The Indian government’s smart city and “green” energy projects are to be the main beneficiaries of that nation’s investment funds and could set possible investment targets for Taiwan, as the government’s “new southbound policy” aims to improve relations with Southeast Asian nations, with a special emphasis on India, an academic said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed the “smart cities mission,” which aims to equip at least 100 Indian cities with high-tech communication capabilities, while the Indian government will place a special emphasis on the development of alternative energy sources, said Chen Mu-min (陳牧民), director of the Center for Strategic Studies on South Asia and the Middle East at National Chung Hsing University.
The smart cities mission involves information and communication technologies and electronic services; industries in which Taiwan has made progress and on which President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has vowed to focus, Chen said.
The Indian government has already invested heavily in the program and Taiwan could consider offering partnerships, Chen said.
Developing alternative energy sources is another subject receiving the Indian government’s attention, while the government is also interested in solar energy, he said.
Taiwan might make gains by providing its know-how in the agricultural, food processing and food conserving industries to India — a country with a large population — where there is still room for development, Chen added.
He also said that as India has strategic misgivings about China, but needs to interact with Beijing in terms of trade and business, Taiwan has an advantage in establishing Chinese-language institutions.
Taiwan has set up educational centers at Indian universities to teach Mandarin, but it is possible to take up a larger share of the language market where there is demand for business Chinese, Chinese proficiency certification and private Chinese classes, Chen said.
However, Chen said those who want to make investments in India need to be careful.
“As India is a federal country, each state has different regulations and tax systems,” he said. “Taiwan’s economy is relatively small compared with that of China, Japan and South Korea. If investment is to be made, more ostensible results could be obtained if the target is limited to one or two states. Different regions in India have different levels of economic development and Taiwan should be more precise with its investment of resources.”
Consumer preference surveys also need to be conducted, Chen said.
“For example, Indian people prefer shiny and sparkling items when it comes to general consumption habits, which is not entirely similar to that of Taiwanese, but they prefer durable and inexpensive electronic devices, with Chinese smartphones being welcomed in the market,” he said.
Tsai proposed the “new southbound policy” in the hope of reducing Taiwan’s economic dependence on China and create opportunities for Taiwanese businesses in Southeast Asia and India.
In the 1990s, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) launched a “go south” policy to target Southeast Asia as a destination for investment. However, the policy stalled due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and China’s market reforms.
Additional reporting by CNA
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