Modi’s UN speech shows his foreign policy will walk a well-worn path

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, 27 Sept, 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Krishnendra Meena, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Many have hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly as a historic shift away from the speeches of past Indian heads of government. But in reality, Modi’s speech is more a continuation of the Indian government’s stance on many international issues, albeit with more flourish and charisma, which comes naturally to Modi when he speaks in Hindi. Read more…

The future of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang (R) after visiting an exhibition of innovative technologies at the Open Innovations Forum in Moscow, Russia, 14 October 2014.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: Swagata Saha, Observer Research Foundation

China recently reaffirmed that it backs India and Pakistan becoming members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). At the 14th meeting of the Council of Heads of States of SCO on 12 September, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for full membership for SCO observers, including India and Pakistan. Read more…

India’s misguided schools policy shutting out the poor

Indian school students stand with letters of the English alphabet. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ken Schoolland, Hawaii Pacific University

Millions of children are being shut out of India’s schools by legislation that predated the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the message of a petition by the Centre for Civil Society, which states: ‘Today, 3,494,520 children are out of school, due to the fact that 19,414 private schools across 17 states have been closed’. But few in India are hopeful that this recent shift in power will bring about a liberalisation of education policy in the near term. Read more…

Are free trade agreements a dead end for India?

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Author: Biswajit Dhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University

When India began negotiations with ASEAN in 2004 for a free trade agreement (FTA) covering the goods sector, it marked a major step in the evolution of the country’s engagement with the global economy.

The agreement signalled a departure from India’s previous position regarding bilateral and regional agreements. Until its deepened engagement with ASEAN in 2003, India was almost unequivocally wedded to the multilateral trading system. Read more…

India’s coal tax is not the best path to a low-carbon economy

An increased tax on coal will help to reduce Indian carbon emissions, but there are more efficient ways of achieving this goal. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Anshuman Sahoo, Stanford University

India’s 2014–15 budget doubled the rate of tax on coal from 50 rupees (US$0.82) to 100 rupees (US$1.64) per metric tonne. Though the additional revenue could accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies in India, the increase in coal tax is not an unambiguous step in the ‘right’ direction of lowering the carbon intensity of the Indian economy. Read more…

Border issues gnaw at stronger India–China trade ties

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Authors: Geethanjali Nataraj and Richa Sekhani, Observer Research Foundation

India’s modern relationship with China, beginning in the 1950s when India was the first non-socialist bloc country to rekindle relations, has been volatile — underscored by border disputes, post-colonial bonhomie and Asian solidarity. In 2008, China emerged as India’s largest trading partner — boosting bilateral strategic and military relations as well. Read more…

India needs to be clever about smart cities

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Author: Mahendra Sethi, National Institute of Urban Affairs

With more than half of the global population now living in urban areas, some in abject poverty, the path to sustainable development must pass through cities. In a meeting in July, the Working Group for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals set a target to build ‘inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable’ cities and human settlements.

India is embracing this push for smart cities. Read more…

Modi connects with the American dream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India speaks to supporters during a community reception on 28 September 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

Before his election to India’s prime ministership, Narendra Modi was persona non grata in the United States because of his alleged complicity in the ethnic violence in Gujarat of 2002 in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died, 2500 people were injured, and 223 more were reported missing. Though a subsequent Indian Supreme Court investigation in 2012 cleared him of complicity in the violence, Modi was still banned from entering the United States Read more…

Obama and Modi must cook up a solution on food subsidies and the WTO

Welfare Society members distribute free food to passers-by at a roadside in Amritsar, India. Modi will meet Obama on Tuesday, hopefully finding a solution to the public food provisioning impasse on the Bali timeline. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The young Narendra Modi government has not covered itself in glory on the international trade policy front.

At the second ministerial meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations in late August, New Delhi proposed a jaw-droppingly low rate of trade liberalisation for industrial goods. Read more…

The Modi show visits the United States

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets people on the streets of New York during a visit to the United States on 26 September, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: C Uday Bhaskar, Society for Policy Studies

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has begun his maiden visit to the USA this week. He will visit Washington on Monday for his first summit level meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The trip offers the chance for Modi to project himself as a global leader with a distinctive vision and clear objectives. Read more…

Protecting pluralism in India’s media market

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Authors: Suzanne Rab and Alison Sprague, London

Competition and diversity in media and communications are fundamental to a healthy economy and democracy. This has been clear in India in recent years. In May 2014 the Indian Law Commission — seeking to tighten media ownership regulation — issued a consultation paper to resurrect controversial reform proposals of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). In India and internationally there is no consensus on the exact manner and scope of interventions that are appropriate to protect competition and pluralism in media markets. Read more…

Japan may not be such an easy pushover on nuclear deal with India

Author: David Brewster, ANU

In recent weeks we have seen the ‘bromance’ between India and Japan reach new heights. Earlier this month, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Tokyo amid media hype of a special relationship, and even a de facto alliance, between the two countries. There is talk of a special ‘personal chemistry’ between Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and much was made of the claim that Modi was one of only three people that Abe follows on Twitter. Read more…

Inflation fears blurring Modi’s ‘Made in India’ vision

Author: Ranjit Goswami, IMT Nagpur

On 15 August 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his inaugural Independence Day speech. At 80 minutes, it was the longest speech by an Indian Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru’s time. The speech touched upon the various challenges that the world’s largest democracy faces, from female feticide to sanitation. He talked about the need for a new institution in the place of the Planning Commission, created back in 1950, and the need for girls’ toilets at every school, to tackle the high drop-out rates of girls. Read more…

Revitalising India’s manufacturing industry

Indian workers use blowtorches in the heavy fabrication department of a factory near Ahmedabad. (Photo: AAP),

Authors: Anwarul Hoda and Durgesh Kumar Rai, ICRIER

Increasing the GDP growth rate will be a major task for India’s new government. GDP growth will be critical for eradicating poverty and improving the living standards of India’s population. The economy also faces the daunting challenge of providing employment opportunities to about a million people being added to the job market every month. Rapid expansion of the industrial base of the country through labour intensive manufacturing appears to be the perfect solution to the country’s problems. Read more…

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…