Modi charms Musk to set up shop in India
Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk said on Tuesday that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pushing the car maker to make a “significant investment” in the South Asian country. He made the remark after meeting the leader in New York on Tuesday.
Musk is bullish about India’s potential in relation to sustainable energy and climate tech, including solar power, stationary battery packs, and electric vehicles. He plans to bring SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service to India, and is exopected to make an announcement soon on setting up a manufacturing base in the world’s most populous nation.
The Tesla CEO said he is “incredibly excited about the future of India” following his meeting with Modi. “It has more promise than any other large country in the world and the PM really cares about India... because he is pursuing us to make a significant investment... which is something we need to do. In a nutshell, it was a fantastic meeting with the PM.”
Modi reciprocated Musk’s praise with his take on the one-on-one meeting, stating that they had “multifaceted conversations on issues ranging from energy to spirituality.”
Musk told reporters that he is a “fan of PM Modi.”
However, the world’s richest man was reluctant about making any immediate investment commitments. “We do not want to jump the gun on an announcement but I think it is quite likely it will be a significant investment in our relationship with India,” he said.
Pressed further, he said, “I am confident Tesla will be in India and will do so as soon as humanly possible,” adding, “hopefully we will be able to announce something in the not-so-distant future.”
Tesla executives visited India last month and spoke with ministers and government officials about a manufacturing base for electric vehicles and batteries. The executives’ reconnaissance trip was also corroborated by India’s federal minister of state for entrepreneurship, skill development, electronics & technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
Musk has said that Tesla is likely to pick a location for a new factory by the end of the year.
Tesla shelved its India entry plans last year owing to high import tax structures, and has been looking to export to India first so that the carmaker can test demand.
Interestingly, Modi’s meeting with Musk came days after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey accused India of threatening to shut down the social media platform for not complying with its orders to take down content from the site.
Dorsey’s allegations, made in an interview with an independent news show, were vehemently denied by the Indian government, which called it “an outright lie.”
Musk weighed in on the issue and tried to douse the controversy by toeing the Modi administration’s social media policy line.
“Twitter does not have a choice but to obey local governments or we will get shut down,” he said. “We will do our best to provide the freest speech that is possible under the law.”
On a separate note on Tuesday, over 70 US lawmakers wrote to President Joe Biden, urging him to raise human rights issues with Modi during his first state visit. The lawmakers expressed concerns about growing religious intolerance, press freedom, and the persistent targeting of civil society groups by the ruling party, which appears to champion the cause of the country’s Hindu-majority population.
However, the Biden administration appears to be glossing over these “uncomfortable home truths” to lay out a red carpet for the Indian prime minister.
In New York, besides Musk, Modi, on the first day of a three-day state visit to the US, met with prominent people from all walks of life, including political leaders and tech experts.