Modi’s new financial inclusion plan is a step in the right direction

Authors: Akshay Gakhar and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

On Independence Day 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his financial inclusion plan to provide a bank account to every Indian household. His ‘Jan-Dhan Yojana’ (Scheme for People’s Wealth) — which, in typical Modi vernacular, plays on rhyming words — seeks to provide financial independence to unbanked Indians through a two-phase plan.

Phase one focuses on providing every household in India with a free zero-balance bank account and a RuPay debit card — which allows for electronic payment at all Indian banks — with an aim of increasing financial literacy among the poor. Read more…

The ‘Indo-Pacific’: absent policy behind meaningless words

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands before giving opening remarks before the next round of the Australia–China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue in Sydney, 7 September 2014. China is likely to endorse the term Indo-Pacific, which Julie Bishop directed her department to use in 2013.-minihighres

Author: Trevor Wilson, ANU

Some may not have noticed when it happened but Julie Bishop, after becoming Australian Foreign Minister in September 2013, directed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to use the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ instead of the traditional ‘Asia Pacific’ which has now been in use throughout the world for more than forty years. According to some, Bishop was not initially wedded to ‘Indo-Pacific’ but she seems to have become a convert, although she still occasionally uses ‘Indo-Pacific/Asia Pacific’. Read more…

The past successes and future pitfalls of decentralisation in Vietnam

Author: Thomas Jandl, American University

Vietnam’s market reforms are inseparable from the policy of economic decentralisation, which allowed for local experimentation and forced provincial leaders into competition. This improved the business climate throughout the country. In this sense, decentralisation is a root cause of Vietnam’s attractiveness to investors around the globe. Yet it would be a mistake to view decentralisation as one smooth process. Instead, it has gone through two main phases and is now entering a third. Read more…

Why Pakistan’s army stands to gain from political turmoil

Pakistani supporters of cleric Tahir ul Qadri listen to his speech during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Islamabad on 17 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Vivek Kumar Srivastava, CSJM University

The political turmoil in Pakistan is approaching a decisive point. The ongoing protests led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri against Nawaz Sharif’s government have the potential to develop into a clash between democracy and the military. Already the crisis has given the Pakistani army greater political leverage. Read more…

The fragile happiness of Japan’s ‘insular’ youth

Ready to take on the world: college students at a ceremony in Tokyo to mark the start of the annual hunt for jobs. A recent survey into the attitudes of school students showed that the number who considered themselves to be very happy had doubled in the past three decades. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Noritoshi Furuichi, University of Tokyo

The youth of Japan appear to face a bleak future — a catastrophic budget deficit, ageing population and collapsing social security system. Despite this, according to data released last year, Japan’s youth are astonishingly positive in their outlook. In the government-run Public Opinion Survey Concerning People’s Lifestyles, levels of youth life satisfaction reached 78.4 per cent — the highest they had been since 1967 and higher than during Japan’s booming ‘bubble economy’ period. Read more…

Seeking accountability and failing to find it

Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan wave flags during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament in Islamabad, 14 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rosita Armytage, ANU

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Read more…

Childcare not the only cost for working women in Japan

A mother and child cycle past an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, 21 January 2013. With the aim of increasing the female labour force participation rate, the Japanese government has begun to allocate significant resources to tackling longstanding childcare shortages. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark Fabian, ANU

Japan has recently moved to increase its female labour force participation rate, with the government allocating significant resources to tackling Japan’s longstanding shortage of child care places. Alongside this expansion in child care services, immigration laws are to be relaxed to allow for the recruitment of more foreign nannies. Read more…

Defeating India’s disastrous food price inflation with trade

The inflation of food prices in India is now a pressing policy issue that the Modi government must tackle. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

Indian economic data in July on industrial growth and inflation was disappointing. Industrial sector growth slowed to 3.4 per cent in June 2014 with the manufacturing sector, the largest component, growing at an anaemic 1.8 per cent. But the more worrying set of statistics was the rise in retail inflation to 7.96 per cent in July 2014, which also reversed the declining trend observed since December 2013. Read more…

