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Amazon's Jeff Bezos faces protest in India

Aditya Sharma New Delhi
January 17, 2020

Although Bezos promised $1 billion worth of investment during his visit to India, the Amazon CEO and newspaper owner was criticized by Indian government officials over negative coverage of PM Modi's policies.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in Washington
Image: Reuters/J. Roberts

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday concluded a three-day visit to India during which he faced criticism from members and supporters of the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over negative coverage from the Washington Post.

The US daily, which Bezos owns, has criticized some of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's major decisions since his re-election in May, including the government ending the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Kashmir region, and the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP has drawn international criticism for the CAA, which provides a fast-track to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim, "persecuted religious minorities" from the neighboring Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  After the act was passed by Parliament in December, violent protests broke out in cities across India.

In a recent editorial, the Washington Post called the CAA "discriminatory."

"The Washington Post editorial policy is highly biased and agenda driven," Vijay Chauthaiwale, the head of the BJP's foreign affairs department, told Reuters news agency Friday.

Bezos' visit was also met with protests by Indian street traders who rallied outside of an Amazon event in New Delhi, chanting: "Jeff Bezos - Go Back!"

Read moreOpinion: India's new citizenship act is unconstitutional

Amazon's business ambitions in India have also brought out concerns of traditional Indian street traders who accuse the e-commerce giant of driving them out of business.

"They are the second version of the East India Company. They just want to wipe out the competition and later on dictate their own terms," Praveen Khandelwal of the Confederation of All India Traders told DW.

Since the BJP got its start, India's shopkeepers have represented a core constituency.

Amazon's plans in India

During his visit, the US tycoon announced Amazon's plans to create a million new jobs in India and pledged investments of $1 billion over the next five years. 

"We will use Amazon's global footprint to enable $10 billion (€ 9 billion) in exports of Indian products to the rest of the world by 2025. Our investments in India will create an additional 1 million jobs across the country by 2025," Bezos said in a letter posted on Amazon's India website.

Read moreStrike by millions of Indian workers over Modi privatization plans

However, Bezos' announcement was overshadowed by the remarks of India's trade minister, Piyush Goyal, who said Amazon is not doing India any favors by announcing the new investments.

"They may have put in a billion dollars but then if they make a loss of a billion dollars every year then they have to finance that billion dollars," Goyal said on Thursday at an event in New Delhi.

"If they are bringing in money to finance losses … it certainly raises questions as to where the loss came from," Goyal said, adding that Amazon could be engaged in "predatory pricing or some unfair trade practices."

Earlier this week, India's antitrust body launched investigation into Amazon and Flipkart, its main rival in India, over allegations of deep price discounts and whether the firms discriminate against small vendors.

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