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Not just Tesla, Starlink and X also on agenda during Musk’s India visit

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Billionaire Elon Musk is gearing up for a visit to India, targeting an electric vehicle plant in the country. But that’s not the only thing he will be discussing during his India visit.

In addition to Tesla, Musk’s satellite internet company Starlink is expected to receive preliminary clearances to operate in India, as per information from a government official speaking to AFP.

The trip is also expected to address the substantial number of content removal requests from the Indian government directed at X (formerly Twitter), the social media platform Musk acquired in 2022. Last week, Musk excitedly announced on X, “Looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India!” though he did not specify the date of his arrival.

Amidst growing competition from China and a downturn in demand in the US, Tesla has considered reducing its workforce, as per various reports. Tesla is currently experiencing a slowdown in sales within the US.

Musk, a self-proclaimed admirer of Modi, has previously stated that India “has more promise than any large country in the world.”

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However, despite Musk’s positive outlook on India, the country faces challenges in attracting foreign direct investment. High import duties have notably hindered Tesla’s entry into the Indian market without local manufacturing facilities. Moreover, in 2021, Starlink was publicly criticised by the communications ministry for initiating service presales in India without the necessary operational license.

This year, in a move to attract more foreign investment ahead of the national elections, the government has relaxed some regulations. Recently, it reduced import taxes on electric vehicles for international manufacturers that pledge to invest $500 million and start local production within three years. Under the new scheme, automakers can import up to 8,000 electric vehicles annually, priced at $35,000 or more, at a reduced import duty of 15 percent.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that Tesla is sending a team to survey potential factory sites in at least three Indian states. Indian media also reports that Tesla may initially import vehicles from its Berlin plant until a final decision on production in India is made.

Although experts remain skeptical about the immediate impact of Tesla’s entry into the Indian market, due to the high cost of its vehicles, there is a general consensus that the market could reach a turning point as incomes rise and production costs for electric vehicles decrease. According to Counterpoint, electric vehicles, which currently represent two percent of all automotive sales, are expected to surge to nearly 30 percent by 2030.

On the legal front, Musk continues to deal with legacy issues from X, notably the ongoing legal challenges against orders from the Indian government to remove certain content critical of Modi’s administration. Despite the legal battles, Musk has expressed his intention to comply with local regulations, stating to a BBC journalist last year, “If we have a choice of either our people go to prison or we comply with the laws, we will comply with the laws.”

(AFP)

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