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Economy Data Suppression:GOVT MUST REVEAL REALITY, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 4 December 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 4 December 2019

Economy Data Suppression


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


Notwithstanding the claim of every ruling party politician that India is progressing, the facts including grass root data of the government are contrary. A recent news report has referred to a survey conducted by the National Statistical Survey revealing that the average monthly spending by an individual fell by 3.7 per cent in 2017-18 as compared to 2011-12.


Apparently, the spending fell by 8.8 per cent in villages and rose by a mere 2 per cent over six years in cities. The survey was reportedly conducted between July 2017 and June 2018. Soon after, the government informed Parliament that its findings, which would form the basis for calculation of absolute poverty, would be released in June 2019. This led to an uproar as government acceptance would imply that all plans and programmes to uplift the conditions of the rural populace have possibly not yielded the desired results.


The Business Standard report quoted experts as saying the data suggested that poverty levels had gone up substantially. The experts observed the most worrying trend for the first time in decades was a dip in food consumption. The government stated that it noted a “significant increase in the divergence in not only the levels in the consumption pattern but also the direction of the change when compared to the other administrative data sources like the actual production of goods and services”. However, fearing a backlash, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation stated that in view of data quality issues, it decided not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018. 


Additionally, a few days back the National Statistical Office (NSO) showed that growth in the second quarter of the current fiscal had shrunk to an over six year low of 4.5 per cent – the slowest expansion in 26 quarters. The sharp slowdown was triggered by contraction in the manufacturing sector and a deceleration in agriculture, services and construction as well as utilities, including electricity generation. The NSO number turned out to be worse than the median estimate of 4.7 that a Reuter’s poll of economists revealed.


Meanwhile, over 200 leading academics have recently accused the Modi government of acting against ‘national interests’ by disregarding an all-India survey on household consumption expenditure, crucial for monitoring poverty and inequality and also of critical value for national income accounting, and for updating macro-economic data such as price indices. In a statement issued on November 21, the academics demanded immediate release of the results of the 2017-18 Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office. The fact that data on supply of goods and household consumption is diverging, there is need for questioning the supply side data (being already widely questioned within and outside India) as much as it points to the continuing need for improving survey methods.


“The government has chosen to attack the credibility of this pre-eminent statistical institution simply because the results of the surveys do not accord with its own narrative”, the statement said. It noted that the results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey were not released until after the General election, despite the resignation of two members of the National Statistical Commission in protest against the delay. That survey had found that unemployment was at a 45 year high. Results of other surveys, including those on drinking water, sanitation and housing conditions too have not been released.


Moreover, results of other surveys including the 75th round (Consumer Expenditure), 76th round (Drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, and Housing conditions) and more recent quarterly data of the PLFS surveys, have not been released


Though a section of experts feel that if other consumption indicators such as PDS procurement and off take, consumption of oil, electricity and air transportation are considered, a general trend is observed of increase in consumption that is quite contrary to the NSO survey’s so-called findings. Between 2011-12 and 2017-18, off take of rice and wheat increased by 7.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively, while total off take went up by 5.1 per cent. On the basis of the above, the reported NSSO findings about food consumption seem to be contradictory to actual trend of off take. Figures of the number of air passengers increasing by 95 per cent, oil consumption in barrels by 37.2 per cent, electricity consumption by 43.9 per cent, and mobile users by 44.3 per cent have been furnished by them.


But while some figures do not apply to the rural population, others may not be applicable to the poor and the impoverished as also the economically weaker sections. Recall, the recently released latest World Hunger Report bears testimony to the consumption survey report which stirred a controversy and thus there is no reason to doubt figures of the NSSO, which were carried out by statisticians from grass-root data in rural parts of the country. Plus, one should not question the surveys’ methodology as these are scientific and technical in nature, “devoted to trying to improve the system to enable better measures of crucial indicators”.


The situation may be worse now in the backdrop of the overall economic slowdown, unemployment and underemployment, acute farm distress and conditions of labour losing jobs both in informal and formal sectors. Unfortunately, the present authoritarian regime is unwilling to accept anything that goes against it, despite massive protests across the board. The NDA government seems unfettered and only interested in expanding its political regime and preaching political ideology, which goes against the traditional socio-religious ethos of the country.


