India 2015

Written by  //  December 25, 2015  //  India  //  1 Comment

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2015

25 December
For Now, Modi’s Lahore Visit is Good, Innovative Symbolism
By C Uday Bhaskar

  • As diplomatic protocols and practices go, the innovative personal Modi variant was on full display with the media tracking every move.
  • It would be premature to make a linear extrapolation from the innovative symbolism of the surprise visit.
  • The year ahead would provide a roadmap for the progress between India and Pakistan and the degree to which, high-level political contact and determination can bring about change for the better.

In a sign of the comfort level between the two prime ministers, Mr Sharif was at the airport to receive his special guest and later – in yet another first – the two PMs embarked on a helicopter ride to Sharif’s palace in Raiwind.
The one-on-one talks between the two prime ministers lasted a little over an hour and no statement was issued except a tweet to highlight the commitment to South Asian cooperation.
13 December
Shinzo Abe’s Visit to India: Emerging Strategic Resolve
By C Uday Bhaskar
(The Quint) The joint statement released by India and Japan on December 12, during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to New Delhi, is a remarkable document and exudes a degree of strategic resolve by two of Asia’s most important yet reticent democracies. This kind of assertion in the security and geo-strategic domain is uncharacteristic of Tokyo and Delhi, and may be ascribed to the kind of personal political determination that the two principals – Mr Abe and Indian PM Narendra Modi bring to the bi-lateral table.
“ The two Prime Ministers reiterated their unwavering commitment to realise a peaceful, open, equitable, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. India and Japan uphold the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity; peaceful settlement of disputes; democracy, human rights and the rule of law; open global trade regime; and freedom of navigation and overflight. They pledged to work for peace, security and development of the Indo-Pacific region toward 2025 underpinned by these principles.”
The inclusive term ‘Indo-Pacific’ that some quarters in India have been advocating has now found official endorsement by both Delhi and Tokyo. It subsumes the earlier term Asia-Pacific that seemed to dwell only the Asian seaboard of the Pacific and the new phrase links the two oceans together
6 December
Bangkok meeting: Setting stage for Modi visit to Pakistan?
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) The unobtrusively arranged, below the radar meeting between the National Security Advisers (NSA) of India and Pakistan in Bangkok on Sunday (December 6) may be seen as a case of a belated but welcome review of the stalled bilateral engagement and hitting the reset key in a calibrated manner. …
It may be conjectured that Rawalpindi, the HQ of the Pakistan Army and the more relevant Sharif – General Raheel Sharif the powerful Pakistan Army Chief – has come to the conclusion that engaging with India in the backdrop of a post Paris security ambiance would be more prudent. Hence the olive branch offered by Nawaz Sharif in Malta at the Commonwealth Heads meeting (November 28) where he indicated that Pakistan was ready for resumption of talks without attaching any pre-conditions.
The sub-text of the Bangkok joint statement is to adopt an inclusive semantic, wherein the primary concerns of both countries are accommodated, viz terrorism for India and Kashmir for Pakistan and to assuage potential sensitivities by throwing in a catch-all “and other issues” clause.
The bottom-line for Delhi is the nettlesome challenge of managing the South Asian neighborhood and to keep all the bilaterals on even keel and in relatively good cheer. This objective remains elusive in relation to Nepal and Pakistan remains the obdurate neighbor invested in nuclear weapon enabled terror.
3 December
Stronger ties must for ‘stability’ in Indian Ocean
By Abhijit Bhattacharyya
(South Asia Monitor) … the strongest naval nation today happens to be India, as none of the other nine maritime states like South Africa, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia has the wherewithal of New Delhi navy at this point in time. However, there is a problem, a very big problem. Unlike the Americans and the British, India does not have a single naval overseas base. And without it, mere talk of alliance, stability, “Indian Ocean as a zone of peace” would not take India anywhere to be counted upon.
British ruled owing to its command and control of the strategic geography from Gibraltar to Suez, and Aden to Singapore and Persian Gulf to Cape of Good Hope. Britain still does have the Falkland Islands (in South Atlantic Ocean) over which they went to war with Argentina in 1982. Britain also possess a large number of remote island assets like Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cyprus, St. Helena etc.
The six commands of the USA covers the globe and the fleets thereof are present virtually in the vicinity of every island which matters in the eyes of the USA. Also, China today is expanding its wish list as it acknowledged plans to set up a naval logistics centre in Djibouti which will surely bolster its presence in the Indian Ocean and enhance the out-of-area operational capability. Thus, India just cannot sit back idle and propose stability to fulfil its economic wishlist. No-base in the ocean means no-capability of the navy. That is the history and that is the geography, on which depends the economics of prosperity, especially if the 1.25 billion heads of India want to rise for the sake of its own self along with those whose interests are found to be in common with that of New Delhi.
2 December
COP21: India signals willingness to cut coal for climate cash
(BBC) Dr Ajay Mathur said coal would be restricted if there was help to pay for “more expensive” green energy.
India is expected to become the world’s biggest importer of coal by 2020 as it seeks to expand electrification.
In these negotiations the government has adopted a hard line, saying that the need to develop using fossil fuels trumps the needs of the climate.
As the world discusses climate change in Paris, this is the hazardous smog engulfing New Delhi
(Quartz India) Much of the heavy smog that has inundated the city since early November is due to the increased usage of coal fire to fight the onset of winter and the burning of paddy straw at farms in adjoining states. But historic data indicates a long, troubling trend. Versus just one fog day in 1951, New Delhi sees in excess of 70 fog days annually during winter, largely due to rapid urbanization.
A major Indian city has been underwater for almost a month now
It has not stopped raining in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu for almost a month, throwing normal life out of gear. The state’s capital, Chennai—home to offices of large IT companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant and Infosys—is among the most affected areas. The city is witnessing its worst rains in 100 years. In recent weeks, cars have sunk, roads caved, and flights delayed.
