Don’t get too excited about the new India and Australia talks on CECA

The relationship between these two might hold the key to the current CECA talks

INTO INDIA is optimistic that some deals will emerge from the current round of talks on the Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) – spearheaded by Australian Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan and, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

But a look at Australia’s stance and recent Indian trade policy actions is not reassuring.

India withdrew from the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP); it renegotiated a number of its free trade agreements; it terminated most of its bilateral investment agreements; and it has failed to agree a mini-economic deal with the United States. Not to mention India’s stance in the World Trade Organisation which has been unchanged.

At the domestic level, India has imposed prohibitive tariffs in several sectors and introduced a range of incentives to attract reshoring and investment.

How does Australia’s record stack up? Eager to send more resources and agriculture to India, Australia has been reluctant to allow great services access and people movement from India. This is a thorny issue.

So our word is CAUTION – don’t get your hopes up too high – there has been little progress to show after ten years of negotiations.

So, why be optimistic now?

First, Australian professional trade negotiations have loosened up on what was a cornerstone article of faith for them – preferring the “single undertaking” negotiating model – in which nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Now even they are talking about “early harvest” deals. But can they change their spots? The Morrison government, desperate for a trade win, hopes they can.

Second, India has direct concerns about China and is nervous about the US-China rivalry. It has sensibly decided to build up strategic and economic partnerships as a hedge. There is much talk in India about potentially good trade outcomes arising from China’s “trade war” on Australia.

But the stalemate is always market access.

Australia wants agriculture access – India is hesitant because this sector employs 40% of India’s population. India wants liberalisation of the services “mode 4”, specifically the short-term entry of business persons. India has argued that Australia’s short term business visitor regime constitutes a barrier to India’s services exports. Australia has pushed back on these demands, reflecting concerns at the potential impact on the labour market. In a nutshell – one big stalemate!

Overall, India is not a fan of Free Trade Agreements, seeing most of them widening its trade deficit. That is, India feels the other party benefits most. It has negotiated on five FTA’s over the last 11 years and only one has been signed.

True, India is looking eager, having revived trade talks with the European Union, United Kingdom, United States and Australia. But is it all just a lot of talk?

Remember, India is primarily after foreign investment, exports, making domestic industries competitive and incentivise other countries to manufacture in India. Can Australia play a role in any of this?

The key for Australia and India is to somehow align Australia’s export goals with India’s investment and new exports priorities.

Australia could partner India on technology, innovation and R&D.

Australian companies could boost investment into India – and there are good economic and government subsidy reasons to do so.

Australia has one big advantage here – critical minerals. India has high sustainable energy and e-mobility goals and will need these minerals.

Add to that, Australia has growing expertise in the hydrogen industry, while India has a National Hydrogen Mission. There are good R&D opportunities for both.

While India is the “pharmacy of the world”, Australia is a leader in biotech R&D. Biotech in dairy, marine and more could provide trade deal motivation.

But finally, there is the big blockage.

India wants to increase skill migration to Australia. Australia has opposed it. Most of the talks in the last decade have faltered at this point.

What has changed?

Border closures have left Australian businesses struggling to fill roles. Australia needs an ‘early harvest deal’ to attract skilled professionals from India.

So, despite the gloom of the past, there are reasons to have some optimism for these talks on CECA.

Watch this space.

KIIT & KISS Founder has been awarded the “Sandipani Gourav Maharshi Samman-2020” – dedicates award to young tribals

Dr Achyuta Samanta dedicates award to young tribals

Awards and recognitions are no mere feathers in the cap for the KIIT and KISS founder Dr. Achyuta Samanta, but it has become a reality about inheritance of ideals built on a foundation of benevolence and concern for others.

Dr Samanta is a social worker, educationist and philanthropist.

He has pioneered an Art of Giving program that is a force for change.

Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences – KISS, comprises of KISS Foundation, KISS School & College and KISS University. KISS Foundation is an NGO in India headquartered in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. School, College and University is the educational wing of this initiative located at the intersection of food, education and empowerment.

Dr Samanta’s ventures are powered by a belief that a better world – free from hunger, poverty & illiteracy – is possible. We provide free education, accommodation, food and healthcare to over 30,000 indigenous students currently studying at our main campus in Bhubaneswar. We are currently 20,000 alumni strong. We aim to serve an additional 10,000 students across our satellite centres which are going to be functional soon.

