Friday, November 16, 2012

Shunned by US, Modi courts Israel, Japan

New Delhi, Aug. 12: Virtually declared a persona non grata by the US, Narendra Modi is courting other international majors as partners to register his and Gujarat’s presence outside India and prove he’s not the “pariah” Washington thinks he is.
Among the countries the Gujarat chief minister recently sought out in a big way were China and Japan, and to a smaller extent Europe and Israel.
Foreign policy watchers believe that the Tel Aviv engagement, unobjectionably confined to water and agricultural management, has a political sub-text: for Modi, Israel could be a useful bridge to the US, which remains unaffected by the formidable Gujarati-speaking diaspora’s efforts to have him granted a visa.
Since the 2002 pogrom, Washington, pressured by human rights campaigners, has steadfastly refused to let Modi enter the US.
On Modi’s radar are Africa and the Gulf countries, said Gujarat government sources, adding that he would “seriously” begin making overtures to these blocs after this year’s state elections, provided he wins them.
The government sources claimed no political motives should be imputed to Modi’s engagements.
Sources said the chief minister had been “reluctant” to carry out his latest foreign visit, to Japan in July, because of his “preoccupation” with the Assembly polls. But his advisers emphasised that Japan, saddled with a geriatric population, was foraging for manufacturing hubs in other countries and had “zeroed” in on Gujarat. Therefore, it was important for Modi to hard sell his state.
“They (Japan) had chosen Gujarat over the Philippines, and not because of low wages. The Japanese picked Gujarat because of administrative efficiency and governance and because the state is seen as far less corrupt than other Indian states. They had obviously done their homework,” an official claimed.
“Persuaded” by this argument, Modi spent nearly a week in Japan although the list of dignitaries he called on suggested that the protocol and other details were clearly worked out in advance, notwithstanding his stated “unwillingness”.
Among several others, Modi met deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, foreign minister Koichiro Gema and former Prime Ministers Yasuo Fukuda and Shinzo Abe.
A Gujarat government release cited Japan’s consent for a Maruti-Suzuki plant in the Mandal-Becharji belt of north Gujarat as a “tangible” outcome. However, the visit did not lack the political spin-offs that have become a staple of Modi shows.
His visit coincided with the flare-up in Maruti’s Manesar plant. At an investment seminar in Tokyo, he was bombarded with queries on his prime ministerial aspirations, his “image trap”, the BJP’s prospects in 2014 and the Manesar trouble.
On the last subject, he reportedly said such things should not happen anywhere, not in Haryana nor in Gujarat, but added he was sure the Haryana government was capable of dealing with the management-worker face-off.
Gujarat BJP sources promptly used it as an example of Modi’s “statesmanship” and contrasted his response with information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni’s response to his answer.
Soni said: “He (Modi) may try and win as many contracts (as he wants) for the development of Gujarat’; that’s what his job is. But let’s not do it at the cost of other states.”
Haryana chief minister B.S. Hooda was apprehensive that Maruti could shift its operations lock, stock and barrel to Gujarat.
In June this year, Modi sent another delegation to China to lure firms looking to relocate from the cramped Guangdong province to regions with lower labour wages.
Modi’s grouse was that in 2011, Chinese industries invested more than $60 billion in countries other than India, including Brazil and Russia. “Why must India be left out?” a Gujarat government official, who was part of the delegation, asked.
Apparently persuaded by Modi’s approach to investments, the governor of Guangdong and Sichuan’s communist party secretary invited him to their global economic summit in November when he will be in the middle of electioneering.
Europe soon took note of Modi’s interest in China despite its reservations about 2002. Once the diplomats from Denmark, Switzerland and Austria sought appointments with him, he dispatched another team to Germany and Switzerland to explore the prospects of bilateral trade and investments