29 November
COP21 Paris climate talks: India looms as obstacle to deal
Victor Mallet in New Delhi
(FT)  India probably has more at stake in the struggle against global warming than any other large economy represented at this week’s climate summit in Paris.
As temperatures rise — boosted by the global emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — India becomes more prone to droughts, floods, crop failures and cyclones. Scientists predict that average temperatures on the densely populated plains of north India will rise by a startling 2.9-5C by 2080.
India’s vulnerability to changes in the climate makes it all the more extraordinary that its government is seen as an obstacle to a successful deal, just as previous administrations were accused of obstructing world trade negotiations.
Two weeks ago in Turkey, India blocked efforts by the G20 countries to prepare for an ambitious climate accord. John Kerry, US secretary of state, recently praised China but expressed concern about the “challenge” of India and its desire to burn more dirty coal for electricity. “We’ve got a lot of focus on India right now to try to bring them along,” he said.
9 November
Shashi Tharoor: India’s Sacred Cows and Unholy Politics
(Project Syndicate) For most of India’s existence, however, the default approach has essentially been “live and let live” – make your own choice about beef, and let others do the same. I am a vegetarian myself, but I have never considered it my business what others eat. Where beef was legally available, it was consumed not just by Muslims and other minorities, but also by many poorer Hindus, who could not afford other kinds of meat.
But that response was possible only so long as relatively liberal or moderate officials (including an earlier BJP-led coalition government) were in power. The Modi government does not fit that description. Instead, it is full of leaders who seem more concerned with what goes into other people’s mouths than what comes out of their own.
Modi’s government has given voice to a peculiar kind of Hindu chauvinism, one that embraces activist assertion of a narrowly constructed version of the faith. It cannot be described as “fundamentalism,” for Hinduism is a religion singularly devoid of fundamentals: it lacks a single sacred book, a single version of divinity, and even the equivalent of a Sabbath day. In fact, Hindus who eat beef can, like those who abjure it, find support for their beliefs in the religion’s ancient texts and scripture.
Rather, what Modi’s government has fostered is a form of subjective intolerance, with supporters, emboldened by the BJP’s absolute majority, imposing their particular view of what India should be, regardless of whom it hurts. The state of Maharashtra’s recent beef ban – which threatens the livelihoods of a million Muslim butchers and truckers – would not have been imposed by any previous state government or supported by any previous administration in New Delhi.
Such bans are not really about beef, but about freedom. Indians have generally felt free to be themselves, within their dynamic and diverse society. It is that freedom that the BJP’s representatives and followers are challenging today.
7 November
Cleo Paskal: Under Justin Trudeau, Canada’s global profile set for Major Rejig
(Sunday Guardian) Trudeau stated his foreign policy will harken back to a time when “everyone loved Canada”. Unfortunately, that is a fictional time, as those in the Indian strategic community know. Patronising statements about countries that face a very different reality to the one faced by wealthy, largely secure Canada are likely to produce a much stronger response than they did in 1998.
The role of the Indo-Canadians in Cabinet in helping their colleagues understand that times have changed is unclear. The India they or their parents (or grandparents, or great-grandparents) knew, doesn’t exist anymore.
It is very difficult to know what Canada’s new foreign policy will actually be. Will it reinforce the positive bridges to India forged by the previous government or change course? Will it be more collaborative and, if so, who are the collaborators? Will the Canada it projects truly be the Canada of today, or a reimagined version of a mythical nostalgic Canada?
One promising sign is that Canada’s new Foreign Minister, Stéphane Dion, is highly experienced. But we don’t yet know how much actual input he will have.
The only thing we know for sure is that Canada is about to make noise again. Whether it will be music to India’s ears is yet to be discovered.
(Quartz) Narendra Modi is hardly a man of a few words. So when the Indian prime minister remains silent on a wave of sectarian discord sweeping the country, people notice.
In September, for instance, a 50-year-old Muslim man was lynched on suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator. A month earlier, MM Kalburgi, an Indian scholar and rationalist, was assassinated in his own house.
Modi has done almost nothing to dispel fears that such violence will continue. He and his party, the Hindu-nationalist BJP, have either simply ignored critics, or branded them unpatriotic citizens out to malign India’s image. From a right-leaning government, that’s not entirely unexpected when liberal-minded artists, academics and scientists revolt, as they have. But now, India’s business community, which solidly backed Modi’s electoral campaign, is growing increasingly concerned.
Moody’s Analytics (not the same as the ratings agency) sent out a warning last week: “Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility.” The unrest over religious intolerance is diluting the government’s focus on economic reforms, and will give India’s opposition parties more ammunition to disrupt parliament once it reconvenes later this year. A hamstrung parliament has already slowed down Modi’s reform momentum; key bills are stuck in limbo. India’s lumbering economy urgently needs these reforms, and the delays are starting to make India’s businesses uncomfortable.
Unperturbed, Modi and his lieutenants are sticking to their script: “India is doing better than when we took office 17 months ago.” But it’s not good enough, compared either to rising expectations, or to their own promises. Unless Modi changes tack quickly, his election slogan of “minimum government, maximum governance” risks degenerating into “mediocre government, maximum nuisance.”—Devjyot Ghoshal
See Comment of 8 November
2 November
Third India-Africa Forum Summit
India and Africa: The 3G maritime connectivity
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) India and Africa are connected through the medium of the oceans and this has been an ancient linkage. In the modern context, the advent of the colonial phase of recent history and the Afro-Asian experience testifies to the relevance of the maritime domain in shaping the regional strategic and security environment. There is considerable potential in the maritime arena for the Indian sub-continent and the African continent to advance their respective interests in a mutually beneficial manner. …
In earlier summits the Indian capacity to be a security provider in the Indian Ocean (IO) had been highlighted and India’s proven naval and coast guard abilities as also in the hydrographic discipline could form the basis for a robust bilateral relationship with individual African nations.
