“Double standards impede engagement with India”

Amitabh Kant expresses National disappointment

Venkat Raman

Advanced countries of the world continue to underestimate India’s capacity to stand on its own on economic and fiscal matters, and continue to baffle with their double standards on international trade and investment, a top official of the Indian government has said.

Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), an ambitious autonomous organisation established by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the charge of making the world’s largest democracy the world’s most dynamic country, said that globalisation has been used by ‘these countries’ for their selfish interests.

Globalisation dressing

“The approach is underscored by hypocrisy. On the one hand, they speak of globalisation which implies free movement of trade, services, investment and people, while on the other, they apply protectionist measures when it comes to bilateral trade. Such double standards are India’s interests,” he said during a long interview with Indian Newslink in Auckland on May 4, 2017.

He stopped short of naming New Zealand, which has been locked into a debate with India on the ten-years-on, inconclusive and impossible Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but the implication was evident.

“New Zealand can benefit by participating in India’s Services Sector, which has been fully liberalised. We would welcome New Zealand to be our partner in modernising and expanding our infrastructure, education, health and other areas. There are no restrictions on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We have the presence and participation of almost all major multinationals in India. The New Zealand government and Kiwi companies should realise that India is the place to be in the next three years,” he said.

Bankruptcy Law

Mr Kant said that the Bankruptcy Law, now in place, is an important phase in the development of the Indian corporate world.

“The Statute will facilitate ease of business, with robust systems and procedures,” he said.

India’s Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 on May 12, 2016. The move could turn one of the slowest insolvency regimes of any major economy into one of the fastest.

The reform will give banks a clear path to wresting control of insolvent companies unable to repay their debts.

Economists in India see this as a breakthrough that will allow banks to recover their dues in a timely manner, in contrast to the earlier system in which they often waged protracted legal battles to recover what they were owed.

The reform came at a time of heightened focus on the bad debts weighing down India’s banking system, amid the bitter battle by state banks to collect on about US$1.3 billion of debt left by the collapse of industrialist Vijay Mallya’s now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

Exciting Times

According to Mr Kant, India is at an exciting stage of growth and development with several economic and commercial reforms in place.

He cited the enforcement of GST (eliminating all state taxes, excise duties, octroi and such other charges), increased energy output, relocation of silicon-valley companies from the USA and start-up of thousands of others, massive urbanisation, heighted phase of high-end technology, research and many other innovative enterprises. Most sectors, which were hitherto a close preserve of the central government – such as Railways and Defence – are now open to private sector investment, he said.

“India will be the only country to have a comprehensive biometric technology to integrate all state services within the next two years. Communication will be at its optimum level with more than one billion mobile phones in use. Trade, commerce, in fact, all transactions will be based on digital technology. Last year’s demonetisation (of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes) has encouraged an upsurge in online and card transactions. We are fast moving to a stage of cashless society,” he said.

Dynamic bureaucrat

A Civil Servant of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) of the Kerala Cadre, Mr Kant’s creative thinking and penchant to make India the ‘Country of the Century’ attracted the attention of Mr Modi, who has an innate ability to recognise and embrace talent.

South Block (which accommodates the Prime Minister’s Office) sources often say that Mr Kant’s thinking and planning are well matched by his ability to execute the process. Stated to be intolerant to those who fail to rise to his expectations, he is the architect who gives life to the dreams of his political boss.

Some of the projects and programmes that have lifted India’s profile nationally and internationally are ‘Make In India,’ ‘Startup India,’ ‘Incredible India,’ and ‘God’s Own Country.’ His campaign ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ (Guest is God) steered almost everyone involved in the hospitality and tourism industry including immigration officials, hoteliers, tour operators, tour guides and taxi drivers to make tourists, international visitors and others enjoy Indian hospitality at its best.

Official Meetings

Mr Kant was in New Zealand as a guest of the New Zealand government fulfilling his role as the Fellow of the ‘Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship for India and Nepal’ this year.

During his week-long stay, he met Prime Minister Bill English, Foreign Minister Murry McCully, other Ministers, Members of Parliament, India’s High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli, business and community leaders. He addressed a dinner meeting of the India New Zealand Business Council and a breakfast meeting of the India Trade Alliance, both jointly hosted by the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry.

He also visited several places of tourist interest. He was accompanied by his wife Ranjeeta, an accomplished painter.

About Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship

“It is a great honour to be the ‘Fellow of the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship of India and Nepal’ of the New Zealand government. Sir Edmund cemented Indo-Kiwi relations and I am delighted to visit this beautiful country. Despite differences in some areas, I am confident that we can work together for the betterment of the peoples of the two countries.,” Mr Kant said.

The Sir Hillary Fellowship for India and Nepal was established by the Labour Government in September 2008 and announced by then Prime Minister Helen Clark on September 10, 2008, the day then Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand met then Indian President Pratibha Patil during his first official visit to India.

“One visit under the Fellowship will take place to New Zealand each year and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will oversee the selection of Fellows,” Ms Clark had said.

Indian National Congress Party Leader Rahul Gandhi was the first recipient of the Fellowship and visited New Zealand in that capacity on February 14, 2010.

Vijay Mallya, Chairman of the defunct King Fisher Airlines, who is facing extradition proceedings in a British Court was appointed as the Fellow in 2011 but did not fulfil the Fellowship requirements. It was in fact an insult to the New Zealand government and New Zealanders.


Photo Caption:

  1. Amitabh Kant with Prime Minister Bill English in Wellington on May 2
  2. Amitabh Kant speaking at the dinner hosted by Foreign Affairs & Trade Ministry and India New Zealand Business Council in Auckland on May 3
  3. Amitabh Kant with his wife Ranjeeta in Waiheke Island on May 4

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