International Relations That Can Help Build The Future Of Indian Cities
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Japan for his first bilateral state visit outside the subcontinent on August 30, 2014, one of the first things he did was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, to turn Varanasi into a Kyoto-style city. PM Modi found India's ancient city had many similarities historically with Japan's erstwhile imperial capital. Japan agreed to help India modernise Varanasi, while preserving its culture and heritage along the lines of Kyoto.
With massive urbanisation taking place in the country, India, under PM Modi's proactive foreign policy, has made urban development as one of the key points of discussion. According to the Union Urban Development Ministry, Indian government's initiatives in urban sector, offers an investment opportunity of about US$ 140 billion over the next two decades.
This has resulted in various global companies and even nations to come forward to help develop smart cities in India. While the companies will be helping states to develop the smart city plan, the nations will help develop infrastructure.
Moreover, India has also set up working groups on urban development with several foreign countries. Also, the country has signed agreements to establish sister-city relations between Indian foreign cities to promote cultural and economic ties.
The country, which is actively improving ease of doing business in India, has also taken some key reform measures that will boost ties in urban development. The Union Finance Ministry has eased foreign direct investment (FDI) norms by relaxing the lock-in period, allowing FDI in smaller projects and allowing foreign investors to invest in completed project for operation and management. The government has also announced that the country will soon see its first Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).
While wooing investment and cooperation in India's urban and infrastructure development, the country is also making efforts to invest in the development of other countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka. In Nepal, India will help develop infrastructure while in Sri Lanka, it will build 27,000 new homes for Tamils. Moreover, the Indian real estate developers are also keen to invest in the country's Western Province Development project, a city development and urban renewal project spanning the entire Western province with an estimated cost of $300 billion.
PropGuide looks at some key discussions and agreements between India and foreign countries that will change the future of Indian cities:
The United States (US)
India and US have inked MoUs on smart city cooperation. The country has agreed to help develop Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam as smart cities. The US Department of Transportation has agreed to offer sustainable transport solutions to these cities with focus on efficient public transportation systems, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Traffic Information and Control (TIC), multi-modal integration and capacity building and training in the field of urban transportation.
Japan has agreed to develop Varanasi as a smart city. The two countries identified new areas of cooperation in urban development sector. Japan has pledged financial support for building infrastructure in India. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism will also assist in developing ITS architecture, capacity development in respect of ITS, along with developing ring roads in major cities such as Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi etc. It will also hold working level meetings and exchange of knowledge in earthquake resistant construction technology. India has suggested sharing information on sewage networks including water reuse and continued sharing of experiences in the field of urban transport.
Canada has offered its wood based high-density home construction technology to help India achieve housing for all by 2022, along with being part of the smart city mission. It has also offered technology for waste water recycling.
Australia, with prime focus on infrastructure development, has offered to extend its expertise, technology, and other cooperation in urban development, urban design, construction of new smart cities, green and quality buildings, networked buildings, waste management and urban regeneration.
Germany has extended a $2.25-billion support to India for clean energy corridor and solar projects. A joint statement by both countries recognised the establishment of a working group on urban development. The Federal Republic of Germany has agreed to provide €4 million and services of international experts to help the Ministry of Urban Development in effective implementation of sanitation programmes in urban areas of the country. Both the countries signed an 'Implementation Agreement on Support to National Urban Sanitation Policy'.
China has signed MoUs to set up industrial parks in India. Another agreement has been signed on the establishment of sister-state/province relations between Karnataka and Sichuan, Chennai and Chongqing, Hyderabad and Qingdao, and Aurangabad and Dunhuang.
Sweden has identified promotion of public transport, municipal waste management and digitalisation as priority areas for cooperation when developing smart cities and upgrading basic infrastructure in other cities in India. Both the countries have agreed to identify specific projects for promoting sustainable urban development in India.
Spain submitted a Draft MoU for cooperation in developing smart and sustainable cities in India. Under the MoU, it has proposed to assist in developing Delhi as the first global and smart city in India.
Iran has proposed to set up a task force for upgrading slums, in India as well as Iran, to help exchange of experience and transfer of technology. A workshop for Iranian officials for slum redevelopment and smart cities is also being considered.