India has already entered into a MDA (maritime domain awareness) agreement with Sri Lanka and Maldives and this could be fruitfully extended to African island states also.
The geo-physical aspect of the maritime domain encompasses many issues and areas that have a direct bearing on human security and the Somali piracy phenomenon could be interpreted as an illustration of the manner which various issues get inter-linked and manifest in the manner that they have. The physical health of the Indian Ocean and the current pattern of pollution and illegal fishing warrants detailed review and India’s niche capacities (for instance in oceanography ) could be part of the collective effort to husband the IO in such a manner that it can be handed down to the future generations that follow.
The current global geo-political and geo-economic orientation suggest that the IO will become an arena where major power interests are likely to overlap. The most recent tension between the US and Russia on one hand over Syria and the US–China dissonance over the South China Sea island disputes is an example that is self-explanatory.
Shah Rukh Khan thinks that intolerance is bringing India back to the dark ages
(Quartz) “If we are going to keep talking about religion, we are going to go back to the dark ages. It’s shocking to me. I don’t think religious intolerance is a way forward for any country. It is the worst kind of thing that can happen. And these are not small issues anymore; they are leading to violence. If you’re a true patriot, you have to love your country as a whole. You cannot love it in pieces, in regions, in states…”
1 November
Prime minister Modi, enough of the rallies, summits and speeches. It’s time you really speak up
The prime minister’s once-celebrated communications apparatus, as Quartz previously argued, has failed Modi more than once in recent months. This time, too, the government may be forced to sidetrack its focus on urgent and important reforms, unless it is able to forcefully clarify its stand on the current climate of fear and discrimination in India.
It is time that Modi leads from the front, shunning the rhetoric and elevated stages of election rallies and diaspora receptions, to speak directly and honestly to those losing faith in his government. Instead of fronting his ministers, perhaps he needs to take questions directly and answer them convincingly. Time for his first proper press conference, maybe?
18 October
Dadri killing: Security implications for India
By  C Uday Bhaskar
India’s internal security and the relatively harmonious co-existence of over 1.2 billion citizens of diverse identity been ensured by the texture of its domestic socio-political ozone layer. This was gravely challenged in Dadri and it merits recall that the latest communication technology as represented by what’s app messaging was the tool that was used to stoke the communal passion resulting in the beef-lynching.
(South Asia Monitor) Prime Minister  Narendra Modi has finally dwelt on the infamous Dadri killing and described it as “really sad”, while the BJP President Amit Shah noted that the lynching was “wrong” and that the perpetrators ought to be punished. However, both leaders sought to distance the union government  and the BJP party from the brutal killing. But there is a national resonance about Dadri and the BJP as the ruling party cannot absolve itself from the venomous intolerance that is spreading throughout India.
The lynching by an irate Hindu mob  took place in Dadri near New Delhi and has been the subject of considerable public discussion and  collective anguish.
… the response of the polity was mealy-mouthed and couched in electoral timidity that did not want to ostensibly hurt  majority Hindu sentiment just before the critical Bihar election. This is the most cynical form of political opportunism – to invoke and pander to religious identity in a sly manner –  but a trait that is deeply embedded in India’s deteriorating political culture.
India’s internal security has been differently threatened for the last seven decades – since the country attained freedom in August 1947. The external force that has sought to exploit internal socio-political dissonance and discord in India and thereby weaken internal cohesion and national unity has come in many shapes and identities. Chief among them have been the role played by China in the early decades after independence when it supported insurgent groups and, more recently – since May 1990 – the devious sponsorship of religious extremism and related terrorism by the Pakistani deep-state against India.
The virulence of the Pakistani strategy has been compounded by domestic, regional and global developments over the last 25 years and these include the mujahedin-jihadi culture nurtured by the US and its allies against the former USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s; the divisive communal politics in India in the 1990s that resulted in the destruction of the Babri Masjid; and later the events of 9/11 in September 2001 and the turbulence and destruction unleashed by the US led global war on terror.
Frustration creeps in after Modi magic
(Emerging Markets) Voting in Narendra Modi and his BJP party, India was expecting bold reform, slashing red tape, big infrastructure projects and privatisations. Eighteen months on it is still waiting
These are heady days for a country that barely 18 months ago was struggling, presided over by a lame duck premier, Manmohan Singh, and a weary, directionless Congress party. Despite its manifold potential, from a vast and vibrant services sector to an almost perfect set of demographics — the country will soon have 20% of the world’s working-age population — there was a pervasive sense that India was failing.
Modi was the epitome of the modern technocrat, favouring growth and jobs over ideology and politics. During 13 sometimes controversial years as the chief minister of Gujarat, he transformed his home state from a largely agrarian backwater into an industrial and technological powerhouse, loaded with special economic zones based on the successful Chinese model.
However, a sense of frustration is also creeping in. India’s premier campaigned on an agenda of bold reform, promising to slash red tape and push ahead with major new infrastructure projects. Yet rule changes have so far been quiet and unobtrusive rather than big and bold, frustrating those who crave real change.
Take one of the premier’s stated ambitions: to reduce the state’s stranglehold over the economy and free up the private sector. Nowhere was this ambition more visible than in a plan to narrow the fiscal deficit by embarking on an aggressive divestment programme, selling stakes in solid-but-stodgy state enterprises.
Modi’s goal of raising $10.6bn in the 12 months to end-March 2016 through a series of state divestments was always going to be a stretch but recently it has begun to look outlandishly ambitious. In the first five months of that period, the government raised just $2.4bn via three government-mandated sales. …
the premier has also missed a series of opportunities to push through genuine and much needed structural reform. There has been no breakthrough on a long-planned Goods and Services Tax, a uniform sales levy designed to boost domestic trade and raise government tax revenues. Foreign institutional investors were left reeling after being courted heavily by Modi and his finance minister, Arun Jaitley, only to be hit by a new retroactive tax that specifically targeted overseas portfolio investors. Modi scrapped that arbitrary tax this August but only after unnecessarily alienating a key investment constituency.