Dr. Achyuta Samanta, is also a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), Kandhamal, and has been conferred with the prestigious “Sandipani Gourav Maharshi Samman-2020” by Bharatiya Sanskrutik Sambhardhak Trust, Porbandar, Gujarat on the eve of celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the trust.

In a ceremonial event held in the presence of Shri Nimaben Acharya, Hon’ble Speaker, Gujarat Legislative Assembly, a galaxy of intellectuals and saints of the nation, this honour was bestowed upon Dr. Samanta for his exemplary dedication and lifetime contribution towards Social Work and Spiritualism. Humbled by the honour, Dr. Samanta extended his respectful gratitude towards Shri Ramesh Bhai Oza, Founder of Bharatiya Sanskrutika Sambhardhak Trust and all the members & office bearers of the trust.

It’s noteworthy that every year the trust has been honouring spiritual figures, saints, sages, intellectuals, thought leaders and social workers with coveted titles and honours namely ‘Devarshi’, ‘Brahmarshi’, ‘Rajarshi’ and ‘Maharshi’ since 1996.

 Apart from Dr. Samanta, Kokila Ben Dhirubhai Ambani was conferred with ‘Rajarshi’ Samman whereas treasurer of Sriram Janmabhumi Tirthakhetra, Pune Swami Govind Devagiri Maharaj received Devarshi Samman and former Vice-Chancellor of Sampurnanand Sanskrit University Dr. Rajaram Shukla was conferred with Brahmarshi Samman.

“Maharshi award is extremely special as it comes from the organisation led by the most revered and venerable Pujya Bhaishri, Shri Ramesh Bhai Oza ji. It will be remembered by our KIIT & KISS family and me forever. I dedicate this coveted recognition to our team that has worked relentlessly and to all the tribal young girls and boys who have struggled and have transformed their lives with resilience.”; said Dr. Samanta.

An Indian view of the Australian “Habits of an Optimist” free course

With Avinash Kshirsagar travelling in the Himalayas on my last trip to India

Yesterday was Mental Health Day – but really, it should be every day of the year. Many have found that good mental health and an optimistic outlook go together and there is a wonderful course suitable for all ages and FREE from the Centre for Optimism.

This has been reviewed by my friend Avinash Kshirsagar – a young Indian from Maharashtra state who is completing his accountancy qualifications. We met while travelling in the Himalayas and I joined him on his daily quest to find great cafes for lunch. Here is his review:

“Steve and I have had several discussions on optimism particularly a blend between optimism and realism.

We’ve shared our thoughts as well on this.

I’m very thankful to Steve that he shared with me a course on Project Optimism.

This course is all what one needs to do to be an optimist. Lots of takeaways on being positive and spreading optimism. I have highlighted the points that I particularly found were best inputs;

•             Smile like an optimist. The importance of smiling and how the optimist does it. It shared a quote by Charlie Chaplin “You’ll never find a rainbow if you are looking down.”

•             Habits of an optimist highlighted the importance of habits, and I could totally relate it to the book I’m currently reading by James Clear named “Atomic Habits.”

•             Another important aspect that was largely emphasised was Social media and being optimistic. The relationship between the two and impact of procrastination leading to a low key on positivity was very well illustrated.

•             The impact of asking oneself “What make you optimistic” ona regular basic or giving affirmations to check whether one is optimistic is relatable because I personally practice giving myself such affirmations. But this course doesn’t stop here. It teaches one to ask each other these questions so that the environment is healthy too. Imagine implementing the same in small groups. It will do wonders and promote mental health as well. This is spread optimism through optimism.

•             Optimism and success are very well connected. I would say that they complement one another. Would be of great help to those working in the corporates to check on this.

Each chapter had a questionnaire on how does one practice optimism in real life. The questions were really easy at first but didn’t seem as easy when I had to pen down the answers. They were very basic but made me press upon a lot to see where I stand. Totally worth it.

The chapters don’t have written context. It is more through video illustrations showing animated figures so that one won’t feel monotonous. Also, after each chapter they have added points through different research papers and other references. This would be of help to those who want to read more on it.

