Film actor Raj Kapoor is considered by many to be the biggest showman of the film industry. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being hailed as the greatest showman of Indian politics. The Howdy Modi show in USA with the slogan ‘Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’ organised by the Texas India Forum, was definitely spectacular. No doubt, it has augmented the image, aura, and impact of Modi across the world not only among Indians but among US citizens also. Why is Modi emphasising on foreign relations so much? His critics say he has been building up ‘Brand Modi’ abroad. The Prime Minister is clear that with the support of the three million Indian diaspora, he can market himself much better. Strengthening these relations is a big component of his foreign policy. Modi obviously feels that the power of the diaspora should be harnessed for the growth of India and his own image. He has a mission of making India a $5-trillion economy by 2024, but this high-pitched target is tricky only through internal resources. Modi is clear that unless there is a foreign capital inflow, it will be an uphill task to accelerate India’s growth. He has been aggressively focusing on USA, Russia, Germany, France, China, Brazil, South Africa and the UK.
gfiles’ cover story ‘Howdy’s Trump Card’ by our analyst Seema Guha is an endeavour to understand Modi’s foreign policy marathon. ‘Howdy Modi’ was a win-win situation for Modi and US President Donald Trump. Modi forcefully conveyed to the US administration that he has a strong ally in the US President along with an influential Indian diaspora. On his part, Donald Trump is looking for all kind of support to win the US presidential election next year. The well-off Indian community is his target and he tried to woo them by participating in the ‘Howdy Modi’ event. Modi baffled India when at the event he gave a clarion call to the diaspora “ab ki baar Trump sarkar’. World leaders have noted Modi’s vociferous support for Trump. Will this affinity with the US President transform Indian economy or not, it is to be seen.
Modi started his fourth visit to the US with a roundtable with 17 CEOs of energy companies that are together worth $1 trillion. India is Houston’s fourth-largest trading partner; trade between Houston and India averaged $4.8 billion annually and was at $7.2 billion in 2018. But there is no officiaal announcement of investment for India as an outcome of this meeting. Even Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale did not share details on why a trade package could not be concluded. The prospects of an agreement apparently unravelled due to the failure to reach an agreement on information and communications technology (ICT) products. The US wanted India to eliminate tariffs (20%) on ICT products, but India is concerned that this could open up the market to flooding by Chinese technology. The US wanted greater access to Indian markets for medical devices, such as stents and knee implants, ICT and dairy products and sought the removal of price caps in these areas. Whereas India wanted the reinstatement of preferential market access to US markets under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, which was revoked in early June. It had also wanted facilitation of processes in agricultural product markets where it already had access (such as easier certification of food product facilities) and access in some agricultural markets (table grapes, pomegranates, for instance). Gokhale said the two sides had “narrowed their areas of difference”, and made “significant progress”. Similarly, ‘Mamallapuram-Chennai connect’ informal meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping was good for cooperation and dialogue, and so far nothing concrete has emerged. Seema Guha writes, “India has long been pushing China for opening up the market for Indian pharma and other products. Promises were made also in Wuhan, yet on the ground little has changed.” It’s indeed a tough time. Kudos to Modi, as irrespective of the odds, the show goes on. That is the spirit of a great showman.