this with wide eyes open, not the blithering idiot remarks we’ve seen from Abbott in today’s newspapers.”

– Former prime minister Kevin Rudd also at La Trobe University

“The one thing we should not be doing is saying to India, this is to line you up to be the next member of ANZUS to take on China. I agree with what Kevin said, that equally just plays into the paranoia of China … We have to just move gently, avoid extravagant language (with India) …  Frankly, extravagant claims of the type we were talking about a moment ago are not helpful.”

– Malcolm Turnbull again

“India is the world’s emerging democratic superpower and my god don’t we need another democratic superpower in the world right now. Isn’t it so important that a country like Australia do everything it can to ensure India does take its rightful place up there at the head of the world’s great democracies.”

– Tony Abbott, Australia India Address (17/8/2021) 

Well, what do you think?

India’s EdTech has a huge boost due to covid and home learning

Harsh Rajan and Nirmla Sankaran founders of HeyMath – an E-Learning, online Maths coaching institute in Chennai.

India’s online education sector has really taken off as the pandemic led to school closures and a big part of the 250 million school children switched to online learning.

Investors are attracted to the large number of startups and unicorns in EdTech.

It’s an industry that will be worth nearly $2 billion by next year and is producing unicorns such as Byjus and Skillmatics.

Even with this dramatic growth, online education is touching only a small fraction of the Indian education market, so the future is strong.

A further boost for EdTech is the new National Education Policy (NEP), which looked at addressing the challenges and extending the scope of right to education (RTE) to students aged 3-18 years, with a key recommendation to harness edtech through app-based learning, online student communities, and lesson delivery beyond ‘chalk and talk’.

According to estimates by DataLabs, there are a total of 4,450 edtech startups operating in India, spread across various segments such as test preparation, e-tutoring, online certification, skill development, online discovery, and STEAM kit and enterprise solutions.

Educational delivery will no longer be either fully online or offline but a hybrid blend of both worlds.

For countries like Australia, India has an appetite for almost all of the EdTech innovations coming through.

India speeding up solar power across Africa

Indian PM Narendra Modi meets with African leaders during the International Solar Alliance meeting – an initiative created by India.

India is taking a leading role in supporting the spread of solar power across Africa – where nearly 600 million Africans still do not have access to modern sources of electricity.

India created and leads the International Solar Alliance, which has 86 member countries including Australia – and is now attracting strong participation from Africa.

With drastically falling technology costs, renewable energy has become a cost-effective option of generating clean power all over the world.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was conceived as a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries (which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn) to address their special energy needs.

The ISA will provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar-resource-rich countries, through which the global community, including governments, bilateral and multilateral organizations, corporates, industry, and other stakeholders, can contribute to help achieve the common goal of increasing the use and quality of solar energy in meeting energy needs of prospective ISA member countries in a safe, convenient, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner.

ISA has been conceived as be an action-oriented, member-driven, collaborative platform for increased deployment of solar energy technologies to enhance energy security and sustainable development, and to improve access to energy in developing member countries. The ISA has 122 sun-belt countries that lie between the two tropics as its prospective member countries and currently boasts a membership of 86 countries globally.

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?

Can trade steer the Indo-Pacific towards recovery?

Trade presents as a very mixed story for countries in the Indo-Pacific region – there appears to be both peril and opportunity ahead.

On the peril side – lockdowns, disrupted supply chains, security tension and travel restrictions.

What’s on the opportunity side?

Not much, but we should be optimistic.

The plunge in world trade could be bottoming out. Weak global growth could turn into moderate growth. Closed borders might soon open. And tensions around key areas of trade, technology and security (ie around China) could stop festering.

Or maybe pigs might fly?

What do you think is ahead?

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?

Adani takes giant steps towards becoming the world’s leading renewables company

Adani Group taking giant steps towards becoming the world’s largest solar power player by 2025.

Adani is taking a massive lead in India into green energy renewables.

But in Australia it is still seen as “the Indian coal company” because of its activities in Queensland – in this market the Adani reputation has taken a hit as a result.

The reality is Adani is a leader in green energy and just got a lot bigger!

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), this week signed share purchase agreements for the acquisition of 100% interest in SB Energy India from SBG (80%) and Bharti Group (20%). 

SB Energy India has a total renewable portfolio of 4,954 MW spread across four states in India.

Adani is super serious about renewables – the transaction marks the largest acquisition in the renewable energy sector in India. The transaction values SB Energy India at an enterprise valuation of approximately USD 3.5 billion.

The target portfolio consists large scale utility assets with 84% solar capacity (4,180 MW), 9% wind-solar hybrid capacity (450 MW) and 7% wind capacity (324 MW).

With this acquisition, AGEL will achieve total renewable capacity of 24.3 GW (1) and operating renewable capacity of 4.9 GW.

You’ve got to hand it to Gautam Adani who has the vision to be the leader in sustainable energy transition globally and makes it one of the largest renewable energy platforms in the world.

Mr Adani created a vision in January 2020, wherein he laid out our plans to become the world’s largest solar player by 2025 and thereafter the world’s largest renewable company by 2030.

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.”