Monday, March 23, 2015

Bullet trains: Why it's the one project PM Modi will be pushing in his upcoming foreign tours

by Rajeev Sharma  Mar 23, 2015
As the first anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 26 May draws closer, he will be looking to foreign nations in order to deliver on many of the tall promises made in the coming months.
After his three-nation Indian Ocean tour of Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka this month, Modi is all set to embark on another three-nation tour next month, this time to France, Germany and Canada, in that order.
PM Modi is likely to be in France on 10 April, in Germany on 12 April and in Canada on 15 April. Belgium too had originally figured in his proposed itinerary but the small yet significant European country, which houses headquarters of NATO and the 28-nation European Union, had to be omitted at the last minute as Modi wanted to prune the number of days of his foreign tour.
In May, PM Modi is scheduled to embark on a crucial visit to China, his first trip there since becoming prime minister.
Representational image. Reuters
Representational image. Reuters
In July, PM Modi is scheduled to visit Russia to attend the BRICS summit. A summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization too is slated to take place in Russia around the same time.  However, India is not yet a full member of the SCO and enjoys only an Observer status so far.
Of the four countries he is scheduled to visit, France, Germany and China have shown keen interest in his bullet train project. Companies from three other European countries have already entered the race for Modi’s bullet train project: Italy, Spain and Belgium.
Two other big contenders for India’s bullet train project are Japan and South Korea though their companies are yet to enter the race formally.
Japan is already in the middle of a feasibility study for the 534-km-long Mumbai-Ahmadabad high-speed corridor project. The entire project, if work on it were to start immediately, would cost at least $10 billion. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is conducting the feasibility study for a high-speed project on the Mumbai-Ahmadabad line.
Thus, PM Modi’s upcoming tours to France and Germany in the second week of next month, and to China in May will have a major talking point for PM Modi: bullet trains.
Companies from France, Germany and China have already sent their bids for conducting feasibility study for three corridors of PM Modi’s pet Diamond Quadrilateral bullet train project. The Indian government has sought feasibility studies for high-speed rail corridors on three major routes: Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata and Mumbai-Chennai. The feasibility studies on these three routes will cost at least $50 million.
The entire Golden Quadrilateral bullet train project is to cost well over $30 billion. The project is crucial in PM Modi’s scheme of things as it envisages reducing travel time considerably once the project is completed. For example, a Delhi-Mumbai train journey which presently takes around 16 hours would be halved after the high speed train project is completed.

In Germany, PM Modi is expected to give a push to his Make in India initiative by reaching out to German industries. He is also likely to get a briefing from the German government on how they are keeping the Rhine River clean, which is expected to be useful for another pet project of his: cleaning the Indian rivers, particularly the Ganga.For the past ten months that Modi has been in office the prime minister, he has consciously tried to exploit his numerous foreign visits for implementing many of his pet themes and projects. Much more will be on the table when PM Modi engages with his interlocutors during his upcoming visits abroad. But the main pivot of his foreign trips in the coming weeks would be to see how best to harness foreign technology, expertise and funds to implement key developmental projects in India.
The Prime Minister is keen on preparing a viable blue print of his developmental agenda during his foreign visits by the time he completes a year in office. The Modi government is hopeful of pulling off several concrete deliverables during the prime minister’s upcoming foreign visits at a time when the opposition parties are increasingly critical of his frequent foreign trips.

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