Most worryingly, the BJP in August made a hash of pushing a bill through parliament designed to accelerate major infrastructure projects by streamlining the process of procuring land from landowners. The failure of that bill dented the aura surrounding India’s premier as well as his chances of creating a strong, diversified and job-heavy industrial and manufacturing powerhous
29 September
Modi calls for climate change agenda that helps developing countries
(Reuters) India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met U.S. President Barack Obama and France and Britain’s leaders on Monday, and called for a climate change agenda from upcoming global talks in Paris that helps developing countries with access to finance and technology.
Modi said after meeting Obama that he and the American president shared an “uncompromising” commitment to fighting climate change without hurting development. He thanked Obama for responding positively to his call for a global public partnership to develop sources of clean energy.
“We look forward to (a) comprehensive and concrete outcome in Paris with a positive agenda on combating climate change which also focuses on access to finance and technology for the developing world, especially the poor countries and small island states,” Modi said.
18 September
Modi-fied Engagement: Will India’s Reinvigorated Foreign Policy Change History?
By Cleo Paskal
(PRIAS Policy note) In this time of shifting multipolarity, the reawakening of India has the potential to shape the global future.
Since the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014, policy makers around the world have watched with interest, anticipation and/or concern to see what, if anything, would change in India’s previously lackluster foreign policy. Would it prove to be a global civilizational power? Would it be bogged down in regional conflicts? Would it offer a ‘third option’ for partners looking for engagement that is neither reliant on the West nor China?
There is enormous potential in India. While it has unquestionable domestic challenges, it is also fundamentally democratic, with a fast growing middle class, increasing formal education levels, an expanding English-speaking population with deepening access to the global economy, and a vast domestic market that can partially insulate the country from global economic shocks.
However, for decades (punctuated by brief exceptional periods), there has been a phalanx of impediments slowing India’s domestic recovery and, by extension, its options for global engagement. These include: corruption, ineffective economic policies, a barely post-colonial legal system, lack of political vision and drive, and a complacent, or at best, unmotivated civil service.
1 September
C Uday Bhaskar: Modi’s Middle East Policy Should Focus on Migrant Labourers Too
PM Modi’s current visit to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) has been long overdue for the last such visit took place in 1981 when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was at the helm of affairs in India. The paradox is that the UAE has a very distinctive relevance for India and is part of the extended neighborhood and yet a high-level political contact has been inversely proportional to the importance of the region.
Despite the UAE being a part of our extended neighbourhood not enough political endeavours have been made to reach out to the Gulf
A lot of brouhaha has been made regarding the working conditions of migrant labourers in the UAE, one hopes that Modi’s visit will focus on facilitating a conducive working environment
Growing influence of China in the region and the US choosing to take a back step makes it relevant for India to make its presence felt
15 August
Cleo Paskal: Act East, engage Pacific Island Countries
While India is playing catch-up in the South China Sea, China is locking up influence in the vast area between Asia and South America.
(Sunday Guardian) Covering almost 1/6th of the planet’s surface, the countries of the Pacific aren’t small island states as much as large ocean territories, with vast exclusive economic zones, increasing strategic importance, major untapped resources and 14 critical votes in international fora.
The PICs’ value as partners is an open secret. For decades, both Australia and New Zealand have justified their position on the world stage by claiming they can “deliver” the PICs. However many of the PICs are becoming disenchanted with those “traditional partnerships”. … In spite of almost all the PICs being stable, democratic, well educated (many with close to 100% literacy), and English speaking — all things that should have been a natural bond between India and the region — India has been very slow off the mark.
9 August
C Uday Bhaskar — Remembering Nagasaki: Stark reminder for South Asia
(South Asia Monitor) Asia is distinctively animated as regards the nuclear weapon and of the world’s nine nuclear weapon states (US, Russia, France, UK, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea ) – Britain apart, all the other eight nations have an Asian / Eurasian locus, either directly or through proxy. The nuclear theatres of Asia are the north-eastern region wherein the US, Russia, China and North Korea are differently oriented; Southern Asia that includes China, India and Pakistan with the AQ Khan iceberg hidden; and the West Asia /Eurasia region that has the overlap of Israel and Iran (now committed to a stringent inspection regime ) and the uneasy Sunni monarchies – and, at a remove, Turkey, which as a NATO ally, has nuclear weapons and missiles (weapons of mass destruction – WMD) on its territory.
Managing the WMD aspirations and anxieties of this disparate continent is complex and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki moment is an apt occasion to review the muddied nuclear weapon-missile contours. Both North-East and West Asia are in a state of strategic flux (what if Japan become more normal given Chinese assertiveness) or meltdown (Syria and Iraq are illustrative and what if Iran is perceived to be in violation of its fissile material commitments ?) and various disturbing scenarios can be envisioned.
The most disturbing entity is the Pakistan factor wherein the facts are troubling. It is the only nuclear weapon state wherein the military has the control of the bomb and the civilian leadership is totally marginalized. Even North Korea and China have party control over their WMD assets. Pakistan has the dubious distinction of having spawned the AQ Khan network and like the Osama bin Laden-Abbotabad mirage – the world led by the US has accepted the make-believe that Dr. Khan was a lone operator driven solely by the greed of lucre. And the most scary characteristic is that Pakistan is a revisionist state that has used its WMD capability to nurture and support radical ideologies and terrorism – the very reasons that impelled the Bush administration to wage an ill-advised war against President Saddam Husain of Iraq in 2003.
14 July
C Uday Bhaskar: Here’s How Iran’s Nuke Deal Can Benefit India
(The Quint) The long-awaited nuclear rapprochement between Iran and the US-led P 5 + 1 nations is a development of significant import both at the regional and global level with many overlapping strands of strategic relevance — many of which will have a bearing on the Indian calculus.
