India 'shocked' as Musk's surprise China visit leaves them spurned

By Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Elon Musk‘s surprise visit to China this week won concessions for Tesla but left India feeling spurned after he cancelled a scheduled trip there for earlier this month, with Indian commentators calling the move a snub.

India’s pained reaction highlights the increasing rivalry between India and China, Asia two largest countries by population and among the region’s most dynamic economies. Business and diplomatic relations between them have been strained since a 2020 border clash left 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead.

Musk was due to meet Modi last week and announce an investment of up to $3 billion in a car plant, but cancelled saying there were “very heavy Tesla obligations”. By then, the Indian government had sent out invites for a startup event Musk was to attend.

On Sunday, Musk turned up in China, meeting with Premier Li Qiang and making progress towards rolling out its advanced driver assistance package in the world’s biggest auto market.

Indian news channels that often take a hard line position against China blasted Musk’s trip.

The Mirror Now news channel ran a prime time news segment with a tagline “Shoddy ethics or simply business?”, with the anchor saying “here in India everybody was shocked.”

Digital news service News9 ran a segment late on Monday on Musk, saying “Hello China, Goodbye India?”. It then flashed on the screen, “VERY HEAVY TESLA OBLIGATIONS? China visit a week after cancelling India”.

Neither Tesla or Modi’s office responded to requests for comment. Musk said on April 20 he looks forward to visiting India later this year, but the Indian government has not commented on his trip cancellation or China visit.

Musk’s India trip could have boosted Modi’s re-election campaign, with a Tesla investment announcement during poll campaigning providing an endorsement of Modi’s business friendly image as he seeks a rare third term.

Modi’s government has been trying to court foreign companies to India as they diversify their supply chains beyond China because of geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Modi’s opponents seized on Musk’s China visit to criticise the prime minister.

“Such is the lack of faith in the Modi govt’s regulatory policies, that big businesses are turning to China over India repeatedly,” Shama Mohamed, the national spokesperson of main opposition Congress party wrote on social media website X.

Political satirist Akash Banerjee, who runs a YouTube channel “The Patriot”, questioned how Musk had no time to meet Modi, but still went to China.

“Do you think Modi will forgive Musk from his heart?” Banerjee said in a video that has clocked 268,000 views in 19 hours.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Additional reporting by Shivangi Acharya; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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