We arrived in Chendgu in the late afternoon on Friday. Chengdu is in Sichuan province in central China. By now, I knew almost everyone on the entourage, so the conversations became varied and lively.
While half of the group accompanied Mr. Modi to the political-business meeting, I was in the other half that had the evening free. We took a cab down to the shopping street, and walked around. I was trying to search for a toy shop to pick up something for my six-and-a-half-year-old son, Abhishek. It was then that I realized how big the language barrier is. Even as China is home to manufacturing most toys in the world, I could not explain to various people on the street that I was looking for a toy shop!
The next morning, our last day in China, there was a business event similar to the one we had in Beijing. This was followed by a Business-to-Business interaction, and from what I gathered from other members in the group, it was an extremely productive one. There was a lot of interest in joint ventures in India’s energy and infrastructure sectors.
A Visit to Huawei
One of the aspects of the visit that had been much publicisied prior to the trip was the meeting with Huawei, one of the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturers, to get them to consider setting up a manufacturing hub in Gujarat. After the presentations were done, Mr. Narendra Modi asked me (as the IT/telecom expert) on my suggestions on how Huawei could work together with the government of Gujarat. I mentioned six opportunities:
- Setting up telepresence centres across the state. The telepresence demo that we got was absolutely impressive. The realism was incredible – it was like we were all in the same room. This is definitely one technology to watch out for.
- Setting up data centre hubs in India, given that land and power are both easily available in Gujarat
- Creating a “Digital Ahmedabad” – starting with a WiFi envelope across the city and then extending to creating a ‘smart’ city
- Creating the foundation for Government in the cloud – with e-governance and m-governance solutions for all citizen-centric services
- Fostering skills development in the state by creating linkages with educational institutions and setting up a university and research for e-Governance, given Gujarat’s leadership in the space
- Showcasing advanced technology solutions through a lab in Gandhinagar to open up minds to future possibilities
The points made were well received, and would be considered by both Huawei and the Gujarat government going ahead.
Two More Visits
The afternoon of our last day saw our longest road journey. We drove to see the earthquake rehabilitation work done about an hour away from Chengdu. The Sichuan region was struck by a huge earthquake in May 2008. Thousands of lives were lost. We visited a village that was near the epicenter, and saw how it has been completely rebuilt.
What was also nice to see was the digital display of the rescue work, housed in a separate building. It paid tribute to the army, youth and citizens who came forward to help in the relief operations.
After that, we visited a Buddhist temple, on what was our last official engagement. Buddhism was a cultural export from India, and the irony is that even as we in India forgot it, many of the East Asian countries adopted it. Gujarat is planning to build the biggest-ever Buddhist temple, and that could help give a good fillip to closer ties at multiple levels between India and China.
We then returned back to the Sheraton Hotel, and prepared to leave for the airport. Our flight took off at 9 pm and reached Ahmedabad at midnight local time.