Coming to the question of inequality, it must be stated that due to policies adopted by successive governments in the country, it is ever-widening, whether of the top 10 per cent and the bottom 10 per cent or even the average incomes of urban areas and that of the villages. Though incomes and consumption expenditure of big farmers may have increased, as per statistical data, that of the sharecroppers and even very small farmers have been on the decline. Moreover, during distress conditions like droughts or floods, which are more or less an annual feature, this section is greatly affected as their hutments are blown away and work comes to a standstill. 


It goes without saying the situation presently is indeed quite alarming. The government may suppress data but this will not yield any different results unless there is drastic shift in our planning strategy and allocation of resources to areas from where the majority benefit. However, as things stand today and given the mindset of our politicians, there is little possibility of the government making a shift in development policy.---INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Amar Prem To Kati Patang: HYPOCRISY IS THE NEW BLACK, By Poonam I Kaushish, 3 December 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 3 December 2019

Amar Prem To Kati Patang


By Poonam I Kaushish


It’s the silly political season where hypocrisy is the new black. Forget ideology and corruption stigma. Till last month it was unthinkable that arch enemies who distrust each other would align. Today, all is kosher with friends and enemies all rolled into one. First, BJP-Shiv Sena’s Amar Prem was shredded to a Kati Patang, glued together first by the BJP-NCP 80-hours tango and now Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress to the strains of Hum Sath Sath Hain!


Questionably, is it possible to be optimistic about a ‘secular’ NCP-Congress and ‘communal’ Shiv Sena Government in Maharashtra which has fragile plastered all over it? Not really. Formed, as it is, purely on rank opportunism and a putrid desire for the luscious mistress named power.  If it goes against Constitutional ethos, dilutes public mandate and cheats the electoral mandate, so be it.


Indeed, one wonders how the khichri-poles-apart Government will be able to project an image of cohesiveness when there are many contentious issues where the allies stand at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.


Think. For a supposedly ‘secular’ Congress to cohabit with an unabashedly rabid fried-in-communal-ghee  Shiv Sena, it has been ideologically and bitterly opposed to will entail dumping many of its principles.


True, in the past, it aligned with ‘secular’ Gowda’s and Gujaral’s National Front Governments, Mamata’s Trinimool in Bengal, Nitish’s JD(U) in Bihar and Gowda’s JD(S) in Karnataka to keep ‘communal’ BJP out. Today, it is willing to align with a Hindutva outfit Sena to keep its arch rival out. No matter, secular friends become communal foes when they join BJP and vice versa.


Two, it could alienate one of its core constituency, Muslims. Already, its ally in Kerala, IUML has upped its ante against the Sena. Three, there is no assurance how long its alliance with the right-wing volatile Party will last, given its core politics spells violence. Yet with a tally down to 52 in the Lok Sabha and 44 in the Maharashtra Assembly, the Congress has nothing to lose but could end up gaining. A power stint in Maharashtra holds a slim ray of hope that all is not yet lost for the Party and could boost its morale for the next battles in Jharkhand and Delhi.


If there is an ideological contradiction in the Congress and NCP supporting a Shiv Sena Government, there is also adhesive: Shared fear that the BJP is out to finish them. Succinctly, anti-BJPism is the new paradigm and has become a raison d’être for non-BJP Parties, to bond together.


As, friends and foes alike don’t trust Modi-Shah. Whereby, the new polarisation is not Hindutva vs secularism, since Congress, NCP, JD(U) etc have embraced saffron. Politics, is now divided between those who surrender before Modi-Shah and those who fight back.


For the Congress, whose irrelevance in Indian politics threatens its very existence, there was no option but to trust Pawar and go with the Sena. At a time when the Modi Government is putting its leaders in jail, the Congress had to swallow it’s ‘secular’ pride to prevent a BJP Sarkar in Maharashtra.  Even, if it meant befriending the Sena.


