Make in India has been the main slogan drummed out by Narendra Modi and his ministers and bureaucrats for many months, but it is surely time for that to be turned around into a reality by India’s prime minister adopting a personal slogan to Make Things Happen.
There are few significant results from the Make in India campaign with its strange lion logo made of old-fashioned engineering cogs, and there will not be many until Modi focuses on making India’s rules and regulations operate more easily.
That thought must have been in the minds of many people who played a part in Modi’s three day trip to China at the end of last week, and maybe also on his visit today to South Korea as part of a three-country tour that has included the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Mongolia.
This was reflected by the China’s state-run Global Times, which ran a critical piece on border issues last week and, two days after Modi left China, had a negative review of India’s investment prospects despite encouraging comments from some Chinese businessmen.
“For the moment, there is little evidence of success for foreign investments from private enterprises,” Global Times stated in an opinion piece titled ‘Economy a dilemma for globe-trotting Modi.’ “In the end, if any country tries to encourage investments to India, most of the programs will be led by the government itself, with most of the private business sector skeptical about the whole idea,” it said. “Even if New Delhi keeps persuading investors how promising it is to do business in India, the current situation is far from reassuring”.
Modi spent the first anniversary of his general election victory on May 16 doing one of the things he does best – wowing a huge crowd of several thousand adulating overseas Indians in a foreign country. Previously he’s done this in friendly places like America, Australia and Canada, but this time he was in potentially enemy territory – Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, where some 5,000 Indians had been encouraged to flock to hear the political rock star perform.
He was a little more restrained than his earlier shows that began in New York’s Madison Square Garden with some 20,000 people last September. He was also more soberly dressed in a buttoned- up dark Indian style formal suit instead of the salmon pink sleeveless kurta jacket and yellow shirt he wore in New York. That reflected his more conservative style since he was mocked for wearing pin stripes with his name stitched in gold when he met President Obama in Delhi four months ago.
Foreign trips to some 17 countries have been the high spots of Modi’s first year. His energy and focus, and the charm and friendly informality that he displays on these tours, has broadened India’s international relationships.
Conversations, including those with Chinese leaders, are more direct, and personal relationships seem to be stronger, though there is little to show yet in terms of concrete outcomes.
A Delhi businessman said to me last week that the only significant result so far from all the trips was uranium supplies from Canada that are urgently needed for India’s power reactors.