After a scintillating tour in the United States with a short one in Ireland, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finally back. While the major focus was on Modi’s meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the Townhall event, there were many significant meetings which Modi attended.
He tweeted “My USA visit demonstrates the extraordinary depth and diversity of our relationship. A lot of ground has been covered in these few days,” and “I got the opportunity to attend a wide spread of programmes, each of which generated many positive outcomes that will benefit India”.
Let us have a look at what did Modi really achieve in his US trip:
Meeting Fortune 500 CEOs
Modi’s meeting with more than 20 CEO of various firms which included Cisco, Marriott, Merck, Pepsi, DuPont IBM, Lockheed, Starwood and MasterCard amongst others. While they were quite supportive and praised Modi’s painstaking efforts to seek investment, but several pressing issues were raised as well – complicated regulations, excessive permitting, confusing bureaucracy, poor infrastructure, overlapping local taxes, etc.
One of them even said: “It’s not an easy place to do business,” according to a report by Fortune Magazine.
Visit to Silicon Valley
During his Silicon Valley visit, Modi paid a visit to the Facebook headquarters where he spoke about the role of social media in his life and how every world leader should embrace it.
He said: “The strength of social media today is that it can tell governments where they are wrong and can stop them from moving in the wrong direction” and “We used to have elections every five years and now we can have them every five minutes”.
The much hyped town hall event at Facebook turned out to be damp squib. The questions asked to Modi mostly looked planted and there was no discussion about Internet regulations in India.
Neither was the critical issue of Internet.org, a project by Facebook which aims to provide internet access to everyone, through mobile phones. Facebook has the second largest user base in India and has partnered with Reliance Communications to provide free access to websites. The project has received severe criticism from technology experts in India. In a recent announcement, Facebook even said that the name of Internet.org will be changed to Free Basics.
There was some criticism on the fact that the Modi government is indirectly supporting the
initiative which aims to threaten net neutrality.
His next visit to technology giant Google was a fruitful one. He was shown various Google project demos by CEO Sundar Pichai. As a result of the visit, Google announced that it provide high-speed Internet services at 100 Indian railway
stations by the end 2016, and expand it by another 400. But according to a report by NDTV, this is a project Google has been working on from sometime, so it is difficult to say whether or not, this announcement is a direct consequent of Modi’s visit. It will also launch an Android
keyboard next month which will enable users to type in 11 Indian languages, including Gujarati.
While viewing Google Earth, Modi also requested that Khagaul, a town in Bihar, to be shown on the app, as this was the place where ancient astronomer and mathematician Aryabhatta had an observatory.
There was an announcement from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft will bring <g data-gr-id="73">low cost</g> broadband connectivity to 5,00,000 Indian villages, and also to drive more affordable products and services. Nadella said: “We believe that lost-cost broad band connectivity coupled with the scale of cloud computing intelligence that can be harnessed from data can help drive creativity, efficiency and productivity across governments and businesses of all sizes.”
Famous chipmaker Qualcomm Technology said that it will invest $150 million for Indian start-ups in the mobile and Internet-of-everything (IoE) ecosystem. “We are committed to <g data-gr-id="101">providing</g> local innovative start-ups with the support needed to help India’s IOE ecosystem grow, increasing consumer choice and availability,” said Qualcomm executive chairman Paul E Jacobs.
G4 Meeting & UN General Assembly
Modi attended the G4 meeting – a coalition of four countries – Brazil, Germany, India and Japan – where they advocated for their permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council and pushed for reforms immediately. During the meeting, Modi made quite a few important points.
“The reform of the Security Council within a fixed time frame has become an urgent and important task”, “Climate change and terrorism are new concerns. Cyber and space are entirely new frontiers of opportunities and challenges” and “Our institutions, approaches, and often mindsets, reflect the wisdom of the century we have left behind, not the century we live in. This is especially true of the United Nations security council”, were some of his statements. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the UN, which also focused on discussing the Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals, which was a significant focus in his speech.
He said: “The world speaks of <g data-gr-id="113">private</g> sector and public sector. In India, we have defined a new personal sector of individual enterprise, micro enterprises and micro finance, drawing also on the strength of digital and mobile applications”.
“We are focusing on the basics: housing, power, water and sanitation for all – important not just for welfare, but also human dignity. These are goals with a definite date, not just a mirage of hope. Our development is intrinsically linked to <g data-gr-id="109">empowerment</g> of women and it begins with a massive programme on educating the girl child that has become every family’s mission.” “I am pleased that elimination of poverty in all forms everywhere is at the top of our goals. Addressing the needs of 1.3 billion poor people in the world is not merely a question of their survival and dignity or our moral responsibility. It is a vital necessity for ensuring peaceful, sustainable and just world.”
Modi also spoke about India’s plans to embrace renewable energy and move towards a greener society. “Our national plans are ambitious and purposeful: new capacity of 175 GW of renewable energy over the next seven years; energy efficiency; a tax on coal; a huge afforestation programme; reforming our transportation; and, cleaning up our cities and rivers. The energy intensity of our growth will continue to decline.”
As witnessed, the power packed trip attracted much attention and praise from the media as well as Indians, but it remains to be seen that whether or not, the fancy meetings and talks translate into action.