The tentative rapprochement between Iran and the US-led cluster will have a bearing on India’s interests across three determinants — the geo-political; geo-economic; and geo-physical. Bringing Iran back into the global comity will have an immediate impact on issues like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria where varying degrees of jihadi/terror-related violence and sectarian civil war are now unspooling on a daily basis. How Tehran will position itself given the Saudi Arabia- Iran (read Sunni-Shia ) relationship remains to be seen but the operative point is that Iran has now been brought back into the regional and global geo-political and diplomatic tent.
The geo-economic implications are also considerable, for Iran is the world’s fourth largest oil producer and has been extracting its valuable natural resource well below optimum levels. The lifting of sanctions will see a major investment and modernisation of Iran’s long-neglected hydrocarbon sector and this will be good news for major oil importers like India.
The third strand — the geo-physical encompasses the trade and connectivity possibilities that are very significant for India. Iran and its ports — particularly Chabahar open up transport linkages for India that will trump Pakistani intransigence. In the most positive exigency, Iran can offer transit routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia with concomitant geo-political and geo-economic returns for India.
14 June
C. Uday Bhaskar: Modi visit to Israel needs bipartisan support
(South Asia Monitor) Yes, the Arab region has not yet figured on Prime Minister Modi’s foreign tour agenda and hopefully this will be redressed in year two – but seeking balance or equivalence in India’s dealings with Israel and the Palestine cause will be counter-productive.
At a time when some game-changing geo-political developments are on the anvil in West Asia – and this includes the Iran-US rapprochement that is likely by end June – India must position itself in the most inclusive and persuasive manner possible, and the Modi visit to Israel is part of that effort.
The irony is that the discourse of the opposition parties in India is both short-sighted and brittle and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) only needs to remind itself of how it dealt with the India–US civilian nuclear deal in late 2008. Objective and informed bipartisanship on matters of national security, alas, seems to elude the Indian politician.
1 June
The lesser known story of India’s role in Ethiopian land deals
(The Conversation) A global land monitoring initiative, Land Matrix, ranks India as one of the top 10 investors in land abroad. It is the biggest investor in land in Ethiopia, with Indian companies accounting for almost 70% the land acquired by foreigners after 2008.
Indian land deals in Ethiopia are the result of the strong convergence in the two countries’ domestic political-economic policies. Both advocate the privatisation of public assets and increasing reliance on free trade and open markets.
India’s investment in land has been driven by the need to obviate the effects of spiralling food prices by outsourcing food supply. Ethiopia’s decisions are driven by its development policy based on commercialisation of agriculture and reliance on foreign investments.
27 May
India heatwave kills 800 as capital’s roads melt
(Al Jazeera) Hospitals on alert to treat victims of heatstroke and people advised to stay indoors, as temperatures near 50C.
25 May
C. Uday Bhaskar: One Year Of Modi Government– Burnishing India’s image
(dnaIndia) Has Indian FP towards the US, China or Japan changed in any radical manner over the last year? The answer is no — but what has been transmuted is the manner in which the Indian PM now engages with his peers and whether it is the use of social media or exuding a certain confidence in his personal interactions to encourage foreign investment — the style is very different.
At the regional level, Pakistan remains the intractable old chestnut and Modi’s first year is reminiscent of the Vajpayee-Manmohan Singh trajectory. However, the complexity of the South Asian regional geo-politics that includes the role of the major powers (US, Russia, China ) and the flux from Afghanistan through Iran all the way to Syria and beyond will call for prudence and caution which have been on display by the Modi government.
Concluding the land boundary agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh is another significant achievement and moving ahead with Dhaka in a swift and constructive manner is the next challenge. Will Bangladesh be the first Muslim majority country that NaMo will visit, considering that he has not been able to visit Indonesia for the Bandung commemoration or significantly interact with any leader of an Islamic State? The engagement with Nepal is another plus — from the Modi visit to Kathmandu to the earthquake relief provided by India. In similar fashion, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Indian Ocean island nations have figured prominently on the Modi radar and this is commendable.
2 May
Shruti Chaturverdi: India – the coming force
(Emerging Markets) With China’s economy slowing, Brazil rocked by scandal and recession and Russia frozen out of world affairs and now beginning to pay the price, the world is increasingly looking to India to pick up the slack.
It has political stability, it stands to benefit from a demographic dividend that will generate demand, and it is implementing a programme to promote its underdeveloped manufacturing sector.
Perhaps most importantly, it is taking small but deliberate steps towards removing the bureaucratic hurdles for which it has become notorious.
Hopes are high for what can be achieved by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi … and finance minister Arun Jaitley. And they are fortunate in their timing: India’s economy is on a much sounder footing than at any time over the last seven years.
Year on year growth in the fourth quarter of 2014 weighed in at 7.5% (higher than China’s), inflation is falling, low commodity prices are helping a country that imports more than 80% of its energy needs and the current account deficit is declining. …
So far, so good. But India doesn’t exactly have a glowing track record when it comes to transparency in business transactions, especially those involving auction of government assets. The nation has long been perceived as one where crony capitalism thrives and kickbacks are par for the course.
This is changing. The new establishment has concluded the reallocation of coal blocks in a smooth and timely manner. The government also raised Rp1.1tr ($17.45bn) from a telecom spectrum auction this year — a process that was widely praised for the speedy and transparent manner in which it was done. All this reassures investors. India’s prospects, then, look promising. But there is still much to be done for that potential to be achieved. Important areas of reform remain to be tackled, notably recapitalising the banking system, increasing the country’s power capacity and improving infrastructure.
20 April
Scripting a west side story: Modi’s visits to France, Germany and Canada adapt lessons learnt from China’s economic miracle
(Timesof India) Being his own best publicist, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had indicated just what would be the tenor of his transatlantic tour in a tweet on March 26th: “My France, Germany & Canada visit is centred around supporting India’s economic agenda & creating jobs for our youth.”
