Rivers run through Modi’s regional agenda

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to unseen wellwishers as he arrives to meet with Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala following a meeting at the prime minister's office in Kathmandu on 3 August  2014. Modi arrived in Nepal to try to speed up progress on power agreements while also aiming to counter rival giant China's influence in the region.

Author: Robert G. Wirsing, Georgetown University

Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Kathmandu in early August, the first visit to Nepal by an Indian premier in 17 years, was his third trip abroad since his inauguration on 26 May. In mid-June, only weeks after taking charge in New Delhi, he had made his first official foreign excursion — a two-day visit to nearby Bhutan. These upfront state visits to the two Himalayan countries were a clear indication that Modi was determined to put flesh on his campaign pledge to give priority in his foreign policy to bolstering relations with India’s South Asian neighbours. Read more…

Obama mustn’t underestimate Modi

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, 1 August, 2014.

Author: Harshita Kohli, RSIS

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India for the India–US Strategic Dialogue, in which he described India as an ‘indispensable partner for the 21st century’, is a clear effort by the American government to jumpstart the flagging bilateral partnership.

During his stay in India, Kerry met with senior politicians and leading Indian businessmen. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel also visited New Delhi last week to further the US–India defence partnership. The increase in senior-level interactions between officials from both countries is designed to set the stage for the bilateral summit to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in late September 2014. Read more…

Increase in coal tax will scale up Indian renewables

Locals on a boat pass by panels at a solar energy farm at Gunthawada in Gujarat state, about 175 kilometres north of Ahmadabad, India. There are growing calls for increased use of renewable energy resources in India. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pallav Purohit, IIASA

India needs economic growth for sustainable development, which in turn requires access to clean, convenient and reliable energy. An estimated 400 million people still lack access to electricity, and blackouts are still common across the country. A combination of rapidly increasing energy demand and fuel imports plus growing concern about economic and environmental consequences is generating growing calls for innovative policies and mechanisms to promote increased use of abundant, sustainable, renewable resources. Read more…

Back to the drawing board on US–India relations?

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel inspects a Guard of Honor before a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, in New Delhi, India, 8 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The US–India strategic partnership is either the most underperforming bilateral relationship in the world or its most overrated. As a new chapter in this relationship is opened with the formation of a new centre-right government in New Delhi and the back-to-back visits by John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in late July and early August, it is imperative that the path that is charted ahead is informed by the lessons of the past decade and a half. Read more…

Moving Modi beyond Gujarat

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation in his first Independence Day speech from the Red Fort in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

With the Modi government less than 3 months old, it is surely too early to make any assessments. But high expectations and his track record have generated an impatience for results even among Modi’s supporters. News trickles out mentioning an indefatigable prime minister driving from the front, changing the tenor and temper of the entire bureaucracy.
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Building Silk Roads for the 21st century

View of an elevated highway among mountains at sunrise in Chongqing, China, 19 July 2014. From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pradumna B. Rana, RSIS

China’s emergence as the ‘factory of the world’, based on its focus on exporting labour-intensive manufactures, is well-known. Less well-known is the role that infrastructure played in this strategy.

From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure, much more than the developing country average of 2–4 per cent, according to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report. And, from 1992 to 2007, China spent US$120 billion on building 35,000 kilometres of highways. Read more…

India is not the bad guy, but it can do better

Indian daily-wage labourers load 50 kilo sacks of wheat onto a truck at a grain distribution point on the outskirts of Amritsar 16 May 2013. On 5 August 2014, India defended its decision to scuttle a landmark worldwide trade deal, saying it needed to take a tough stand at the WTO to ensure the survival of its impoverished farmers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

India’s recent veto of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), agreed at the Bali Ministerial last year, raises several points that speak to its commitment to the multilateral system, the need for agricultural reform and India’s place in the world. Read more…

Can Modi rise to India’s challenge?

