Narendra Modi in Japan: Saying Yokoso – Swagatam all over again
File photo:Narendra Modi addressing Gujarat Samaj of Japan in Tokyo during his last Japan visit
Ahmedabad, 21 July 2012
Deviating little from the epic series to compare India’s port of calling, I felt it was important to do this article on the eve of Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Japan. While the invitation of Japanese Government and treating him as cabinet rank reception is rare feat for a state leader, there are many expectations associated with him to reassure Japanese investors on India story. He is not just seen one of the state leader anymore, he is seen as credible India story torch-bearer. Below is humble approach to see him and Gujarat story from very different viewpoint.
2012 January-18, when close to 120 Japanese investors landed up at Mahatma Mandir (Gujarat’s State of the art convention centre), CM addressed them in Hindi. While they were expecting him to hard sell the state, they were in deep surprise when he addressed them as valued guest and family members. Reminding State’s tradition of Atithi Devo Bhav. Telling them facts about Gujarat beyond Water and Power, which investors find very rare commodity in India. His vision and his assurance to take care of them were very much soothing to investors who are normally treated in India with great suspicion. That he did not harp on Gujarat story while ridiculing other states, but genuinely assured them of India story and giving Gujarat as an example. This tone made all of them feel more at home. They all went back elated and some of them came back with investment plans. Almost couple of weeks since then Japanese Ambassador to India H. E. Saiki made a silent maiden visit to Gujarat.
Normally India and Japan share a very cordial relationship that Japan usually sends Blue-ribbon diplomats to India. One of the finest and elite class of diplomats are sent to India but only when they are about to retire. India almost becomes their last stop and gives easy exit to their eventful career. With H. E. Saiki the tradition is broken, not only he is from the elite league, he is one of the most efficient and sought after diplomat who is not retiring soon. When then PM Koizumi wanted to visit North Korea (with whom Japan does not have diplomatic relations), it was Ambassador Saiki, whose diplomatic skills were put at the test and he did it fantastically.
When he joined his duties in India, this was the most difficult time for Japan. Tsunami and nuclear tragedy at Fukushima had taken world by surprise. Ambassador Saiki also had to rearrange his priorities. During this time came the TN election where the new CM took over. With Chennai being preferred port of calling for Japanese investors, he had to spend a lot of time to talk to leadership there. May be he got his first lessons on India’s federal structure and that he must have realized how different things are at Delhi and periphery. The cold shoulder might have given first cold-water bath experience.
His predecessors like H E Domichi, or H E Enoki were also impressed by Modi, for some reason Ambassador Saiki could not visit Gujarat till after 10 months of his posting at Delhi. During this time, he had ample chance to meet with various leaders in India and had a good bit of understanding on Indian leadership. This is what he had to say after meeting Modi. “I am impressed” by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is “different from other CMs” because of the “very speedy manner in which his government is moving”. No doubt his experience with other states and CM and central leaders was weighing high on his mind, when he made this comments. And since then he has been regular visitor to state or meeting CM at various places.
On March-22, Saikisan was spotted with two large Japanese and one Singaporean company heads at Gandhinagar again. The day was “World Water Day”. Modi had chosen this day to announce the Dahej Desalination plant to be planned and implemented by Global consortium of Hitachi, Itochu and Hyflux. (He did not choose any day closer to election was another insignificant thing why he differs from the lot). During his speech, Modi deviated from the usual agenda and dwelled upon technical aspect of the project with almost childlike curiosity in eyes and in enthusiastic voice. Suggesting companies that in the desalination process, when some sea water is thrown back to sea, they should even explore extracting salt as a by-product of the Desalination process and that there would be ready made market in proximity for the chemical factories. The puzzled look on the face of Ambassador Saiki is quite evident in the video, he might not have expected a state CM to be techno-commercially so sound. What TIME magazine decided to title Modi, Saiki-san must have felt then. “Modi Means Business”.
2012 is the sixtieth year of Indo-Japan relationship. If Ambassador was looking for a prize catch to Japan, he had found it. Complaints from Japanese investors just like other countries are growing day by day. There is hardly any sympathetic ears at Delhi least spoken better about the policy vision. Japan’s hope of using South India is also not going anywhere due to limited regional vision of Southern state leaders. Modi comes as fresh air. Even though JETRO has been partnering with state on the Vibrant Gujarat Summits since 2009, there is still very minuscule investment from Japanese companies at Gujarat. (we have tried to touch upon this at length in my previous article of series.
Not only CM is visiting at the invitation of Japanese Government, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is minutely weaving his program giving him highest VVIP treatment. Japan’s Trade body (JETRO) and Economy Trade and Industry ministry (METI) also swung in full action to arrange high profile program.