In the age of Asia-Pacific, a focus on the Atlantic may appear a tad anachronistic. But Modi is, if anything, innovative when it comes to foreign policy. Note, a planned trip to the UK was postponed till after the May 2015 general elections there.
At an overall level the visits complete the set of tours to advanced democracies of the world – the US, Japan, Australia and now France, Germany and Canada. They address the Modi government’s approach to a constituency which is at the heart of modern finance and industry – though they could well be called post-industrial cultures today.
The goal is to showcase the Modi government’s sense of purpose and determination to drive a transformational agenda in the country, as well as to create a network of strategic allies which can be of use in dealing with India’s difficult neighbours, Pakistan and China.
Xi visit to Pakistan: Strategic implications for India
By C. Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) [The] uneasy and wary Sino-Indian dynamic that flared up in the October 1962 war is now located in the larger southern Asian geo-economic context of the early 21st century and China’s aspirations. The current Xi visit to Pakistan is indicative of the manner in which this bilateral relationship has deepened and the manner in which China seeks to leverage the geography of Pakistan to its benefit.
15-19 April
Harper Modi-canada-visitPM Narendra Modi’s visit to Canada generates business worth 1.6 billion Canadian dollars
Sixteen commercial agreements and announcements were made by Canadian and Indian companies and organisations during Prime Minister Modi’s visit this week.
Modi wraps up 3-day tour of Canada with Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit draws protesters in Vancouver
About 25 groups have formed a coalition, saying that India needs to improve its record on human rights and economic inequality.
C Uday Bhaskar: Why the Uranium Deal With Canada is Significant
(The Quint) Ottawa’s decision to supply uranium to India for five years announced on April 15 by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the first day of the Modi visit to Canada augurs well for the bi-lateral relationship which has inherited a troubled past over the nuclear issue.
While this agreement is significant in relation to India’s growing energy needs to sustain its economic growth and development efforts, the symbolism is as poignant.
Canada played a valuable role in the development of India’s nuclear evolution and the first reactor reactor CIRUS was supplied in 1954. However after the Indian nuclear explosion of 1974 (also referred to as the PNE – peaceful nuclear explosion), the nuclear cooperation was suspended and the bi-lateral relationship withered. …
India and Canada are two large economies with GDPs in the US $ 2 trillion range but their bi-lateral trade is very modest and a little over $ 4 billion. Infusing long-term economic and trade content is critical and the supply of uranium for India’s civilian nuclear program will be beneficial to both democracies.
India’s energy requirements are growing and if the current GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent is to be sustained and improved upon – affordable and environmentally viable energy options are imperative.
Canada, India agree to $350-million uranium supply deal
10 April
Paul Vieira: Narendra Modi’s Canada Visit Could Be Boon for Stephen Harper
Canadian PM has opportunity to shore up much-needed segment of voters ahead of fall election
(WSJ) When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Canada next week on the last leg of a trip that also includes stops in France and Germany, he will be looking to court investment and advance prospects of a free trade deal.
But for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the visit also represents an opportunity to shore up a much-needed segment of voters ahead of a fall federal election that is expected to be heavily influenced by ethnic communities in seats around Canada’s big cities, especially Toronto and Vancouver.
7 March
Indian ban on rape film is ‘international suicide’, says director
(The Guardian) Leslee Udwin, the British director of the documentary, said: “My whole purpose was to give a gift of gratitude to India, to actually praise India, to single India out as a country that was exemplary in its response to this rape, as a country where one could actually see change beginning.
India’s attempt to censor “India’s Daughter” may have done more damage than the film itself
(Quartz) That sight of the government trying to suppress India’s Daughter [an unsettling BBC documentary that aired on Wednesday about the brutal gang-rape of a young woman on a Delhi bus in 2012] may have done as much damage to India’s reputation as the film itself. You don’t see it when customs officials cover up maps of India that don’t include Kashmir. You don’t—unless you live in India—see the magazines with politically incorrect pages torn out of them. But internet censorship, besides being increasingly ineffective in a world where people use VPNs and file-sharing sites to find forbidden content, can sometimes be highly visible. It made the film—which, I’ve argued, had its flaws—a much bigger deal outside the country than it might otherwise have been.
India bans film in which rapist blames victim
Film-maker decries censorship as government investigates how gang rapist was allowed to be interviewed in jail
(Al Jazeera) The December 2012 gang-rape of the young physiotherapy student as she travelled home from a visit to the cinema triggered violent protests in India. The woman died from her injuries 13 days after the savage attack, which highlighted the frightening level of violence against women in the world’s second-most populous country.
It led to a major reform of India’s rape laws, speeding up trials and increasing penalties, although many campaigners say little has changed for most ordinary victims.
13 February
nepal_mapShashi Tharoor: Trouble in Nepali Paradise
Away from the glare of global headlines, Nepal is grappling with a constitutional crisis that could once again propel the tourist mecca, sensitively situated between India and China, into full-fledged conflict. From 1996 to 2006, Nepal was wracked by a brutal civil war that pitted a Maoist insurgency against the long-ruling monarchy, whose powerful army initially enjoyed the support of the country’s democratic political parties. Peace (brokered by India, with active United Nations support) came only after the Maoists and the democrats agreed in 2005 to establish a Constituent Assembly. The first election was held in 2008, two years after a “people’s movement” forced King Gyanendra to abdicate. …
The new government made a public commitment to deliver a new constitution by January 22, 2015. But, though the Congress prime minister, Sushil Koirala, and his Communist deputy, K.P. Oli, have presided over a more stable country, they have been unable to forge consensus on a new constitution.
… it is India – which maintains open borders with Nepal, and received millions of Nepali refugees during the civil war – that probably has the most at stake, as renewed conflict would destabilize India’s hill districts, while leaving its Himalayan borders vulnerable to Chinese encroachment. In this context, India must make a strong diplomatic push to help resolve the conflict, even at the risk of fueling resentment among Nepalese, who are wary of foreign interference.