The jury is still out whether it is kosher with doing business with a volatile, violent communal Party? Is it a leap of faith or one into wilderness? Time will tell.


Ironically, Shiv Sena is today the darling of liberals. Yet, it is politically expedient known to flirt with rivals. Remember, it was the Congress’s creation to counter Leftists and is known to changing its political focus from time to time. First, it identified South Indians as enemies of ‘Marathi manoos’, followed by Communists, Biharis, Muslims etc.


Liberals are presuming the Sena will girgit-like change colours overnight to stay in power. But this might not be easy. It is not happy with Congress-NCP plan to give 5% reservation to Muslims in jobs and education among other pulls and pressures. Recall the Party played more holier-than-thou than the BJP on Ram Mandir, National Register of Citizens and a Bharat Ratna to Hindu Mahasabha ideologue Savarkar.


Now that that it has committed to “secularism” the Sena will have to forget its boast of demolishing Babri Masjid in “just 17 minutes”, permit system for Biharis coming to Mumbai and can’t hail Godse as a ‘patriot’. Already, Thackeray has toned down his earlier stridency and is making the right moves. He called off his Ayodhya trip and could oppose the Citizenship Bill.


Certainly, it is a win-win situation for it in the short term. It has succeeded in being one-up against estranged ally BJP and taken revenge for its eviction as numero uno by Big Brother in Mumbai. In the initial years, BJP played second fiddle to the Sena. Later, the former made clear the alliance was based on a use-and-throw principle. Now the Sainiks, preen over the latter's retribution.


However, in the long run the Party could end up a loser. By trying to go mainstream to check the BJP, it could fall between two stools. Of course, the BJP will leave no stone unturned to embarrass its friend-turned-foe by taking the Hindutva high ground and could strategically use the MNS against Sena.


Undoubtedly, NCP’s Pawar is the man of match. But for his deft, nimble footwork and back-room deal-cutting ability the alliance would never have happened. Recall, he broke from the Congress when Sonia was anointed President only to align with the Party in UPA I and II and subsequent Maharashtra polls and shared power in the State.


He has fought the BJP and Shiv Sena with everyone calling each other crooks, yet he calls Modi a ‘friend’ and called on him recently, ostensibly to discuss farmers distress even as the Enforcement Directorate named him in a scam on the poll eve. Confusing matters further, the Modi Sarkar honoured him with a Padma Vibhushan some time back.  With the Thackerays Pawar enjoys a “business-like” political relationship and family ties. 


It is too simplistic to believe that the Modi-Shah duo threw in the towel. There has to be method in this madness. One possibility is that it feels a Government of disparate Parties would not be able to withstand the pulls and pressures of differing ideologies. Two, it could vilify the Sena for giving up the Hindutva cause and aligning with the anti-Hindu brigade. Whereby, it could come to occupy the pole position as the sole defendant of the Hindu faith. 


On the flip side, the loss in Maharashtra is not only a big blow to the BJP’s prestige but has also dented its invincibility among people as it comes six months after its Lok Sabha triumph. Coming on the heels of Haryana where it too failed to secure a majority, this setback could be interpreted as a sign that the Party's forward march is slowing down. Now all eyes are on Jharkhand where it needs a win badly.


The Maharashtra lesson? Parties need to wield power lightly for if you push people with nothing to lose, they will hit back for sheer survival.  Remember, victory, has many fathers but defeat is an orphan. It remains to be seen whether greed for power will allow the motley crowd of disparate self-seeking Parties to remain united because unity can be broken with a flick of the finger. Our polity needs to remember that political fevicol is not the binder for a nation’s moral and ideological fabric. Nor do quick fix remedies provide any relief! ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)



Don’t Kill PSUs:SHOULD ACT NOW, by Shivaji Sarkar, 2 December 2019 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 2 December 2019

Don’t Kill PSUs


By Shivaji Sarkar


The economy is in turmoil. Our administrative system is groping in the dark. The tax system, including toll, fee, charges and duties are becoming oppressive. Banks despite mergers are in crisis. The bid to sell institutions, industries, airlines which are suffering heavy losses is taking the country in to an abyss.


