India’s “north east region” has long been neglected and is little known among western leaders – but it has a crucial future because of the role it can play in India’s strategic and commercial connectivity in the surrounding region.
The role of China in the Indo-Pacific increases the focus on this sensitive region.
India is now giving the NER priority – there are around 30 major road and highway links under construction, a complex process when border crossings are involved. There are also around 10 major railway construction projects including bridges and new lines.
This has been so well described by Sreeparna Banerjee and Ambar Kumar Ghosh, “India’s Northeast: Gateway to Connectivity with Eastern Neighbours,” ORF Occasional Paper No. 395, March 2023, Observer Research Foundation.
India’s northeast consists of eight states—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. It shares 5,812 km of international boundaries with the neighbouring countries of Myanmar, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is landlocked; seven of the eight states are linked to the rest of India only through the Siliguri Corridor in North Bengal—a narrow strip of land (22-km wide) that is also called the ‘Chicken’s Neck’. The corridor is flanked by Nepal in the north and Bangladesh in the south.
This region can serve as a pivotal connecting space between India and its neighbours to the east in South Asia, as well as to East and Southeast Asia and beyond, enhancing the country’s diplomatic, infrastructural, and commercial engagements.
India’s foreign policy priorities, reflected in its ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ policies, also bring the northeast into focus as a connectivity gateway to the wider Indo-Pacific.
Japan, with its long-standing expertise in the infrastructure sector, continues to play a significant role in developing physical connectivity projects within and across the northeast.
Australia shares many of the strategic goals of India, and now through the QUAD (India, Australia, Japan and USA) the countries are closer together through their commitment to democracy, open and free cultures and more.
The focus on this region will continue – India is crucially positioned within South Asia and in the broader Bay of Bengal region. It needs to play a more vibrant role in the region, and to do so, must engage more strongly with its East and Southeast Asian neighbours.
PM Narendra Modi – India’s most international leader
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is one of the globe’s outstanding and well recognised leaders.
No coincidence, given he is probably the most outward looking of India’s PM’s and is pushing hard for his vision of a modern and connected India.
India’s Presidency of the G20 this year will greatly add to Modi’s credentials.
But what will the year ahead show us? “More Modi” is the probable answer.
In India ten states and territories are due to hold elections this year in what will tell us more about how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dominant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national government will fare in elections likely in 2024.
The BJP is in full or coalition government in five of these regional governments which will hold elections throughout the year starting in February.
The BJP runs 11 states in total and five more in coalition governments.
So how about the Congress Party? The once dominant Congress Party only runs three states and three more in coalitions.
Other parties run eight states suggesting one possible disturbing long term outcome – some untidy form of cooperation between the Congress and others.
This year will tell us a lot and most think the BJP grip will continue.
As this year comes to a close, INTO INDIA reflects on the game changer – the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement.
It surprised us all. Many did not expect it to be signed. Nobody expected it to be so vast in potential impact.
ECTA will save Australian exporters around $2 billion a year in tariffs, while consumers and business will save around $500 million in tariffs on imports of finished goods, and inputs to our manufacturing sector.
The tariff commitments provided by India in the agreement will open up access for Australia’s exporters of products including critical minerals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, lentils, seafood, sheepmeat, horticulture and wine.
Australian service suppliers will benefit from full or partial access across more than 85 Indian services sectors and subsectors. Australian suppliers across 31 sectors and subsectors will be guaranteed the highest standard of treatment that India grants to any future free trade agreement partner.
Australian services sectors to benefit include higher education and adult education, as well as business services such as tax, architecture and urban planning.
ECTA will support tourism and workforce needs in regional Australia by making 1000 Work and Holiday Program places available to young adventurous Indians. It maintains opportunities for Indian students graduating in Australia to undertake post-study work, with a bonus year of stay for high-performing STEM graduates.
AICC’s Mahadevan Shankar (right) with SatCom President Dr Subba Rao Pavaluri in presence of Minister The Hon Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar
India is a major centre for all aspects of satellites – the rockets are flying, the satellites launching and this is becoming a big industry.
There’s some good news in this for Australia. The Australia India Chamber of Commerce has driven this good news.
