In the first four years of his term as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi travelled outside the country on 41 occasions to 52 different countries over a cumulative period of 165 days. In the process, he incurred total expenses amounting to ₹355 crore that was paid out of the national exchequer. These facts have been disclosed in replies to questions raised under the Right to Information Act with the Prime Minister’s Office. Among the businesspersons who accompanied him on many of these foreign trips were Gautam Adani and Anil Ambani. Companies controlled by these two individuals signed 18 agreements in 16 countries– thirteen of these deals involved corporate entities in the Adani group, while five of these deals were signed by companies in the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG).
Here is a compilation of these agreements culled from various media reports. These have been categorised under three heads: defence, logistics and power.
Under India’s new defence partnership policy, a foreign aircraft maker can collaborate with an Indian firm to develop a world-class indigenous aeronautical manufacturing base that India has struggled to build for decades. The major companies that are going to make or service these aircraft include those owned or controlled by Adani and Anil Ambani. The former accompanied him on visits to Kenya and Uganda in 2008 when Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat. The latter praised him as a “king among kings” and compared him to Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the Hindu mythological character Arjuna during the Vibrant Gujarat summit in 2013.
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Modi’s Visits: April 9-12, 2015, June 2-3, 2017 (Anil Ambani)
Date of Deal: March 28, 2015
The Indian Express reported that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was incorporated on March 28, 2015, just 12 days before Modi announced in France that India would buy 36 Rafale fighter planes in flyaway condition. According to the report, India would be paying ₹58,000 crore for 36 Rafale fighter jets – this works out to just over ₹1,600 crore per aircraft. It was claimed that the Indian Air Force needed the planes urgently and that these 36 planes would reach India within two years. Four years down the line, the aircraft are nowhere in sight. In fact, it was stated in Parliament that the first Rafale fighter aircraft would come only by September 2019, four-and-half years after the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Date of Deal: March 22, 2015 (Ambani)
Swedish Prime Minister’s visit: February 13, 2016
Date of Deal: September 1, 2017 (Gautam Adani)
Modi’s Visit: April 16-18, 2018
In 2015, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence and Aerospace tied up with defence giant Saab AB of Sweden to bid for the ship-borne unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme of the Indian Navy valued at ₹1,000 crore. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrived in India on February 13 on his maiden trip to the country as the head of government with a Swedish delegation to take part in the “Make in India” week in Mumbai in 2016 and in the following year, Saab announced that it was tying up with the Adani group to bid for manufacturing single engine fighter aircraft in India. The deal for 100 plus fighter aircraft was estimated to be worth over ₹60,000 crore.
Date of Deal: March 30, 2016 (Adani)
Date of Deal: March 29, 2016 (Ambani)
Modi’s Visit: July 4-6, 2017
As chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi expanded trade relations with Israel beyond the realm of defence and diamonds to include pharmaceuticals, water management and recycling plants, agro-research and technologies, and solar power. Modi also invited Israel to partner in the 2014 Gujarat Agro Tech Global Fair and a corpus fund for industrial development was proposed. Israel has strong business links in India, especially with corporate entities in Gujarat. In March 2016, the Adani group’s Aero Defence Systems & Technologies Ltd. signed a statement of intent with Elbit-ISTAR of Israel and the Indian company Alpha Design Technologies Private Limited to work together in manufacturing and developing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). In the same month, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence announced a deal with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems (not to be confused with the French Rafale aircraft) to develop air-to-air missiles for the IAF valued at about ₹65,000 crore. The joint venture has Reliance Defence holding 51% with 49% being held by Rafael Advanced Defence systems.
Modi’s Visits: July 8-10, 2015, December 22-23, 2015 (Ambani)
Announcement of Deal: December 24, 2015
Modi’s Visit: May 31-June 2, 2017
Vladimir Putin’s Visit: October 6, 2018
Date of Deal: October 6, 2018
In 2015, Reliance Defence signed a manufacturing and maintenance deal potentially worth $6 billion with Russia’s Almaz-Antey, the makers of air defence systems. The partnership was announced as Modi began a trip to Moscow aimed at strengthening defence ties between India and Russia. However, on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s arrival in India, the same deal was inked at a comparatively lower price of $5.4 billion (₹39,000 crore).
Modi’s Visit: June 6-8, 2016 (Ambani)
Date of Deal: February 13, 2017
In 2017, Reliance Defence and Engineering signed an agreement with the US Navy for undertaking the service, maintenance and repair of the Seventh Fleet of American Navy at the Reliance group’s shipyard at Pipavav in Gujarat. According to a report in the Mint, the deal is expected to generate revenue worth ₹15,000 crore for Reliance Defence over next three to five years.
Modi’s Visit: August 30- September 3, 2014, November 11-12, 2016 (Adani)
Date of Deal: July 16, 2018
Adani, Sunil Mittal and other industrialists were part of Modi’s delegation on his first major bilateral visit to Japan in 2014. The Hindu Business Line reported that Adani Logistics Limited subsequently signed an agreement with the Japanese firm NYK Auto Logistics to form a joint venture that would specialise in transportation of finished vehicles using automobile freight trains.
