The Modi Express

The Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia has sparked an extraordinary response from the Indian community in Australia. The ‘Modi Express’ carrying over 200 Modi devotees on a 12 hour train journey from Melbourne to Sydney to hear the Indian Prime Minister speak at a public event in Sydney, which is expected to have 15,000 attendees, reflects the effect Mr. Narendra Modi has on the Indian diaspora. It was less than 2 months ago when approximately 20,000 Indians crowded Madison Square Garden to hear him speak. While Mr. Narendra Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Australia since 1986, visiting the U.S. has always been a strategic priority of Indian Prime Ministers and yet none in recent memory have sparked such a following, even in the U.S.

Mr. Narendra Modi’s visit comes shortly after the Australian Prime Minister Mr. Tony Abbott’s visit to India in September, when amongst a series of initiatives Mr. Abbott announced the Australian Government’s decision to allow Australian companies to supply uranium to India. Significantly more relevant than this step helping meet the future energy needs of India, or the targeted trade outcomes of Australia, was the critical signal that Australia sent India that it was a “trusted partner” who could be trusted to use Australian uranium for purely civilian purposes. This augmented the existing commitment that Australian Federal and State Governments have shown towards India with collectively over 15 representative offices spread across key Indian cities committed to furthering trade, investment and diplomacy with India. This sense of commitment, through the investment of resources (people and hard currency), is likely only behind Australia Federal and State Government commitments to China in the Asian region. This is interesting given India is significantly behind not just China but also Japan on both the trade and foreign direct investment front. It is the uncapped and undeveloped potential of India that seems to compel the Australian Federal and State Governments to take such a strong forward looking position with India.

That position can only be nurtured to fruition with the explicit support of Mr. Narendra Modi who unlike any former Indian Prime Minister has the unwavering support of India’s private sector, particularly the large family owned conglomerates that dominate Indian industry. For Australia to seek Indian investments successfully, it will also need to show a genuine interest through its corporate sector to invest more heavily in India. The Narendra Modi Government’s emphasis on streamlining foreign investment hurdles and stemming the influence of corruption and bureaucracy on foreign investors means that Australian corporates, particularly our cash rich superannuation funds will be expected to invest in Indian projects. Japanese, Chinese, Canadian and American investors have certainly done so and the Indian community will seek reciprocity in the flows of cross border capital to view Australia as a true partner. Mr. Narendra Modi certainly will.

Main photo courtesy of the Prime Minister’s Office, India.
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