Thanks to the efforts of AICC’s Mahadevan Shankar, Convenor, Defence and Security National Industry Group – we now have super good news out of India – an MOU has been signed yesterday between the AICC and the SatCom Industry Association, India.
The signing was in the presence of Hon Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Entrepreneurship, Skill Development, Electronics & Information Technology. Pictured with the documents in front of the Minister are (left) the President of SatCom Industry Association Dr. Subba Rao Pavaluri and AICC’s Mahadevan Shankar, Convenor, Defence and Security National Industry Group.
This bilateral partnership will lead to growing collaborations – and opportunities for Australian companies to engage directly with this growth sector of India.
SatCom Industry Association represents satellite operators, satellite systems, launch vehicles, ground and terminal equipment manufacturers and suppliers, satellite-based IOT/M2M solution providers, space startups, innovation hubs, academic institutions, law firms and provides interface with Government, Regulators, Policymakers and domestic & international standards’ bodies.
It has been a dynamic year for the AICC.
Members of AICC have been contributing extensively in this area past year, which has significantly motivated the progress of this bilateral 🇦🇺🇮🇳 partnership towards growing collaborations into the future.
Mahadevan Shankar says: “Sky is the limit and truly the exponential growth in space sector globally, and in particular in India, has opened up significant opportunities for Australian companies to engage directly and share in the rapid growth!”
“Big opportunities for next generation leaders, innovators & entrepreneurs to enter civilian and military use satellites and participate in the booming digital economies of future!” he said.
Deakin University set to lead in new education era for India – at JGU are Professor Iain Martin, VC, Deakin, and Ravneet Pahwa, VP and CEO South Asia
These “HUBS” are a great innovation by Deakin University – giving it a great advantage in the Indian era of the New Education Policy.
Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin visiting New Delhi, India, announcing the launch of partner-institutions so that students can commence the first part of their studies in their home country.
“I am excited to be back in India and it couldn’t have been for a better occasion than the launch of the DEAKIN UNIVERSITY HUBS at OP Jindal Global University, Symbiosis International University and Chitkara University,” said Professor Martin.
Here is why this is a big idea!
Indian students can now commence the first part of their studies with a Deakin partner institution in India and then transfer to a Deakin campus in Australia for the second part of their educational journey.
But that’s just the early stage of the HUBS.
“These hubs will provide valuable opportunities for growth, student mobility and joint research. They will promote enhanced collaboration between Indian institutes and Deakin, leading to academic and research excellence that will be highly beneficial for both countries,” said Professor Martin.
It gets better!
Deakin has established similar hubs with corporates – Infosys, TCS and more.
Deakin was the first international university to establish its presence in India in 1994.
CONGRATULATIONS to Ravneet Pawha, Vice-President (Global Alliances) and CEO (South Asia) at Deakin and the whole Deakin team in India.
Deakin is a role model in how to do business in India:
Establish a presence for the long haul
Be visible in India
Develop relationships over time
As India further liberalises, build stronger engagement
Use Indians to head up your presence in India
Ensure your leadership (V-C) is a regular visitor to India
This is one of the best summaries of why India should be on your business and trade radar.
My good friend Hareesh Tibrewala provides the great summary – he is the Author of ‘If I Had To Do It Again’, a Social Media Strategist and Internet Entrepreneur – currently Joint CEO of Mirum India.
“Right now the Indian economy seems like the brightest spot among all large economies.
“One one hand, the whole of Europe is suffering the brunt of the Ukraine war. And irrespective of sanctions against Russia, and who is winning or losing the war, the brunt is actually being faced by Europe in form of inflation and energy issues.
“On the other hand, the US seems to be struggling to come out of Covid. There are just no people anywhere to fill in the job vacancies. Every shop or outlet has “Hiring” signs in their window. And salary levels, even for minimum wage kind of jobs seems to have increased dramatically.
“And finally China, who was powering the world economy for the past few decades seems to be floundering thanks to zero-covid policy and an unprecendented drought.
“Overall the APAC region, and specifically India, seem to be comparatively doing much better and seem stable.”
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.
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?
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.