10 February
Cleo comments: Huge win for anti-corruption party in Delhi. Will force Modi to up his game on ‘black money’.
Indian media: Modi ‘wake-up call’
(BBC) India’s press hails anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal’s landslide victory in Delhi as a product of a new politics of hope – as well as a shot across the bow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP.
Praising the result as “something uncommon, extraordinary and outstanding”, an editorial in The Hindu says the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) “mobilised the widespread discontent among ordinary people with conventional politics, offering them a new hope, of politics that offers clean and sensitive governance”.
In the Indian Express, commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta sees the AAP as a “victory of possibilities” – especially against “poison of plutocracy” – that is the result of a new “pattern of hope” in Indian politics.
A commentary by Rajesh Kalra in The Times of India strikes a similar note of caution, saying that the scale of the victory and the AAP’s pre-election promises mean they cannot “rest on their laurels”, but will “have to hit the ground running”.
7 February
MADHAV NALAPAT: Multiple groups plan hot summer for Modi
Domestic players are planning to generate an atmosphere of agitation because of the challenge the PM and BJP are posing to other political parties
The reach of social media platforms controlled from foreign countries and the absence of any domestic alternatives are adding to such a vulnerability, these officials warn, adding that the months ahead are likely to witness efforts at disruption of normal life in key cities and economic sectors on a significant scale. They say that an acceleration of growth and the return of confidence are the best antidotes to the game plan of those seeking to derail the Modi reforms, which is why an anti-reform climate is being sought to get whipped up during the budget session of Parliament.
28 January
C Uday Bhaskar: Obama comes calling
… the more strategically significant aspect of the Obama visit as opposed to the most visible strand (the Siri Fort address and the Bollywood reference) is perhaps the pithy one-page joint vision statement apropos the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region.
Reiterating the common democratic ethos of the two countries and dwelling on the maritime expanse from ‘Africa to East Asia’, the operative paragraph reads: “Regional prosperity depends on security. We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. We call on all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
Did Obama’s India Visit Revive the ‘Asian Arc of Democracy’ Strategy Against China?
(HuffPost) India will have to tread with extreme caution on this path of a joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific. The U.S. will only walk on this path up to a point. Australia and Japan have not exhibited consistency in their China policy. India’s foreign minister is in Beijing next week. She will find it challenging to balance India’s strategic overtures to U.S. with India’s geo-strategic interests in China, which has been plagued by riparian and territorial disputes in the Himalayas.”
Obama and Modi announced their joint expression of strategic interest through the U.S-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. The reference to maritime security and freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea, is a clear response to Chinese adventurism in that region. …
27 January
C. Uday Bhaskar: Implications of India–US nuke deal
The deal’s positive orientation to the bilateral ties will impact other areas of US-India cooperation that have lain moribund
(Hindustani Times) The larger symbolism of the Sunday breakthrough will have a positive ripple effect at many levels. The long-held disappointment in the US that India had not fulfilled the expectations that had been hinted at when then US President George W. Bush in 2005 had embarked upon the radical path to end India’s nuclear isolation, will now be assuaged. This positive orientation to the bilateral ties, in turn, will impact other areas of US-India cooperation that have lain moribund and the defence and military technology sector is case in point. … However, since assuming office in May 2014, Prime Minister Modi has infused a remarkable degree of political energy and determination into the relationship with the US and the Obama visit is a culmination of some very deft and swift high-level diplomacy. Writing in the South Asia Monitor, India-US relations stand re-energised
A review of the Obama visit would indicate a very rich mix of politico-diplomatic symbolism and reasonably adequate substantive content which have served to reset and re-energize India-US ties. Prime Minister Modi is a consummate communicator and his natural flair for demonstrating an innate ability to connect with his peers at a personal level. … The substantive content of the visit was announced in the resolution of the stalled civilian nuclear agreement … this breakthrough has had a positive cascading effect on other areas of potential bilateral cooperation and engagement, and these details were spelt out in the three documents/statements that were jointly agreed to. These include: a Joint Statement; the Delhi Declaration of Friendship; and a Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region.
Out in the open
Even without a dramatic breakthrough, ties between India and America are warming

(The Economist) [Mr Obama] leaves India after a modestly successful trip that should reassure both sides that further progress—probably something more substantial—will yet come. Relations between the two countries have been improving steadily for years, despite a setback after an Indian diplomat was arrested in New York in 2013. As this visit shows, that warmth is now increasingly out in the open.
A much more light-hearted look from BuzzFeed: 16 Unbearably Cute Things That Happen When You Reunite With Your BFF
Barack Obama’s visit to India and his subsequent reunion with Modi have been an onslaught of adorable.
Obama India visit 2015Obama, Modi Declare Era Of ‘New Trust’ In US-India Relations
(AP) — President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared an era of “new trust” in the often fraught relationship between their nations as the U.S. leader opened a three-day visit to New Delhi.
Standing side by side at the stately Hyderabad House, Obama and Modi cited progress toward putting in place a landmark civil nuclear agreement, as well as advances on climate change and defense ties.
But from the start, the day was more about putting their personal bond on display. Modi broke with protocol and wrapped Obama in an enthusiastic hug after Obama got off Air Force One.
Obama declares nuclear ‘breakthrough’ during India trip
US president says that two nations have reached an understanding to allow US investment in India’s nuclear industry.
(Al Jazeera) Obama arrived in the New Delhi on Sunday for an unprecedented second visit to India by a serving US president aimed at consolidating what he has called one of the “defining partnerships of the 21st century”.