This is in stark contrast to 2007 visit to Japan, where he was just one of the Chief Ministers from local state visiting Japan. Even though he utilized every opportunity to learn from and contemplate on the experience on how to bring best practices to Gujarat. For example when he was at Tokyo Big sight (Tokyo’s largest convention center), design of Mahatma Mandir was playing in his mind. Or when he visited the oldest temple in Tokyo, he wanted map of the whole area to develop Bhadrakali and Bhadra area in that line. When he addressed Indian community at Tokyo and Kobe, he kept on harping this point, whatever is the best in the world, I would want it in Gujarat. When he was given a special tour of Shinkansen (the honor normally is reserved for rail ministers only), he was wondering how to build such high speed rails and tunnels at what terrain. The man was with his full focus just like Arjun on the fisheye, in his case it was Gujarat. The whole trip however was planned and arranged by Gujarat with the help of Embassy and NRI/NRG of Japan. This time there is paradigm shift in the welcome. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan is in charge of the program and some of the glimpse out in the media tells the high-respect they are giving to him and his delegation. The Govt officers from Gujarat must be complimented for sincerely impressing Japanese side and the icing on cake came from unexpected corner. The Nikkei Shinbun, Japan’s largest selling newspaper spilled the beans. And here is what they had to say…
Japan’s largest selling business daily set the tone of his visit. In 742 words it described Modi’s path breaking visit and unprecedented welcome given to a state leader from India. Describing him as one of the strongest contender to be PM of India in 2014, the article dwells on his ability to propel his state as investor friendly in otherwise investor unfriendly India. The article further described him to be rare leader who is been watched with lot of respect in USA, China and Japan. In other words World’s three largest economies are seeing hope in Modi to make India a responsible global force. Not only TIME magazine article but US senate report’s positive observation is mentioned. Article also takes note that when Modi visited China the politburo leaders discussed not only economy but sought his ideas on even security matters of bilateral relationship. Japan is also not far behind as article points out. On this visit he is been given a Cabinet ranked welcome reserved normally for the cabinet ministers of the country. In exclusive interview, Modi shares that he wants to see Gujarat become one of the largest automotive hub of Asia. While side-stepping query on his national debut, he clearly says that Indian people in general deserve and expect better life style. Economic Growth is the only way to achieve this. Providing right infrastructure for industry to grow is the way ahead for creating growth. He adds in the same breath that Gujarat model of development can be replicated in other parts of India.
Reading Nikkei Article I was baffled at the comparison of articles in local newspaper about Narendra modi. There is a cottage industry to ridicule him. India is often compared as Elephant. However that metaphor suits Modi the most. He is an elephant on the move, not bothered about barking around, He is a man on mission and like elephant is silently carrying load in terms of hope and expectations of people within and outside India.
Today as I write, net news are filled with Manesar incident. The outrageous and condemnable incident has shocked the world. Everyone is again talking about India story. According to Reuters it is 2008 again.Where even Tatas were forced to vacate land at WB. Gujarat came to rescue.
In the hindsight Nakanishi of Maruti-Suzuki must be wondering why did he not take Narendra Modi’s business advice seriously way in 2009, where Modi had urged them to look at Gujarat. He was supposed to welcome Modi at Hamamatsu and join meeting with Osamu Suzuki.But this time it is not just Maruti’s future but india’s reputation at stake. While loses at Maruti are staggering 60 crores a day, no one has counted loses of the auto-part industry as a whole. Japan is so angry that Embassy had to issue stern statement to condemn. Hollow statements by Anand Sharma or state leadership are not going to do any soothing. And that’s where UPA should thank Modi. If there is one man world believes today from India, It is Gujarat’s Chief Minister. If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Anand Sharma were looking to placate Japanese worries, they could not have found a better brand ambassador from India than Narendra Modi.
I am sure they must be also wishing him like all of us “All the best”.
And coming back to the title. Yokoso is welcome in Japanese. While Indian media is only focused on his meeting with Suzuki, I guess his administration has more in mind. I am sure many large names will receive Yokoso SMS.
During his Japan trip, he will address close to 1000 investors in 4 cities. Trust me its a big number for Japan. Besides having focused one on one with large corporations and financial institutes. His meetings with political leadership will cut across the section in spite of parliament being in session. He will be spending a half day at Hamamatsu, the global headquarter of Suzuki. If one thing Suzuki management needs is Assurance. They trusted Haryana blindly and stayed on without diversifying. Today their trust is totally shaken. If they fail, whole India story will be questioned a lot.
Modi’s visit could not have timed well. The Padmabhushan Suzuki Osamu (he received it in 2007) should find some solace while interacting with Narendra Modi. He has spent his life believing in India. He deserves to believe he was after all not wrong.
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Also read:Narendra Modi to attend as many as 44 functions during Japan visit
Japanese, Indian corporates to be part of CM’s delegation to Japan
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