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during a public rally on 12 August 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

Narendra Modi’s new government in New Delhi has restored the sense of excitement about India’s potential both as an economic powerhouse and as a key regional power. Many people, both in Asia and beyond, hope and expect that under Modi’s government India will recover from the political drift and sluggish growth of recent years and at last fulfil its promise as one of the indisputable great powers of Asia. Read more…

Kerry, Hagel visits set agenda for Obama-Modi meeting

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meets with senior Indian army officers in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: C Uday Bhaskar, Society for Policy Studies

The recent back-to-back visits to Delhi by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel mark the first high-level political contact between the Obama administration and the newly elected Modi government. Read more…

Modi’s operandi: a few steps forward but where’s India’s budget going?

Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime minister Narendra Modi flashes the victory sign as he arrives at a public rally after his victory in Vadodara on 16 May 2014. The triumphant Hindu nationalists declared a new era after hardline leader Narendra Modi propelled them to the biggest win in 30 years on promises to revitalise the economy. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ashima Goyal, IGIDR

The election win of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi earlier this year brought hopes of an economic revival for the country. Yet, while the new government’s first budget, handed down in early July, aims for higher growth, employment, better amenities, infrastructure and governance, how the new budget measures are expected to achieve these aims is unclear. There is some alignment between the overall strategy and the rhetoric, but the various measures are not integrated well enough to tell a coherent story, and the changes announced are not quantitatively significant. Read more…

India refuses to play ball on trade agreement

Indian workers sit near sacks of grain at a wholesale warehouse in Mumbai, India, 2 September 2013. India refused to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement agreed upon by the WTO in Bali because it was not happy with insufficient progress on issues like the stockpiling of grain. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Geethanjali Nataraj and Richa Sekhani, Observer Research Foundation

India has played the spoiler by refusing to sign the global agreement on trade facilitation agreed at the Bali Ministerial of the World Trade Organisation in December 2013. The signing of the agreement would have resulted in the first global trade reform agreement in the history of the WTO. Read more…

Rethinking the global trade regime

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry on 1 August 2014. Both leaders have clearly stated their positions after India refused to sign the Trade Facilitation Protocol. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

India’s dropping a bombshell on the conclusion of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation negotiated in Bali last December — which promised to streamline customs and other procedures that impose heavy costs on doing business across national borders — is the latest symptom of a sick multilateral trade regime. Reducing the costs of international transactions in this way would seem like a no-brainer to the thoughtful citizen of any country. Read more…

The BRICS are back, with a bank

Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the guard of honour upon his arrival at Planalto Palace on 17 July 2014 in Brasilia. China has already chosen a site for the future Shanghai headquarters of the BRICS development bank, state media said Thursday just two days after its creation. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Geethanjali Nataraj and Richa Sekhani, ORF

The BRICS countries met for their sixth annual summit in Brazil this month, setting out to establish a counterweight to Western-dominated global financial institutions.

The summit’s key achievement was the establishment of the long-awaited BRICS New Development Bank. The bank will press for a bigger say in the global financial order — which is centred on the IMF and the World Bank. Read more…

Sino-India border dispute best left dormant

In Ladakh, along the border between China and India, Chinese troops hold a banner that reads: You have crossed the border — please go back, 5 May 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Santosh Sharma Poudel and Stefanie Kam, RSIS

The border dispute between China and India has come to the fore once again despite an exponential increase in bilateral trade between the two countries. The border dispute highlights the growing strategic competition and lack of trust between them. But it is better left dormant while both governments focus on more immediate issues. Read more…

Modi should use future budgets to build, build, build

An Indian labourer works at a construction site in Mumbai, India, 18 July 2014. Infrastructure was a key sector addressed in the first budget of Finance Minister Arun Jaitleythe and the Modi government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

Expectations of the Modi government’s first budget were high. But, in the face of difficult fiscal circumstances and volatility in oil and food prices, the new government and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had limited options. Seen in this light, this year’s budget is balanced and gives a sense of direction to the economy. In fact, it has laid the base for a whole set of reform measures that will be put into the place around the next budget. Read more…