January 17, 2020 / 6:37 AM / in 2 months

After India's Amazon snub, Modi's party slams Bezos-owned Washington Post

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party on Friday slammed editorial policies of billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, even as his e-commerce firm Amazon (AMZN.O) announced plans to create a million jobs in the country by 2025.

Vijay Chauthaiwale, chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) foreign affairs department, said there was “a lot of problem” with the newspaper’s coverage of India, but gave no examples.

The swipe at the Post came a day after a cabinet minister gave short shrift to Amazon’s (AMZN.O) investment plans for India.

Bezos has praised India during his visit, saying the 21st century will be the Indian century and calling the country’s dynamism and energy “something special”.

“I am not opposing Amazon as a company, in fact I am a regular customer ... Jeff Bezos should go home tell Washington Post what is his impression about India,” Chauthaiwale told Reuters.

“The Washington Post editorial policy is highly biased and agenda driven.”

In a statement to Reuters, The Washington Post said it “has covered India fairly and accurately, even when the government has imposed tight restrictions on the flow of information.” The Post’s Opinions department is independent from the news division and publishes different perspectives from within India and around the globe, the newspaper added.

Chauthaiwale has in the past criticized foreign media’s reporting, including on the disputed Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan, saying coverage has been biased against Modi.

Amazon did not respond to an email seeking comment on Chauthaiwale’s remarks. In its statement announcing the job-creation plans, Bezos said “we’re excited about what lies ahead.”

Still, street protests this week by small retailers and adverse comments from politicians have made Bezos’ visit a public relations nightmare for Amazon.

India’s shopkeepers have been a core constituency for the BJP since the party’s early days. Sources told Reuters that Modi, who has courted other foreign investors, was unlikely to meet Bezos during his visit despite repeated requests by Amazon.

SOURING SENTIMENT

India last year enforced stringent rules for foreign investment in e-commerce, which forced Amazon to rework its business structures and strained ties between New Delhi and Washington.

India’s antitrust body this week launched a probe into Amazon and Walmart’s (WMT.N) Flipkart e-commerce service. India’s brick-and-mortar retailers say Amazon and Flipkart have flouted regulations and burned billions of dollars to offer steep discounts. The companies deny the allegations.

On Thursday, Bezos attended a company event in Mumbai with Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan and said the company would “double down” its investments on its video streaming service, Prime Video.

FILE PHOTO: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, attends a company event in New Delhi, India, January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

But the event was largely overshadowed by comments from India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal, who raised questions about the company’s business practices while addressing a security conference in New Delhi and said Amazon had done no big favor to India by announcing a $1 billion investment.

Industry executives and their advisers told Reuters on Friday that Goyal’s remarks were likely to put off foreign investors, denting India’s economic growth which is already projected to fall to a 11-year low this year.

“This clearly is unbecoming, and it will hurt how the world views India as a destination,” said a senior executive of a U.S.-based company operating in India.

Reporting by Sankalp Pharityal and Aditya Kalra; ditional reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Simon Cameron-Moore and David Gregorio

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