First the bad news: India is not China and doesn’t look like being so anytime soon. The reasons why so many shipping people would like it to be is obvious: growth in population and GDP, industrial development and modernisation are the pillars of shipping demand.
Even leaving aside the economic issues with this analysis, there are structural reasons why a comparison is wrong. India has spent decades talking about modernisation while China, through its political structure, has simply been able to make it happen.
Messy democracy might beat one-party rule if you are a libertarian, but it has meant India’s infrastructure – transport and ports, judicial and financial – has mouldered even as successive leaders have talked of reform. But as a recent IHS seminar heard, there is a chance for change, embodied in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has brought to a national level the kind of dynamism that made him a successful state leader.
Modi has a job and a half on his hands. His first task it is generally acknowledged, is to win a second term and enable some of his ideas to come to fruition but he realises he cannot do it alone. To support his ideas, he has implored India’s diaspora to return and seek new opportunities at home.
There are practical reasons for this too. India’s business environment has not just encouraged its own shipowners to move abroad, but actively discouraged foreign companies from investing. Without Foreign Direct Investment, there is doubt that the funds can be raised for the required infrastructure, even if the political will can be harnessed.
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