London, Nov. 9: The Indian government has been working closely for the last six months with Financial Dynamics, one of Britain’s top public relations firms, to project the country and especially its economy as modern and progressive, a reliable source in London disclosed yesterday to The Telegraph.
It is understood that Financial Dynamics, which has good links with City (the capital’s financial hub) and business journalists — is assisting the Indian high commission to place “standalone” reports about Indian economic achievements in the City and business pages of British newspapers.
As to why the Indian government has recruited the services of Financial Dynamics, one explanation suggested is that London, much more so than Washington, is seen as the centre of the world media empire because influential international newspapers such as The Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph are located here, along with the BBC.
An employee on a PR firm, which is a rival to Financial Dynamics, said: “Financial Dynamics is one of the leading PR firms in Britain. They are certainly not cheap. A senior executive may charge £250 an hour, and the firm could have a retainer of between £4,000 and £10,000 a month. The logic of the appointment is that the Indian government is trying to change the perception of India as a land of poverty, of snake charmers and elephants to a modern, progressive country.”
It is too early to tell what influence, if any, Financial Dynamics has had so far but recent coverage of India in British newspapers, notably The Financial Times, has been exceptionally positive.
The well-respected high commissioner, Ronen Sen, is known to be working closely on PR strategy with Delhi — he left on Friday for Delhi for “consultations” — and with his deputy in London, Satyabrata Pal, and his press counsellor, Navdeep Suri.
On Friday, for example, the FT carried a half-page interview with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, “fixed from London”, headlined: “PM says India’s tortoise is pacing China’s hare in race for reform”. In the interview, where the Prime Minister came across as mature, responsible, progressive and persuasive, Vajpayee argued that Indian democracy could not be blamed for slowing down the country’s economic reform process, certainly as compared with China.
While acknowledging that “I visited China recently and was very much impressed by its many economic achievements”, Vajpayee stressed — and this point will be appreciated by FT readers — that Indian reforms were more durable because of democracy. It will prove hard to fault Vajpayee’s logic: “We have sought to implement our economic liberalisation with public accountability and a social conscience. This makes our reforms more enduring and stable.”
He added: “Our approach is vindicated by the fact that, among the countries which liberalised their economies in the early 1990s, India alone moved to a higher growth trajectory without an interim period of recession.”
Vajpayee may have felt he was addressing mainly an international audience but he has now committed himself to punishing those found guilty of carrying out atrocities during the Gujarat riots.
It remains to be seen whether he meant it when he told the FT: “There is no doubt that those perpetrating such violence should be punished. Our public, media and judiciary are following it closely. Justice will not only be seen to be done; it will be done.”
The FT report makes it clear that Narendra Modi’s continuance as chief minister is a blot on the BJP record.
An FT editorial, “India’s opportunity”, written earlier, began: “After years of being overshadowed by China and its extraordinary record of economic growth, the world’s second most populous country is making a comeback.” The theme of the editorial was: “India, it is whispered, may at last have what it takes to start catching up with its larger neighbour.”
The Times, too, reflected the feeling that the Indian economy has more pluses than minuses.
In an editorial written to coincide with the visit to India by Prince Charles, it said: “India now is a subcontinent come alive.” It added: “The transformation has been gathering pace, but Britons have taken notice only recently.”
Last Sunday, a full-page article (“India drives into the world car industry”) in the business section of The Sunday Times was devoted to the Tatas’ manufacture of thousands of small City Rover cars earmarked for British motorists. The paper concluded: “(Ratan) Tata’s achievement should have western manufacturers shaking in their boots. It is one of the many indications that Indian engineering groups may be about to do what Indian IT and business-outsourcing companies have done to their rivals for the past decade: thrashed them out of the market.”