India has come a long way as an automobile manufacturer. From the days of having to rely on protracted technology transfers of sometimes decades-old cars to produce limited quantities of Ambassadors (Morris Oxford), Premier Padminis (based on a Fiat car) and Maruti 800s (Suzuki), India has now reached a stage where a world-famous marque, now owned by India’s biggest conglomerate, is being used by the top officer of the Pakistan Army!
Proof of this comes via a photo that has been posted on social media from the Pakistan Army Day programme on January 9, in which the Pak army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, is sitting shotgun in what is unmistakably a military-modified Land Rover jeep. The iconic Land Rover is, of course, now produced by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) which has been owned by India’s Tata Motors for a decade.
In the photo, Pak army chief Bajwa is seated next to the driver in a jeep that’s camouflaged in tune with the desert-surroundings, with an additional netting protecting it from detection, as well as perhaps from the elements.
Pakistan, as US President Donald Trump has made abundantly clear over the past year, has a now infamous history of taking foreign military aid which enables it to continue greasing its all-powerful (in Pakistan) military-intelligence-radical ‘deep state’. Its historical proximity with the US – owing to America’s involvement in numerous and long-running wars to Pakistan’s west – also resulted in a scenario that is diametrically opposite to India. Essentially, on account of its foreign aid-foreign procurement cycle, Pakistan hasn’t quite been able to develop a manufacturing prowess and expertise, the result of which is seen in its balance of payments, which is perpetually post-fixed with the word ‘crisis’ and leaves the country looking for bailouts at regular intervals. As per a report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, over the last four decades, exports from India and Bangladesh have grown at 5-times the rate as Pakistan!
Coming back to India’s automobile industry, England-based JLR is just one brand of vehicle that one is likely to see on foreign soil. A host of companies manufacture in India and sell abroad and the growth rate is quite exceptional. As per the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) in April-March 2018, overall automobile exports increased by 16.12%.
SIAM says over 40 lakh passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, three wheelers and most importantly, two-wheelers (28 lakh!) were exported in 2017-18.