Centre pushes business travel to rebuild economic links
India is mulling the further easing of restrictions on business-to-business (B2B) travel from select countries as the country’s focus on reviving livelihoods gradually gathers momentum.
With growing global interest in India, especially since the country received about $17 billion in foreign direct investment from tech majors including Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, the government believes the current restrictions on international travel need to be eased.
“With the world gradually opening up for business, there is a thinking in the government that perhaps there should be some measures that will allow easier travel for people who wish to do so,” said a person familiar with the matter.
Against this backdrop, the government is looking at the possibility of allowing a wider cross section of people into India—not just those related to Indians or people with Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards, Mint has learnt.
The government is also considering allowing Indians who wish to travel out of the country to do so—on the condition that the countries they are travelling to do not have embargoes on incoming travel.
The ministry of civil aviation has already announced the establishment of the so-called bilateral air bubbles—an arrangement through which carriers of two countries can operate flights—with France and the US. International flights were stopped for more than three months after the coronavirus outbreak in India.
As part of the plan, the government is exploring the possibility of allowing easier access to businessmen into India—not just those related to Indians or people with OCI cards, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
The moves come against the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging foreign firms to look at India as an investment destination as many countries look to move their supply chains out of China after the covid pandemic highlighted the scale of global dependency on the world’s second-largest economy.
In a speech to the US-India Business Council last week, Modi said: “The rise of India means a rise in trade opportunities with a nation that you can trust, a rise in global integration with increasing openness, a rise in your competitiveness with access to a market which offers scale. And a rise in your returns on investment with the availability of skilled human resources.”
According to a recent Reuters report, the US is pushing to create an alliance of “trusted partners” dubbed the “Economic Prosperity Network,” that would include companies and civil society groups operating under the same set of standards on everything from digital business, energy and infrastructure to research, trade, education and commerce. Some of the countries in the so-called Economic Prosperity Network include Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam.
Analysts, however, point out that along with the easing of travel norms, the government would need to revise its safety protocols.
“People will be cautious about travelling to India given the number of cases of covid-19 here,” said Biswajit Dhar, a professor on trade relations, at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was referring to India touching 1.4 million cases this month though the number of deaths was lower and the recovery rate was higher than many countries in the world.