This is a matter of intense discussion as governance is drifting away from the governed. The State is becoming too powerful and is taking decisions not in favour of the voters but those who can manage votes.


The nation has to act holistically, discuss the problems and stop the slowdown from the portals of Parliament to all public fora.


Importantly, over the years the system is becoming myopic. It does not want to listen to the governed and comes out with decisions that hurt them more. Job losses are considered natural and the diagnosis is missing.


Their views are strange. A country creates jobs with people-friendly decisions but job losses are attributed to workers “lack of skills”. Atrocious income tax and GST rates are justified as the people’s holy duty but if they lose jobs, the State turns a blind eye. Social security steps like MNREGA or PM Kisan Samman Nidhi are not proving to be panacea.


Certainly, the remedy is not easy to find. The necessary dialogue with the people is missing. A powerful system does not enter into deliberation on critical issues. Occasionally a voice is heard in Parliament and State Assemblies hardly meet to hear their MLAs. The Chief Ministers even of failing Telangana, Andhra or Tamil Nadu are terrors. No member either of their Parties or Opposition can dare talk.


Unfortunately, the syndrome does not change with the change of regime. Every successive regime carries on the same way as the previous one. Changes are limited. It goes to a new set of supporters or hangers on. Democracy in provinces is limited to the rights of the Chief Minister whereby the Government machinery is a slave to the CM. As in States like Madhya Pradesh, it is alleged that the former and present heads run the show.


In such a situation, they invent methods to strengthen their families. Look at former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh’s family bastion Saifai which shines like a jewel at the cost of the State, while people continue to languish.


Such whims and fancies led to bifurcation of a thriving Andhra Pradesh. Its bifurcation into two States has resulted in Telangana being in a mess as the despotic Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s family hold is killing its economy. As it tried to privatise the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC), its employees went on a 52-day strike. In many other States too, the SRTCs and other similar undertakings are being tried to be privatized so that influential families could benefit.


The disease is not restricted to the States. Similar despotic attitude by some Ministers led to the investment in faulty power programmes like Enron or collapse of the thriving Indian Airlines and Air India. The ostensible reason was to give a boost to a rising private airline or power industry which benefitted many families.


And in a short span Jet and Kingfisher-type airlines with huge debts from public sector banks (PSB) collapsed. Now Spicejet is in a crisis. In cases like these individual families with despotic patronage from the powers-that-be minted money and looted people’s savings. Consequently, the nation has lost due to such whimsical privatization at the cost of the profit-making public sector.


Pertinently, privatisation per se is not wrong. But to kill the public sector, built with taxpayers’ money for its sake is the sin the nation is being forced to pay for. Today’s slowdown, which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says is not recession, is natural. Even she is not taking steps to save the public sector under the strange pretext of the Government cannot do so.


This political attitude of “cannot do” has to change. Despite many follies of the leaders of 1950s-1980s, the public sector contributed to the nation’s economy. Institutions were built unlike systematic divestment and conspiracies against closure of many others including HMT (made fine watches and machine tools) has led the country to a Manmohanomics collapse!


With the rise of Manmohanomics another culture of interfering in the PSBs has led to the biggest swindling of banks, LIC, GIC and closure of many including UTI and IL&FS and consequent end of many smaller financial institutions.


No white paper on the loot of PSBs or financial institutions has come out yet. The nation’s knowledge is limited to the JPC report of the stock scams. The recent reasons of mergers details are partly known. Hence, a white paper is needed for the nation’s memory for corrective methods and plugging to stop such recurrence.


The Reserve Bank’s NPA reports are incomplete without going into the methods applied by various individuals or officials as is apparent from the PMC bank near-closure. The UP Employees Provident Fund lost Rs 1300 crores of workers’ funds and DHFL swindled Rs 46,000 crores poor people’s savings called retail investors.


In such a situation why RBI should cut rates instead of increasing them, is a wonder. It also needs to come out specifically on the note-ban decision.