This course is a gift. It’s free of cost.

I have totally found this course worth the time and would recommend it to those who want to know what optimism is how can one practice being optimistic.

It’s not a choice. It’s a way to acceptance and leading an positive life in a realistic manner.

Thanks

Avinash Kshirsagar

India and the USA have very different world views – the 10 differences

Indian PM Modi meets with US President Biden in the White House recently

There has been a lot of talk recently about India becoming part of some formal military alliance with the US – in response to the rise and actions of China.

But is this likely?

Here are 10 key differences in the world view of India and the USA

New Delhi is wary that any formal alliance with the US could draw it into almost constant military activity such as the Iraq war

India prefers to do its own strategic deals on a country by country basis – rather than manage these through a dominant US strategic alliance. For example, India and Australia have a Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement allowing each to uses each other’s bases

Historically India has never agreed to open-ended commitments that might lead to future military involvement

Of the four countries speculated to be invited to join the Five Eyes security arrangement (the four are Germany, India, South Korea and Japan) – India is the only one of these four to NOT have a treaty alliance with the US

An example of differences between India and the US is Iran and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the US attacks Iran on the nuclear issue, sees the NPT as something to be enforced – but India has not signed the NPT itself and sees it as discriminatory

There are differences on the “threat” from China – the US is most assertive on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea while India has been quite reserved on this issue

India is more concerned about its Himalayan border conflicts with China than the South China Sea

India generally has little or nothing to say about human rights issues in other countries. Whereas the US and its allies such as the UK and Australia are constantly calling out human rights abuses around the world

The US wants “all in” commitment from allies but India has always been non-aligned and refuses to get drawn into “us versus them” views of the world. One current example is India is finalising a logistics deal with the UK while also negotiating a similar deal with Russia

India is content to be “the world’s biggest democracy” but is not evangelical about it, accepting that all countries are different – a sharp contrast to the US wanting to remake countries in its own image and championing democracy for all

New “Business Champions” group to provide much needed top level links between India and Australia

Indian Commerce Minister Mr Piyush Goyal

A new “Business Champions” group will lead top level business engagement between India and Australia – and it was launched last week in India.

INTO INDIA welcomes this move to bring the “top end” of both countries together. Business engagement at this level has not worked well in the past. Most of the business councils and chambers have provided lower level SME engagement – important as this is.

“Supply chains” is behind the enthusiasm of India for the new Australia-India Business Champions Group’s role. Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Textiles, Government of India said this when addressing the Inaugural Meeting of the Australia India Business Champions.

The Minister is co-chairing the group with Australian Trade Minister, the Hon Dan Tehan.

“The Australia-India Business Champions Group’s key aim is to liberalise and deepen bilateral trade between both the nations and pave the way for collaborative economic growth.” stated Mr. Dan Tehan MP, Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment, Government of Australia.

Major business organisations leading the group are the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA). Both represent almost all the major business corporations in both countries.

Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII, pointed to areas such as mining, education, defence, space and emerging sectors which the group can take forward.

Ms. Jennifer Westacott AO, CEO, BCA, highlighted that we must strengthen and reform regional and global institutions, so they deliver for our citizens.  She said the Business Champions would engage directly with the top tier of Australian and Indian Governments on matters critical to business. 

Other panelists at the meeting included H E Mr. Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner of India to Australia, H E Mr. Barry O’ Farrell AO, High Commissioner of Australia to India, Dr. Anish Shah, MD & CEO, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Ms. Julie Shuttleworth, CEO, FFI, Mr. Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, Mr. Mike Cannon-Brookes, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Atlassian, Mr. Nitish Jain, President, SP Jain School of Global Management, Ms. Verena Lim, Asia CEO, Macquarie Group, Mr. Girish Ramachandran, President, Tata Consultancy Services Asia Pacific, Professor Duncan Maskell, Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne.

Business with India? Leave your ego behind and let Indians run the business

Pretty much every western company that has succeeded in India has done so on the support of a strong local Indian team across all levels. To do this, they have effectively left their ego behind.

Those who struggle typically want to transfer their “culture” to India so they put their expat team in charge of the local team. This is ego centred and mostly does not work. These are mainly companies that do not trust the locals and are over-confident about their own “head office culture”.