He said at a news conference in the capital with Modi that the two countries had made progress on two issues holding up commercial civil nuclear cooperation, one of the major irritants in bilateral ties. (Reuters) Obama reveals nuclear breakthrough on landmark India trip
Three likely outcomes of Obama’s visit to India
Al Jazeera speaks to Ajai Shukla, a defence analyst based in New Delhi, on the nature of Obama’s trip to India and on some of the key issues likely to be discussed
“The trip basically means that the post-cold war situation has been re-ordered and crystallised, and given the emerging rivalry between America and China, the US has decided that India is a crucial swing state that needs to be cultivated as a close security and economic partner, as a representative of US interests in South Asia.
And therefore, it is doing everything it can do to engage with India and make up for many years of neglect.”
24 January
Cleo Paskal Strategists must break out of ‘areas’ to find options
Some US ‘India experts’ see the country primarily in terms of the extremely limited Indo-Pak hyphen.
(The Sunday Guardian) The concept of Indo-US relations is multifaceted, complex and changing. It could refer to counterterrorism cooperation, academic exchanges, defence procurement, investment, tourism, technological cooperation, immigration, strategic alignment or endless other points of contact.
Much of this engagement will continue, and grow, regardless of who is in 7 Race Course Road or the White House. That is important to remember. The relationship between the Republic of India and the United States of America almost certainly will have headline grabbing ups and downs, but in many other sectors, the ties will continue to bind, and likely tighten.
For example, the Indo-American community in the US is one of the best educated and richest in the country. And, increasingly, it’s organised. …
In this rapidly reconfiguring world, this presents problems. For example, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the “Central Asian” experts were mostly former Soviet experts — Russian speakers who were used to focusing on shenanigans in Moscow. However, the Central Asian states started to use their own languages and drifted towards China. Additionally, tendrils of Wahhabism, funded in part by Saudi Arabia and facilitated by events in Afghanistan and elsewhere, started to probe the region. That left some analysts blind to rapidly evolving changes. They were trained to look for one set of signals, and so missed some of the new ones.
Heavy symbolism of Obama’s India visit
Obama’s long, sought-after ‘pivot to Asia’ seems to be finally coming to fruition.
US President Barack Obama’s trip to India is laced with symbolism. He will be the “Chief Guest” at India’s Republic Day parade, a proud event for Indians that not only celebrates India becoming a republic in 1950 and adopting a democratic constitution, but also highlights India’s military might by displaying its latest weaponry and honouring its past wars.
No previous US president has been given this honour.
Another act of symbolism will be Obama’s visit to the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, India’s revered independence leader whose non-violent resistance to British colonialism was an inspiration for the American civil rights movement, particularly Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
21 January
Asking Obama what he can do for India
From an Indian viewpoint, Obama’s [SOTU] speech becomes a curtain-raiser to his forthcoming visit to Delhi on Sunday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be engaging an American president who is very focused on the US’ economic recovery and social issues (childcare, middle class, gender equality, opportunity, tax code, immigration and so on).
Plainly put, Obama will want to know how useful Modi government can be for boosting American exports and for creating jobs and helping the US’ economic recovery. Climate change is undoubtedly one area where huge possibilities exist for boosting US exports of technology. Nuclear commerce is another; exports of weapons yet another.
We as Indians can only wish that we too could have a leader as thoughtful, hopeful, inspiring, brave, erudite and intelligent as Obama. Is Modi too equally focused on what his priorities are? Obama’s visit will offer a study in comparison. There isn’t going to be any Madison Square Garden moment for Obama in Delhi. But he is a dogged man and very purposive and ambitious leader and will already have decided what he’d get out of this tour of India. To my mind, he’ll succeed.
14 January
Paris Massacre: Terrorism threatens free speech
By C. Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) The current Paris massacre is a gruesome manifestation of the increasing intolerance that now permeates many societies, and the easy availability of automatic weapons and related ordnance makes terrorism an easy option. The target of attack this time is the journalist – as represented by Charlie Hebdo and the grievance is an insult to the Islamic faith. This is clearly an untenable position and the global response has been to stand by France and the liberal principles it upholds. Dissent is at the heart of the liberal democratic order, and while libel and slander is to be censured, no oral or textual transgression – however obnoxious – can justify wanton murder and mayhem.
It also warrants notice that this kind of intolerance is raising its head in India as well, and both the controversy over the film “PK”, and the most recent protest and burning of effigies of certain journalists for their reporting in relation to the interception of a suspicious vessel by the Indian Coast Guard is a case in point. The larger concern in India is the inflexible assertiveness by the Hindu right-wing on many domestic issues and what may be described as a creeping Islamophobia that casts aspersions on the Muslim citizen of the country.
The Paris massacre has multiple relevance and the challenge for the global community and India in particular will be to nurture the spirit of tolerance and mutual accommodation of what may be divergent views and opinions – even if on occasion they seem to be beyond the limits of propriety and moderation. (Jan. 9)

 

One Comment on "India 2015"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson November 8, 2015 at 5:38 pm · Reply

    From one of our most knowledgeable India watchers:
    “There are a lot of problems in India, and with the government, but for what it’s worth, Modi did condemned that murder (see link below), three weeks before the Quartz article was written.
    http://www.ibtimes.com/modi-condemns-india-beef-killing-after-muslim-man-beaten-eating-sacred-animal-2141129
    And, unfortunately, religious tensions have not just happened because Modi is in power. This crisis (see link below), from three years ago, was much more serious. I was there at the time. One of my students at Manipal was from the Northeast and her parents were trying to convince her to come home out of fear for her safety. Imagine what the press coverage about it would be like now, if Modi was PM.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/16/indians-assam-muslim-threats-bangalore
    The reason Modi just lost the Bihar election, and for the weakening support from the business center isn’t ‘communalism’, it’s the seeming lack of action on serious corruption and the continued strangling of growth and innovation by the bureaucracy. They haven’t thrown any big fish in jail, they haven’t repatriated the promised billions in black money, they haven’t repealed the law books full of colonial laws, etc. That’s why they were elected, and [their failure to act is] why they are losing support.”

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