For arena addresses and all his many foreign visits, Narendra Modi still lacks a defining international economic project

For arena addresses and all his many foreign visits, Narendra Modi still lacks a defining international economic project

Read more: 

Create News | The Typical Indian™

 

http://thetypicalindian.com#ixzz4MybgsHXt

 

Under Creative Commons License: 

Attribution Share Alike

 

Follow us: 

@typical_tti on Twitter

 | 

thetypicali on Facebook

For arena addresses and all his many foreign visits, Narendra Modi still lacks a defining international economic project

Read more: 

Create News | The Typical Indian™

 

http://thetypicalindian.com#ixzz4MybgsHXt

 

Under Creative Commons License: 

Attribution Share Alike

 

Follow us: 

@typical_tti on Twitter

 | 

thetypicali on Facebook

. The recent strike in Uri scuppered one candidate, specifically shoving against greater economic integration across South Asia. But it has brought the Indian Ocean: another into view, and the thought of putting the broader region at the heart of a new neighborhood policy for India itself.

September’s terrorist attack has created an existential catastrophe for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), pushing the eight-nation body to cancel its meeting next month in Islamabad. Saarc is commonly viewed as ineffectual. Many observers are now asking whether its position is now untenable. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe questioned whether the group could endure, musing that it should be replaced by a body focused on the Indian Ocean earlier this month.

This chimes with notions about India’s neighborhood floated by allies of Modi. The India Foundation, a think tank with links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and both ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, held an Indian Ocean summit in Singapore last month which aimed to increase India’s profile as a power with interests across Asia.

Parts of the event’s program had a gentler focus—on ethnic ties based on Hinduism and Buddhism. But there was a harder edge too, with India placed as a counterweight. International Secretary S. Jaishankar argued in favor of “reviving the Indian Ocean as a geopolitical notion,” in a speech that seemed designed to lay down a mark against Chinese encroachment in the Bay of Bengal.

Modi has also talked up the importance of the “Indian Ocean region,” seeing with a quartet of East African countries before this season, alongside excursions to Mauritius, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka. But these Indian Ocean aspirations risk being diverted vague geopolitical worries about China, and by narrow ethnic dilemmas on the one hand on another. Instead, India should be focused squarely on the potential economic gains from regional trade that was greater.

Here the chance is large, in theory at least.

But in the east or southern Africa ’s six fastest growing economies over that same period, four may also be of the world, including Kenya and Tanzania. A host of other nations likely to grow comparably fast, not least Indonesia and Myanmar, are part of the wider region also.

With African marketplaces being targeted by groups like Tata and Mahindra this potential growth is attracting corporate India. If Modi’s Make In India export drive will be to succeed, goods produced in domestic factories must seek buyers around eastern Africa and South-East Asia.

The difficulty is that while these countries are set to grow individually, the connections between them are often lame. South Asia is certainly one of the world’s least integrated areas. But the Indian Ocean, which stretches to East Africa and encompasses about 40 nations, is barely any better connected. Estimates indicate a third of global bulk cargo and two-thirds of oil shipments cross the Indian Ocean.

How might India improve this scenario? The idea of creating a new regional body, or expanding an old one, is one approach being discussed. In his speech, Jaishankar floated the idea of enlarging the Indian Ocean Rim Association, a low-profile group of 21 nations. It has clear drawbacks, although this is better than nothing. If Saarc’s flaw is that it’s ruled excessively by India, an expanded Indian Ocean newsgroup will endure the opposite problem, bringing together a group that is diffuse with little in common.

The record of previous attempts to shove on alternative regional bodies can also be hardly encouraging, not least the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, whose six other participants Modi has invited to meet alongside this week’s Brics summit in Goa. Meanwhile, there's little evidence that regional bodies do much to enhance trade flows.

A better approach would see India making a bigger, unilateral drive to improve regional connectivity, including greater financial support for infrastructure investment that is new, and a brand new drive to reduce trade barriers, beginning with its own.

Grand One Belt, One Road initiative shows that actual projects between states are usually the best foundation for new economic co-operation across areas are ’sed by the success of China. Here, India has work to do, be it driving on projects like the mooted Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline, or supplying greater development funding support to poorer neighbors.

This fact alone should warrant much greater emphasis being placed by Modi on it. But if India is to issue at the center of a new regional order, it needs to open its wallet first.

YOUR REACTION?

Facebook Conversations