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…

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…

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…

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…

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…