The Real Secret To Success With India. Trading With Conscience.

On 21st March 2023, the Newsroom published an article ‘The secret to success with India’ in which national affairs editor Sam Sachdeva interviewed Dr. Ian Hall, deputy director of Australia Griffith Asia Institute and an academic on international relations. The article aimed to educate the public on what ‘they get wrong about India’ or in this case, what ‘they get wrong about Narendra Modi’, the prime minister of India.


We unpack this article here.


First things first, Newsroom’s national affairs editor does not mention the fact the Dr. Ian Hall is an Academic Fellow of the Australia India institute at the University of Melbourne. In March 2022, 13 academic fellows quit the Australia India institute because “…the Indian High Commissioner to Australia has intervened in the institute’s activities and there have been repeated instances where research or views that are unflattering to the image of India had been blanked.” The academics further alleged that “there was a reluctance to publicise commentary on caste and race, and that official events had “carried the flavour of propaganda”.”

It is interesting to note that Dr. Ian Hall himself had signed a letter with fellow academics, raising similar concerns about the intervention of the Indian High Commission in December 2020. The letter signed by Dr. Hall explicitly states that “socio-political developments in India in recent years raise concerns relating to basic liberties, human rights and democratic values.” The letter further states that the “current majoritarian government has used sedition laws to curtail freedom of speech and has incarcerated academics and journalists as well as social workers with little evidence, due process or access to bail.”

We wonder what has changed in the last two years, Narendra Modi or Dr. Ian Hall?

Moving into the article, Dr. Hall is confident that Modi is going to win a third term in power in 2024. It is worth noting here that Prime Minister Modi, or his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  secured 37.36 percentage of the popular votes polled (total voter turnout 67.40 %) in 2019, and entered into a second term with an NDA coalition of 45% votes. Three major parties who were allies of BJP in 2019 have already left this coalition.

India experts such as Dr. Hall often forget that it's for the people of India to decide whom they should elect to run their government. Pro Indian democracy supporters are optimistic that the people of India will give a befitting reply to Mr. Modi and BJP for their anti-working class, corporate friendly policies and divisive politics that systematically erase the very existence of religious minorities and marginalised people.

Unlike Dr. Hall, the working class and poorer communities across India are clearly able to articulate that Modi’s ultimate goal is to serve his cronies like Adani and Ambani, and establish a monolithic Hindu state of India using this economic power.

Dr. Hall further observes that India stands out on the global stage rather than aligning to one side. To validate this claim, Dr. Hall points to the increase in India's crude oil purchase from Russia in the backdrop of the latter's invasion of Ukraine. The United states is quiet about these disagreements as they believe that over time, the interest of the U.S. and India will converge. (Modi has been invited on a state visit late in June 2023.) Dr. Hall failed to point out that it is the United States of America that is purchasing the refined petroleum products from India that are made from Russian crude oil.

On a side note, Gatik Ship Management, a dark mysterious company registered in Mumbai with an original fleet of two ships in 2021 now owns almost 60 ships that transports Russian crude to various ports.

This fleet’s insurance was declined ship insurance by major companies for flouting rules and is now covered by Indian companies.

Moving to the next part of the article, Dr Hall downplays Hindutva fascism and Narendra Modi’s role in shaping India's trajectory towards an increasingly authoritarian state. Dr Hall further attempts to make a distinction about what he calls hardline narrower Hindutva  ideology, separating this from broader pride in India and  stating that this India pride has some elements of ‘Hindu pride’.

Dr. Hall may not know ‘India pride’ originated as a resistance against the British imperialism and colonisation of the subcontinent so he gets it completely wrong when he says Indian pride has elements of ‘Hindu pride’. If this was the case post-independence and Partition in 1947, a Hindu state would have been formed, similar to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We Indians who have a long history of fighting the colonisers are aware of the colonising tactic of ‘divide and rule’. So, we set aside all our differences and united under one Tricolour flag to form a secular socialist state of India. In short, the Indian pride has not just the elements of Hindu pride; it has elements of Muslim pride, indigenous pride, Christian pride, and numerous regional and linguistic prides. This secular fabric of India is in danger under the Hindu supremacist rule of BJP.

Dr. Hall says the middle-class Indians have voted Modi as their lives have improved under his rule and ‘if Modi were to be replaced by more hardliner (Indian Hindu) nationalist the coalition of voters would fall apart and BJP would in turn fall out of power’. Now we seriously doubt what Dr. Hall’s  definition of ‘hardliner’ is as Modi  allegedly presided over a pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 that killed hundreds of Muslims. A BBC documentary on which was then not only banned by his government but students who attempted to screen it publicly on varsity campuses were also severely punished.

Perhaps Modi is not hardline enough for Dr. Hall?

Finally, Dr. Hall suggests that New Zealand India bilateral trade talks in effect had frozen because of ‘India's protectionist approach to its agricultural sector’. The reality is the farm sector had completely collapsed under Modi's rule, which favours the further privatisation of the agricultural sector. The farmers of India were seen agitating against the controversial farm laws; the diaspora communities in even Aotearoa and Australia have witnessed the waves of these protests and the hatred directed at them by local Hindutva adherents.

Apart from this, Adivasi (Indigenous) lands are constantly under attack under the watch of the Modi government. The mining rush by big corporates are stealing Indigenous lands and dispossessing Adivasi people out of their sacred spaces and ways of lives. The indigenous activists protesting against this land grab are jailed under draconian sections and Adivasi women are physically and sexually assaulted. It seems like Dr. Hall has had to work overtime to ‘whitewash’ Narendra Modi.


Aotearoa New Zealand and India should have strong bilateral relationships and trade that uphold the needs of the working classes and marginalised of both nations.


A bilateral trade relationship is not just between business elites and corporates. It should be between the people and to achieve this we must speak up against the atrocities committed by a fascist ideology and its Führer.