Modi’s Visit: November 14-18, 2014 (Adani)
Date of Deal: November 16, 2014
Adani was part of a delegation of businessmen accompanying Modi to the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. The Adani group won a commitment from the Queensland government to take short-term, minority stakes in the railways and port infrastructure needed to unlock the massive coal reserves in the Galilee Basin. Adani and State Bank of India Chairperson Arundhati Bhattachary signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a ₹6,200-crore loan for what was claimed to be the world’s “largest greenfield coal mining project” which is currently embroiled in several controversies.
Modi’s Visit: November 21-22, 2015 (Adani)
Date of Deal: April 3, 2017
In 2017, the governments of India and Malaysia signed business deals with the exchange of 31 memoranda of understanding, the largest number in the history of economic relations between the two countries. In the same year, the Adani group signed a MoU with Malaysia’s MMC Ports to conduct a feasibility study of the Carey Island Port Project which would be an extension of Port Klang, currently the 11th busiest container port in the world. The following year, the Malaysian media reported that economic ties between India and Malaysia had been elevated to a new, strategic level with the agreement for the development of an integrated maritime city on Carey Island in collaboration with MMC Ports Holdings, Sime Darby Property and Adani Ports, involving an expenditure of US $32 billion.
Modi’s Visit: May 22-23, 2016 (Adani)
Shortlisted for Tender: December 7, 2017
During Modi’s visit to Iran in 2016, a commercial contract relating to Chabahar port was signed between India Ports Global and Iran’s Aria Banader envisaging the development and operation of two terminals and five berths with multi-purpose cargo-handling capacities. The Indian government said it was committed on investing $500 million in the first phase of the project that would include a $150 million credit facility to Iran through the Export-Import Bank of India. After a tender was floated by India Ports Global, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited, the J M Baxi Group and JSW Infrastructure Limited (part of the Jindal Steel Works group) were short-listed. The Chabahar port was partly opened in late-2017.
Modi’s Visit: July 7, 2016 (Adani)
Agreement with India Pulses: October 19, 2015
During Modi’s visit to Mozambique, a long term agreement was signed under which India would buy pulses from this country to reduce its shortfall in demand and contain prices. Modi said the agreement would meet India’s requirements while helping raise the incomes of farmers in Mozambique. Interestingly, Adani Ports signed an agreement with the India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) for the import of pulses and storage in Indian ports.
Also Read: How Modi Bypassed Norms to Try and Enable Adani’s Entry into Airport Business
Modi’s Visit: February 11-12, 2018 (Adani)
Date of Deal: September 30, 2016
Ahead of Modi’s visit to Oman in February 2018, the Oman Company for the Development of Special Economic Zone at Al-Duqm (Tatweer) had signed an MoU with Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone in September 2017. In February, Modi discussed measures to strengthen trade and investment in energy, defence and food security.
Modi’s Visit: June 6-7, 2015 (Ambani and Adani)
Date of Deal: June 6, 2015
Reliance Power and Adani Power signed separate MoUs with the government-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to set up several power plants in Bangladesh to produce up to 4,600 megawatts of electricity during Modi’s two-day visit to the neighbouring country in 2015. While Reliance Power signed an MoU to develop four power plants to produce 3,000 MW of electricity at the cost of $3 billion, Adani Power decided to set up two coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 1,600 MW costing more than $1.5 billion.
Modi’s Visit: December 25, 2015 (Adani)
No confirmed date of deal
The former Power Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Asif, a close aide of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told the country’s upper house of Parliament on October 13, 2015, that representatives of Adani Enterprises Limited had visited the country in April 2014 to “discuss matters relating to export of power” of up to 4,000 MW. However, the proposal got stalled because of tensions between the two countries.
Modi’s Visit: September 6-7, 2017
Proposal to supply power: September 3, 2017
During Modi’s first bilateral visit to Myanmar in 2017, India offered a $500-million credit line to Myanmar for the development of telecommunications, railways, roads and agricultural infrastructure. He had earlier visited the country in 2014 to attend the ASEAN-India Summit and East Asia Summit. It has been reported that nearly 70% of Myanmar’s population does not have regular access to electricity. The Adani group had proposed that it would supply power to Myanmar. In 2015, Reliance Industries (headed by Anil Ambani’s older brother Mukesh Ambani) also signed a production-sharing contract with Myanmar’s state-owned Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise for two offshore oil and gas blocks.
Modi’s Visit: May 14-16, 2015 (Adani)
Date of Deal: May 16, 2015
Twenty-six business pacts worth $22 billion were signed during Modi’s visit to Shanghai in 2015, including major ones involving the Adani group. The group signed an agreement to establish an integrated industrial park to manufacture photovoltaic equipment in the special economic zone in Mundra with China’s Golden Concord Holdings. Adani Power signed an agreement with China Development Bank on financing Adani Power’s plant in Mundra and the Guangzhou Port Authority initialled another agreement for establishing a “sister port” relationship.
Few had heard of Gautam Adani two decades ago. Today, he has become a household name in India. Adani topped the list of billionaires in terms of percentage gain in net worth in a year –from $4.63 billion in January 2017 to $10.4 billion in December that year, an increase of 124.6%. Though earlier Congress regimes had not been unkind to him, Adani’s spectacular rise as a businessperson has coincided with Modi’s ascension to power, first as Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 for 12 years and then as Prime Minister of India from May 2014 onwards.
Note: A shorter and different version of this article had been published by a website in October 2018 but was taken down within four hours due to the threat of a defamation suit from Anil Ambani’s group.
(The writer is an independent researcher and journalist.)
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