A day after he signed a clutch of deals with Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to roll out the red carpet to investors, played traditional Japanese drums with verve and happily lapped up the adulation of the local Indian community.
Addressing a mostly Japanese crowd of around 2,000 at a meeting organised by the Japanese External Trade Organisation and Nikkei, Modi reiterated a promise to potential investors that they would be greeted with “a red carpet, not red tape”, when they came to India — a policy he had first spelt out as the chief minister of Gujarat five years ago.
“India is the only country where investors can find three opportunities in one place: democracy, demography and demand,” he said.
“If you want to look outside Japan, there is no need to look here and there... perhaps there is no country more suitable to you than India,” he said, describing India as a God-gifted location, ideal for exporting to west Asia and beyond.
Modi, who completed 100 days in office during his Japan trip, used the occasion to claim credit for the much-improved economic growth of 5.7% achieved in the first quarter. The message to the Japanese was clear: there’s an uptick happening, opportunities are aplenty and we would like you to be part of it.
On Monday, the Indian PM secured a promise of nearly $35 billion in investment and financing from Japan over the next five years, significant given that Japanese foreign direct investment into India in 2013-14 was a mere $1.4 billion.
This trip has shown Modi in a relaxed mood, possibly because of genuinely warm relationship he has with his counterpart Shinzo Abe, a fellow right-winger who, like Modi, celebrates his birthday later this month.
Even so, it came as a surprise when he turned in a virtuoso performance on the Taiko drums at an event organised by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to launch its Technology and Cultural Academy, a programme to send 48 young Japanese employees to India for training.
Modi shows his drumming skills
After TCS CEO N Chandrasekaran finished his opening remarks, inviting Modi to play a ceremonial note on the drums after the professional drummers had finished, Modi asked “Pehle drum bajaiyen?” and could barely wait his turn.
The two drummers — one man and one woman — did their number and then Modi took over, playing the drums at a rapid beat and holding his own when the male drummer joined him. The audience — some of it on videoconference — burst into applause when he had finished.
The TCS programme involves six to eight weeks of classroom training and six months project work at various locations in India, and Modi asked the young Japanese not to get locked into a classroom, to get out every weekend and spend some money.
“Come back not just as a TCS employee but as an ambassador of India,” he said, before wading into the crowd to interact with the chosen students.
In his last engagement of the day, Modi got before a gathering of the Indian community and drew waves of cheers when he cocked a snook at secular forces and praised the Bhagavad Gita.
In the morning, Modi had addressed girl students at the Sacred Heart University, fielding questions from college and school children. He dealt mainly in allegory, talking of India’s “cabinet” of goddesses in the Hindu pantheon.
He sidestepped a question on how to face the Chinese threat, saying that India and Japan should focus on progress, and it was possible to counter a dark room not by fighting it with swords and brooms but by lighting a diya.
Modi called on Emperor Akihito and opened the Vivekananda Cultural Centre at the Indian embassy, stopping to chat with Indian children who had waited hours outside the building to greet him.