Undeniably, this kind of unstructured decision has led to imposition of illicit road tolls for building roads to its normal standards. A culture of building bad non-toll roads has also crept in to justify tolls/ now being called fee. Think. Toll is a part of an exploitative multiple road tax--- registration money, road tax, parking tax and now junking of vehicles to suit those in power or help the automobile industry. There is no reason to junk ten-year-old vehicles.


Each of these methods is killing the Indian economy as decisions are taken on ad hoc basis without a holistic approach. Look at job losses. These are the result of impractical experimentation with privatization and creating systematic leakage of public finances to boost it. The number of jobless has risen to 9.2% due to all these reasons. Even rural jobs are being lost and consumer purchasing power is officially dwindling.   


That private corporates are not holy internationally has once again been established with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) probe into Tata Steel, Sweden’s SKF and Germany’s Schaeffler collusion of pricing bearings or Volkswagen pollution suppressing software.


In sum, the country has to correct the ills to be internationally competitive and have a people-oriented strong economy to sustain the targeted growth projections of the Modi Government. It must act now. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)


Congressisation of BJP: DON’T BE POWER HUNGRY, By Sagarneel Sinha, 30 November 2019 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 30 November 2019

Congressisation of BJP


By Sagarneel Sinha

The year 2019 is a historic year for the BJP as it is the first time that the Party returned to power after completing a full five term. That too with a strong mandate securing a majority on its own, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister, who is considered the country’s most popular leader even by his stringent critics.


However, as the year nears its end, signs don't seem to bode well for the ruling Party which once boasted about its ability to maintain coalition dharma  is presently facing charges of ignoring its allies. See how its longest ally, Shiv Sena which shared a close ideological bond with the BJP for vis-à-vis Hindutva, is no more in the NDA today and has joined hands with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress to form the Government in Maharashtra, its bitter rivals a month ago.


Undeniably, one can question the Sena's actions, whether it was justified for asking for a power share model despite securing less than double seats 56 MLAs compared to BJP’s 105. Yet, none can deny the allegations against the BJP for capturing power at any cost — even if it means undermining the political space of its allies.


The accusation got even stronger when the BJP installed Fadnavis as Maharashtra’s Chief Minister  while people were sleeping with the help of NCP’s Ajit Pawar. Needless to say, a desperate act to engineer a split within the regional Party only to remain in power with the help of Governor Koshyari, a former RSS leader.


That too the same Ajit Pawar against whom the Party had accused of serious corruption charges before elections. Worse, for the BJP was that the Government it installed through midnight-early morning  coup didn't last, with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar resigning followed by Fadnavis putting in his papers. After just 80 hours in power!

The unnecessary political drama initiated by the BJP, which backfired, will continue to haunt the Party. In fact, it was almost a repeat of last year's Karnataka sequence where too, with the help of a pliable Governor the Party managed to install its own Government with Yediyurappa as Chief Minister only to resign within three days.


If one looks at the past, these were the same charges that were hurled towards the Congress by Opposition Parties, including the BJP and its earlier avatar Jana Sangh, for undermining the Constitutional principles only to remain in power at any cost.


If one starts digging, the Congress, one would definitely remember the time of Indira Gandhi who invoked of Article 356 to remove Opposition-ruled State Governments on silly pretexts. Unfortunately, this became a routine practice.


True, with the emergence of regional Parties and with the weakening of the Congress, invoking Article 356 was reduced, yet it continued indirectly with the tacit help of Governors, who were former Congress Party leaders. The best example is the controversial decision of then Bihar Governor Buta Singh, who recommended President's Rule despite the NDA (BJP-JDU) claiming to have the required numbers. The Governor’s recommendation was accepted by then Congress- led UPA Government at an emergency Cabinet meeting at midnight and approved by then President  Kalam, who later regretted his decision.


This controversial decision by the Central Government and Governor drew flak from the Supreme Court. In the same year, in neighbouring  Jharkhand, the UPA appointed Governor Sibte Rizvi surprised everyone by inviting JMM's Shibu Soren, an ally of the Congress to form the Government, despite the NDA's presenting the list of required MLAs.

