The rise of Indian tycoon Gautam Adani in recent years has been linked to India’s rapid growth and influence amid the global economic downturn. As the United States shifts its global strategic focus to the Indo-Pacific region in response to the Chinese communist threat, India’s strategic position is quickly coming to the fore.
According to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Adani is the second richest man in the world behind Tesla founder Elon Musk with a net worth of $143 billion. He made headlines on September 16 when he ousted Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who now ranks third in the index.
While the fortunes of many of the world’s top billionaires have shrunk dramatically over the past year, Adani’s wealth has nearly doubled, jumping $71.6 billion. In fact, he’s the only one among the world’s top 10 billionaires whose wealth hasn’t decreased.
Adani, India stand up together
Some analysts believe Adani’s 10-fold increase in wealth is closely linked to his support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promoted infrastructure and green energy development programs, which fueled India’s rapid economic growth last year amid the global economic slowdown.
At the same time, Adani has played an important role in enhancing India’s global strategic importance. These include his $1.18 billion bid in July to privatize Israel’s main port, Haifa, halting China’s plans to take full control of the port.
In 2021, the Chinese-controlled Shanghai International Port Group built a container terminal across from the Port of Haifa. The Haifa Bayport Terminal was to serve as an important “Belt and Road” junction for the CCP and a strategic presence in the Mediterranean.
Speaking of his port investment, Adani did not hide the fact that there are strategic considerations for India. In a July 15th tweet, he wrote: “Delighted to win the tender for the privatization of the Port of Haifa in Israel with our partner Gadot. Immense strategic and historical importance for both nations!”
Adani’s businesses soar, helped by the oil crisis
Over the past year, all of Adani’s companies have seen their fortunes skyrocket, particularly those in the energy sector, which have benefited from the sharp rise in global oil and gas prices. Additionally, its energy companies outperformed the 2022 MSCI World Energy Index total return of 36 percent.
Among them, Adani Green Energy and Adani Total Gas are both trading at price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios of over 750, while Adani Enterprises and Adani Transmission, the main companies of the Adani Group, are trading at P/E ratios of over 400.
This rapid growth in wealth has not only made Adani the first Asian to be included in the top 3 list of the world’s richest people, but also made him the richest person in Asia and India’s former richest man Mukesh Ambani and China’s richest man Zhong Shanshan ousted. Adani Net Worth grew by $50 billion in 2021 while Ambani Net Worth grew by $21.8 billion. For years, Ambani was the only Asian to make the top 10 richest people in the world.
Invest in India’s growth as the global economy falters
Both Adani and Ambani support Prime Minister Modi’s new energy development strategy, with Adani planning to invest US$70 billion and Ambani’s investment US$75 billion. The conglomerates of two tycoons that control India’s key sectors such as power, coal, natural gas, ports, digital technology services, oil exploration, finance, biotechnology and telecommunications are critical to India’s rapid economic development.
The Indian government estimates that the country’s economy is expected to grow by 7 percent or more this year, more than double the global growth forecast. According to the World Bank’s latest forecast, global growth will be just 2.9 percent this year, dragged down by the Russia-Ukraine war, rising global energy prices and China’s strict pandemic lockdowns.
In China, the latest wave of the pandemic has quarantined 20 percent of the population. Nomura Securities recently again lowered its forecast for China’s GDP growth this year to 2.7 percent. Goldman Sachs had previously lowered its growth forecast for China to 3.0 percent from 3.3 percent.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s GDP grew by just 2.5 percent in the first half of the year, well below the official growth target of 5.5 percent.
Haifa Port Purchase Blocks CCP in Middle East
In late July, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ), along with Israel’s Gadot Group, beat rivals with a $1.18 billion bid to privatize the Israeli port of Haifa, in which Adani now has a 70 percent stake holds.
The Port of Haifa handles nearly half of Israel’s containerized cargo and straddles the exit of a nearby Israeli naval base. It is also a frequent stopover for the US Sixth Fleet, making it a key port for Israel and the United States.
China’s Bayport Terminal across from the Port of Haifa opened in September 2021. The regime sees it as one of the most important turning and fishing ports on the Mediterranean coast for its Belt and Road initiative and has invested US$1.7 billion in the project.
Adani’s acquisition also follows an initiative to jointly produce weapons for Israel in India, with Adani being an initial partner in manufacturing small arms and later expanding to include missiles and drones.
India, I2U2 Partners Counter Belt and Road
The deal came just days after US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East for the I2U2 online summit with India, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The four-way economic forum is seen as part of the US strategy to counter the CCP’s “Belt and Road” initiative in the Middle East.
The I2U2 block is seen as complementary to US influence in the Middle East and is in line with India’s strategic interest. In February, India and the United Arab Emirates signed a free trade agreement. India is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Israel.
The US is urging India to decouple from China
Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a research institute based in Washington, DC. Quoted in the Jewish News Syndicate, Schanzer says the United States has been pushing Israel to decouple from China for the past two years.
“The United States is concerned because high-end technology produced by Israel is so attractive to China,” Schanzer said. While Israel’s trade with China is lucrative – currently worth $17 billion – he added that Israel is increasingly “looking to India as an alternative due to pressure from the United States.”
US Naval Operations Chief Admiral Mike Gilday said at a Heritage Foundation seminar in Washington on August 25 that India could be a strategic partner for the United States by playing an important role in fighting the CCP.
“You just can’t look at China through the lens of the Indo-Pacific. You have to look at the Indian Ocean, you have to look at its belt and its straits, its economic connective tissue, which is now global,” Gilday said.
India’s Importance in the Indo-Pacific Strategy
India is already playing an important role in deterring the CCP in the Indo-Pacific region. For example, in early August, the Chinese aerospace survey ship Yuan Wang 5 – widely believed to be a spy ship – was allowed to dock at the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka. DDue to concerns about gathering Indian military intelligence, the Indian government delayed docking for several days.
Since April this year, Sri Lanka has been mired in an economic and political crisis that some have blamed on China’s debt-trap diplomacy. India has provided almost $4 billion in aid to Sri Lanka in recent months to help the country out of its troubles.
India has also assisted Bangladesh in reducing its dependence on the CCP. Bangladesh, India’s southeastern neighbor, owes about $4 billion to China for its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.
“India’s strategic position has come to the fore after the United States shifted its strategic focus to the Indo-Pacific region and mainly targeting the CCP,” Frank Xie, a professor of business administration at the University of South Carolina Aiken, told The Epoch Times. “India also plays a very important role in the four-way alliance between the United States, Japan, India and Australia.”
China’s military expansion and aggressive actions in the South China Sea have threatened all neighboring countries in the region. Xie said India is also actively expanding its naval and strategic missile forces to counter this threat. The country has complete sets of strategic missiles and nuclear weapons and recently put its first home-built aircraft carrier into service.
Xie believes India can play a significant role in controlling the Indian Ocean and part of the South China Sea, mirroring the United States.
In addition, India’s population has reached 1.4 billion and is expected to overtake China’s population soon.
“Coupled with population growth, its economy is growing so fast that it has attracted a large number of companies in the industry chain to relocate their factories or industrial chains to India, which will deal a very big blow to the CCP economically,” Xie said.
India is also more wary of CCP infiltration compared to other democracies. Last year, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese mobile applications. Both countries have been on high alert since a minor but deadly clash broke out between India and China at the border two years ago.
Epoch Times reporter Ellen Wan contributed to this report.