Oceanic Diplomacy: High stakes in Modi’s Indian Ocean yatra

Amid the unfolding great game in the Indian Ocean and China’s increased assertiveness in the region, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads on a three-nation diplomatic odyssey to key littoral states, including Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

It’s a first of sorts as the Indian prime minister travels to three oceanic neighbours which are bound to India by history, shared culture and extensive defence ties.

Maritime security will be the overarching theme of Mr Modi’s three-nation visit as he seeks to bolster maritime cooperation with the three countries, which are crucial in India’s strategic scheme to secure sea lanes of communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean against attacks by pirates and terrorists.

The prime minister’s outreach to the country’s Indian Ocean neighbours will be closely watched in the region. Beijing will be specially watching the outcomes emerging from these summit meetings as it has relentlessly expanded its economic ties and influence in the Indian Ocean littoral countries New Delhi thinks to be falling in its sphere of influence.

But as Indian diplomats point out, India is not in a containment game, but is only looking to project the Indian Ocean as zone of peace and an ocean of opportunity through a closer web of economic and transport connectivity projects.

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PM needs to focus on infrastructure for growth

While India is one of the fastest growing economies in the worldtoday, a major obstacle for sustaining its real GDP growth has been the lack of adequate infrastructure, which can support the growth process. Low levels of public investment have made India’s physical infrastructure incompatible and without improving the rate of infrastructure investment, the overall growth rate would remain modest. Therefore, there has been a growing emphasis by the Government of India to mobilise infrastructure investments to the tune of$1 trillion during the 12th plan (2012-17) across sectors such as roads, railways, seaports, airports, power, telecom, water and irrigation of which 50% is expected to come from the private sector in the form of both debt and equity. However, there is a realisation that expecting private sector to contribute nearly 50 per cent to the total infrastructure deficit is a stiff ask given that there are lack of bankable projects and mistrust between the private and government sector.

The 11th FYP had projected investment requirements in infrastructure to be about $514 billion. This target was doubled in the 12th FYP to nearly $ 1 trillion highlighting that GDP growth averaging 9% per year can be achieved only if this infrastructure deficit can be overcome. It was opined that domestic savings can contribute significantly to boosting infrastructure investment. However these savings have to be intermediated into infrastructure to achieve these targets.

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