There is no gaimnsaying, the Congress which is perceived to be declining is still tainted by its past image with some regional Parties, which are also struggling to survive against the political tide of the BJP. BSP’s Mayawati continues to be suspicious of the Congress' motives and maintains a distance from the Party.

The BJP-Sena divide in Maharashtra is not an isolated event. Already, the All Jharkhand Students' Union, an ally of BJP is contesting elections separately in the State polls. Also, there is some uneasiness within existing allies. Take Badal’s Shiromani Akali Dal of Punjab which is wary of the Saffron Sangh. Given it is trying to expand its foothold in the State.

In last month's Haryana elections, when seat sharing discussions were on regarding allocation of two-three seats to the SAD, the BJP instead poached its only MLA — drawing condemnation from Akali's central leadership.

Not only in Punjab, the Maharashtra events don't seem to go well with the Bihar’s JDU, the present largest ally of BJP in Parliament. The Party has been doubtful of the BJP's intentions in  next year's State Assembly elections with many State saffron leaders urging Nitish Kumar to vacate the post of Chief Minister and move to Delhi in national politics.


Although BJP President Amit Shah has clearly clarified that Nitish would be the face of the NDA in next year's polls in Bihar, JDU leaders are still skeptical, as who knows whether the BJP would repeat another Maharashtra by trying to do some sort of business with arch rival RJD, as it tried with NCP. Already, there have been allegations against RJD's Tejasvi Yadav of having a tacit understanding with BJP due to the fear of ED and CBI.

Ironically, one side PM Modi raises the slogan of Congress-Mukt Bharat and on the other side under his leadership, the BJP is seen doing the same infamous acts of the Congress, with complaints from allies on being ignored by the Party. Indeed, the same BJP which showed the country how to pursue coalition politics under the able leadership of Vajpayee, who became the first BJP Prime Minister to successfully run the first full term coalition Government from 1999-2004.

This also forced the Congress in 2004 to contest elections by forming a national alliance for the first time. So, it would be better for the BJP to restraint its hunger for power by leaving some breathing space for the Opposition, especially for its existing allies by giving more importance to their grievances. This would be good for democracy and will also prevent the Congressisation of the Saffron Sangh!---INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)



India-Japan Axis: CAN IT BE WIDENED?, By Dr. D.K. Giri, 29 November 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 29 November 2019

India-Japan Axis


By Dr. D.K. Giri

Prof. International Politics, JMI


Day after the conclusion of the G-20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Japan’s Nagoya, the Secretary General of National Security Services of Japan was in New Delhi to oversee the preparation for the first ‘2+2’ meeting between India and Japan along-with the India-Japan Summit between the two Prime Ministers next month.


Notably, the ‘2+2’ meeting between both countries Foreign and Defence Ministers is only the second such mechanism India has made with Japan after the US. Thereby underscoring the importance both countries attach to bilateralism whereby the Summit is an annual feature of their relationship.


Importantly, the issues to constitute the agenda of the Summit would have been cleared in Japanese NSA’s meetings with Prime Minister Modi, Foreign Minister Jaishankar and India’s NSA Ajit Doval.


Reflecting on the GMM at Nagoya, G-20 consists of 19 countries plus the European Union. Recall, this Group of Twenty was formally known as the Summit on financial markets and world economy. Representing more than 80% of the global GDP, G-20 has made sustained efforts at robust global economic growth. As a part of its features, the Group of Ministers also meets to push the agenda.


Pertinently, the Foreign Ministers at Nagoya had three themes to handle. One, promotion of  free trade and global governance. Additionally, there were discussions on reforming the world’s apex trade body World Trade Organisation.


Two, to achieve the SDGs by 2030. In the G-20 Hangzhou Summit in 2016, the Leaders had committed to SDGs. Their communiqué said, “We are determined to foster an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world economy to usher in a new era of global growth and sustainable development, taking into account the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement”.