Being preoccupied with transferring “the way we do things in our company” to India makes them blind to “the way Indians do things there” which is the most important insight for future success.

So – local management teams are essential in India (and probably anywhere you go in Asia) and that team should lead and manage your enterprise throughout India. This does not mean you do not provide the support of some expats – of course good companies do, but this is to empower the local team. Expats can come and go as needed – but your business needs longevity in India and that is what an Indian management team can provide.

Smart companies that go into Asia also ensure they hire Asians into the HO team, so you have Asians running your enterprise on the ground in Asia and Asians at the right level in HO guiding and advising the HO team.

Real access to family and business networks in India (and probably all of Asia) is mostly only achieve by Indians.

Conclusion – if you want to succeed in business in India, rely on Indians to run your Indian business.

Breathing program making Yale students happy coming to Australia in September

Art of Living – quick, simple program for happiness in tough times

A program from India that is being used at Yale University and many other American universities to improve wellbeing of students – is coming to Australia online.

Starting on 30 September, this short Pan Australia Happiness Program will be held in the Presence of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who creating the breathing technique that changes lives. INTO INDIA has been doing this program for many years and loves the energy and simplicity of it.

This is a super simple, quick and unbelievably powerful way to have a good day!

If you are feeling alone.

If covid is dominating your mind.

If your breathing is shallow.

If you feel anxiety and stress.

Step in and join a big and strong group of like-minded people who believe in contributing and creating waves of happiness, sharing, and caring that are so much required right now.   

Registration link: www.artofliving.org/au-en/program/6401

Videos: The videos below showcase how Breathing and Meditation can help us become stress-free

James Nestor, author of Breath, on his research & the power of SKY (Sudarshan Kriya)

Take a breath: What a new study from Yale reveals about stress and mental health

Art of Living Australia Foundation is looking forward to sharing this beautiful program with you and your friends and colleagues.

Contact for further information – Rohit 

Art of Living Happiness Program and Sri Sri Yoga Facilitator

0423 531 787

“Make others comfortable and you will see that Nature will take care of your comfort” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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?

Australian critical minerals, infrastructure, energy, technology, agribusiness, education and space – step up to the table for FTA talks with India

The Australian Trade Minister, The Hon Dan Tehan MP, last week pointed to Indian FTA priority areas such as critical minerals, infrastructure, energy, technology, agribusiness, education and space.

He announced a speeding up of talks with India last week and chose the launch of the Canberra chapter of the Australia India Chamber of Commerce to also announce an update of the India Economic Strategy.

This is a great time for business to step forward. You can have a say. You can be at the FTA discussion table.

The Minister said he had asked former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to visit India for meetings around the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (which is an FTA).

He announced to the AICC that both countries were hopeful of concluding negotiations this year – a dramatic ramping up of the pace.

The AICC has the Hon. Ted Baillieu AO as its Founding Patron.

There are so many great Indian startup stories – and much more to come

Mr. Girish Mathrubootham started Freshworks without any special help, nor did he come from wealth.

There are so many startup and unicorn stories in India today – and we know there will be more tomorrow.

Consider Freshworks which began eleven years ago and is now a huge firm with more than 3,800 team members and offices all over the world.

Mr. Girish Mathrubootham started Freshworks without any special help, nor did he come from wealth.

“We were only a six-person company operating out of a tiny garage in Chennai over eleven years ago. I didn’t have a gilded CV or come from a wealthy household, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming big.”

“I recognise that not every creator is as lucky, which is why as an angel investor, I have funded more than sixty startups,” he continued.

Now Girish Mathrubootham of Freshworks, Mr. Manav Garg of Eka Software, Mr. Shubham Gupta ex-Matrix, and Mr. Avinash Raghava ex-Accel have teamed together to establish a founders-first company called Together Fund in an effort to boost entrepreneurial enthusiasm in India.

The fund, which has a US$ 85 million initial capital, aims to assist India’s finest SaaS entrepreneurs in building, scaling, and winning together, therefore creating India as a true product country. Together Fund is India’s first and only venture capital fund run by founders. They operate some of India’s most well-known SaaS businesses in addition to being founding partners of Together.

The future of startups and innovation is looking good for India.