Was PM Modi lobbying for an Adani port in Greece?
The prime minister crammed in a day in Greece on his way back to India from the BRICS summit in South Africa—even though it meant he had to delay his congratulatory visit to ISRO
The speculation that Prime Minister Modi visited Greece to lobby for a port to funnel Indian exports into Europe has been fuelled by a report in a Greek news portal in English, Greek City Times, and other Greek newspapers.
Reporting on discussions between the Indian and Greek leaders, the portal reported that India is eyeing one or more Greek ports.
With the Indian government having handed over half a dozen ports in India to the Adani Group, the report in Greece has fuelled speculation that the prime minister is personally pursuing the Group’s interest in a Greek port.
If India does pick up one or more ports, Greek City Times said, "Greece would officially become India’s central transit hub to Europe".
While it is not currently known whether an Adani Group representative accompanied the prime minister in Greece, the Indian retinue did include a strong business delegation. (What is known is that going to Greece delayed the prime minister's congratulatory visit to ISRO.)
'Modi was accompanied by a sizeable business delegation,' reported The Telegraph on Sunday, listing Sanjiv Puri, chairman and managing director, ITC; Srinivas Bommidala, group director, GMR Group; Samit Mehta, MD and CEO, Emcure Pharmaceuticals; Binish Chudgar, vice chairman, Intas Pharmaceuticals; Arun Garodia, chairman, EEPC (Engineering Export Promotion Council); and Vikram Shroff, director, UPL.
Till the Hindenburg Report earlier this year questioned the dubious investment and auditing practices of the Adani Group, the head of the group Gautam Adani himself would often travel with the prime minister—and the prime minister would travel in Adani aircraft.
This visit to Greece was the first by an Indian prime minister in 40 years. The last Indian prime minister to visit Greece was Indira Gandhi in the early 1980s. The Indian ministry of external affairs made the visit look like another visionary, possibly pioneering initiative by the current prime minister, however.
Greek media reports suggested that India might be exploring the possibility of using Greece’s port of Piraeus near Athens for its European exports. But the facility is currently Chinese-controlled. China’s COSCO Shipping is the majority owner of the Piraeus port. With a 67 per cent shareholding, China has turned Piraeus into the largest port in the region.
At any rate, the two nations have agreed to upgrade ties to what they described as a “strategic partnership” and also double two-way trade by 2030. The two-way trade between India and Greece currently amounts to just $2 billion. However, the Greek City Times also said that Modi pointed to India’s huge middle-class and also the rising number of billionaires and other such wealthy individuals as a growing market for Greece to tap. The portal said there’s a possibility that Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will visit India next year, in his turn.
The Indian business delegation, meanwhile, is said to have evinced interest in the potential for tourism, particularly hotels and marinas. Also, they thought there were strong possibilities in heavy industry and transport. The businessmen held a meeting with the Hellenic–Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.