Three, to take up Africa’s development. Remember, Japan had held the 7th International Conference on Africa’s Development in Tokyo and is the co-host for such conferences along with UNDP and the UN Office of Special Advisor on Africa (UN – OSSA). The GMM deliberated on three strategies to promote development in Africa ---- One, economic transformation through innovation, two, comprehensive approach to development and lastly, support for Africa-led security and peace efforts.


Against this backdrop, certainly India-Japan relations are on an upward swing, however, is it enough to checkmate the military and economic expansionism of China? There is no gainsaying that both New Delhi and Tokyo are deeply concerned about China’s hegemonic approach in the region.


India is the largest recipient of Japanese Official Development Assistant (ODA) in automobiles, railways, infrastructure and development finance. But their bilateral trade is dismally low compared to Japan-China trade. India’s trade with Japan stood at US$16 billion is expected to touch US$ 50 billion this financial year. On the other hand, Japan-China trade is at whopping US $350 billion. If both nations are serious about countering China’s aggrandizement in the India-Pacific region, and clearly, they have no alternative to coming closer, they will have to triple or quadruple trade and investment between India and Japan.


Further, Modi and Shinzo Abe will have to focus on three key areas for deepening their co-operation. One, defence. It is in order that they have joint exercises between all the three forces – Dhama Guardian land exercise, Japan-India maritime exercise, and Shinyuu Maitri exercise. India and Japan are also engaged in trilateral exercise Malabar along with the America.


Yet, there are a few pending issues to be settled. Japan is yet to deliver the Shinmaywa amphibious aircraft to India to bolster the latter’s naval attack. They are yet to sign the ACSA – Acquisition and Cross-Serving Agreement to share logistics, like New Delhi has with France and US. India and Japan will have to expedite trilateral capacity building with countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Vietnam.


 In fact, Sri Lanka, becomes a priority as the new Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is perceived to be pro-China. Although contrary to popular perception, both the Rajapaksas Prime Minister Mahinda and President Gotabaya had not signed off the Hambantota port to China and are planning to bargain it back. The immediate requirement in trilateral exercise is to enhance maritime domain awareness and training of military officers.


The other key area is technology. Japan has been the technology leader in the world, yet New Delhi has not been very impressive in tapping Japanese technological repertoire. Take for example, the introduction of 5G in India. Despite India’s reservations and grudging Chinese companies like Huawei, it remains the leader in this area. The extra-investment needed to switch to 5G could  be extended by Japan to ease the pressure of India’s telecom companies. Only three companies remain in the Indian market, as many others have been beaten away in the completion.


There is limited structural collaboration between India and Japan, one of them being the agreement between Japan’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. Other notable collaboration is the undersea cabling from Chennai to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Such collaborations need to be expanded soon. Japan used China to tap its cheap labour and contributed to making it the manufacturing hub of the world. It is time to develop India as the new hub for world manufactures.


The third key area is the infrastructure. Admittedly, Japan is helping India to modernise its railways with metro and bullet trains etc. But, for India to emerge as a regional countervailing force to China, New Delhi has to do a lot more inside the country and outside.


Prime Minister Modi’s promise of making India a five trillion economy by 2024 is too good to believe, given the state of the economy at present. If he succeeds in doing so, it would be nothing sort of an Indian miracle, like the East Asian Miracles by the turn of the century. Japan could play a big role in helping India achieve the target. This in turn, could meet Japan’s geo-political objectives in the region.


In pursuance to the common objective vis-a-vis China, India and Japan will have to move fast on the Asia-Africa growth corridor (AAGC), in response to China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy which aims at building ports at strategic locations in the Indian Ocean. It appears that Tokyo and New Delhi have somewhat divergent approaches to Africa. Japan has a structural approach through a cluster of high-growth countries, whereas New Delhi focuses on riskier trade options. Also, it may be that New Delhi could not put the money into this project.


At the end of the day, Japan and India will have to find common ground to hold on to China. India has to soon embrace a disciplined democracy, focus all its strength on the economy, carry out pending reforms, make its market and products competitive. Only a new political-economic approach will make India competitive and an attractive destination for investment. Modi will have to lead in this radical change. Will he or can he? ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)



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