A chance to mend China–Japan relations

The respective leaders of China and Japan should not let issues like the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute get in the way of building a stronger bilateral relationship. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Yves Tiberghien, University of British Columbia, and Yong Wang, Peking University

Over the last two years, China–Japan relations have been trapped in a downward spiral. The inescapable reality of an ongoing great power transition makes this situation particularly tense: the size of China’s economy relative to Japan’s jumped from a mere 25 per cent in 2000 to 99 per cent in 2009 and then to 188 per cent in 2013. Yet an alternative policy course is slowly developing. Read more…

China and India’s growing strategic weight

An Indian national flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem. China and India will be at the core of the Asian powerhouse over the coming decades. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India this week, so early in the term of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, underlines the growing strategic weight of the relationship between the two countries. Modi’s prime ministership, with its ambition to re-invigorate India’s stalled economic reform and growth, more than any other single factor, promises to accelerate its potential growth radically. Modi has runs on the board with China in bringing Chinese investors to his home state, Gujarat — as of last year about 20 Chinese companies had set up shop — and through his personal engagement. Read more…

China–India border dispute: when Xi comes calling, will Modi be ready?   

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza. The long-standing boundary question has dogged Sino-Indian relations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

When President Xi Jinping arrives in the Indian capital next week, he will become the first leader of a major power to pay a state visit in the Narendra Modi era. It is rare for a Chinese head of state to visit India this early in his tenure. It took Jiang Zemin seven years and Hu Jintao four years to pay their solitary visits to New Delhi. Read more…

India and China must think outside the ‘bureaucratic box’

Author: Tansen Sen, City University of New York

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s forthcoming visit to India will achieve nothing unless the new leaders of India and China can overcome existing inertia and seriously start revamping their bilateral relations. It is true that the two sides have managed to avoid a repeat of the 1962 armed conflict, and that diplomats have to be credited with limiting the border differences to a few ‘incursions’ and a tense standoff at Daulat Beg Oldi near the disputed Aksai Chin region in May 2013. But, as these episodes accumulate and are sensationalised by the media and dramatised in the blogosphere, they perpetuate mutual distrust and harden negative public perceptions. Read more…

Refining the role of government in the Australia–Indonesia live cattle trade

Indonesian workers unload Australian cattle from a ship in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ray Trewin, ANU

The governments of Australia and Indonesia have become heavily involved in the live cattle trade. The 2011 Australian ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia, after some animal cruelty was drawn attention to, may have been the blackest day for Australian agricultural politics. And the issues continue, as governments inappropriately use trade policy to address sensitive domestic non-trade issues (like Australian animal welfare and Indonesian self-sufficiency). But government involvement, rather than disadvantaging trade and livelihoods by raising uncertainty and lowering prices as is the case now, could help solve these issues. Read more…

Why is Indian FDI shying away from South Asia?

Author: Saman Kelegama, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

There have been promises of greater Indian investment in South Asia for a long time. A report produced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2007 argued that India would play a key role in investing in South Asia and this in turn will stimulate intra-regional trade in the region. The report made special reference to the rapidly growing Indian IT industry and identified it as a potential investor in South Asia. The ADB argued that business process outsourcing, knowledge process outsourcing, call centres and other IT related sub-contracting would shift to regional countries as a response to increased costs of doing business in India. Read more…

China and Taiwan walking the line of rapprochement

Zhang Zhijun, head of Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, and his Taiwan counterpart Wang Yu-chi pose for media at the start of a meeting in Taoyuan, Taiwan, 25 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Justine Doody, Berlin

After more than six decades of conflict over the political status of Taiwan, Beijing and Taipei are taking significant steps toward rapprochement in their relations. Yet how much Chinese influence can Taiwan’s democracy tolerate?

On 25 June 2014, for the first time in over 60 years, China sent a ministerial-level figure on an official visit to Taiwan. Read more…