India’s long month of political choice

An Indian man sells cut-outs of Indian Prime Ministerial Candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party Narendra Modi, Congress party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi party leader Arvind Kejriwal on 10 April 2014. This election appears to provide Indians with a real choice. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The world’s largest national poll is now well under way across India to elect a new parliament and ultimately a new government and prime minister. The poll began on 7 April, and runs through nine stages until 12 May, with the results due out four days later, on 16 May. Read more…

Is Narendra Modi a crony capitalist or just best friend to business?

Narendra Modi listens to businessman Zafar Sareshwala during an event on business harmony in India. To some, Modi is a visionary reformer, while to others he’s an autocrat in bed with big business cronies. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nikita Sud, University of Oxford

With interests in ports and logistics, energy, agri-business, mining and real estate, the Adani Group is one of India’s business powerhouses. Its chairman, first-generation entrepreneur Gautam Adani, has a net worth of US$4.5 billion and regularly makes it to international rich lists. Adani is reclusive by nature, but has recently found himself thrust into the spotlight. It is believed that the rise of his business empire coincides with the ascent of Narendra Modi, the man who could be India’s next prime minister. Read more…

Modi in pole position: but what would his government look like?

Indian women voters wait patiently in a long queue at a polling station during the fifth phase of the Indian General elections in Bhopal, India on 17 April 2014. Nationwide voting began April 7 and runs through May 12, with results for the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to be announced four days later. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Arun R. Swamy, University of Guam

As India goes to the ballot boxes, it seems clear that the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) and its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition will be decimated by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The suspense centres entirely on how close the NDA will get to the 272 seats required for a parliamentary majority. Read more…

Modi and manifesto set sky-high expectations

Crowds show their support for Narendra Modi, the current favorite to win the Indian elections in Vadodara, India on 9 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Centre for Policy Research

The manifestos that have been made in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections are trying to please everyone. One has to read between the lines to truly appreciate the nuances and identify the differences.

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India’s Look East policy in need of a relook

Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh listens during the 7th East Asia Summit plenary session as part of the 21st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, November 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Does India’s foreign policy suffer from alack of consistent and innovative outreach policies in Southeast Asia?

At a recent East-West Centre conference in Yangon, most participants seemed to feel the answer was yes. Such criticisms are worth mentioning because India’s immediate neighbours, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka often complain that New Delhi intervenes a touch too much in their internal affairs. Some go so far as to argue that China, in spite of being more powerful than India, does not exhibit the same hegemonistic tendencies. Read more…

A view from the India-Bangladesh border

Members of the India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Committee rally behind the fence marking the border between India and Bangladesh. Both the border and the bilateral relationship are far from static. (Photo: Jason Cons)

Author: Jason Cons, Bucknell University

On 18 December 2013, the Indian National Congress party government introduced a bill in parliament to facilitate the realisation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh. This bill was the latest in a long series of attempts to enable the exchange of 161 enclaves Read more…

Incredible India?

The Qutab Minar is silhoutted against the setting sun in New Delhi during the launch of the Clean India campaign aimed at keeping tourist destinations and public places clean. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Manjula Chaudhary, Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management

‘Incredible India’, an international marketing campaign launched by the Indian government, incorporates images of a vibrant heritage that would seem to guarantee tourism success. India is, after all, a country the size of a continent, bestowed with a variety of natural attractions, archaeological remains, and monuments that showcase over 5000 years of history. Read more…

Break down the barriers to trade in South Asia

Harbour cranes unload cargo from a container ship at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Navi Mumbai, India (Photo: Jaxer / Wikipedia).

Authors: Abhirup Bhunia, IEG and Geethanjali Nataraj, ORF

It is widely thought that non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs) are the main obstacles to intra-regional trade in South Asia. Intra-regional trade in South Asia is merely 5 per cent as compared to 58 per cent in the EU, 52 per cent in the NAFTA region, and 26 per cent in the ASEAN zone. Read more…

Energy security would mean a brighter future for India

A young Indian girl reads a book by candle light during a regular load shedding in Mainakhurung on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nanda Kumar Janardhanan, IGES

Satisfying the energy needs of one-sixth of the global population is a Herculean task for India. With a fifth of the population still living below the poverty line, as estimated by the Planning Commission of India, there is an increasing need for an efficient, mission-oriented energy strategy that meets the energy needs of its population and helps eradicate poverty. Access to modern energy sources is not a luxury: it is a basic need. Read more…

Will visa power boost India’s tourism?

A man wears traditional costume at the booth of India, during the International Tourism Fair in Berlin, March 2014.

Author: R. Harish, IBS, India

The Indian government recently decided to extend visa-on-arrival to 180 countries — hoping to provide a much-needed boost to tourist inflows. Previously, visa-on-arrival was available to the citizens of only 11 countries that account for just 7.5 per cent of tourist arrivals into India. Read more…

India’s child trafficking epidemic

Liberated Indian child labourers enjoy a tram ride for the city on the World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Biswajit Ghosh, University of Burdwan

National and international pressure to address child trafficking in India has failed to produce results. The Supreme Court of India has also issued directives to the government to take the matter seriously. But there has been little effort to link increasing cases of missing children with the flurry of trafficking. The country is now faced with an epidemic of child trafficking Read more…

Will the ‘India boom’ shake Japan?

Two apprentice geisha from Kyoto appear at a cultural exchage event in New Delhi in India on 22 February 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Richard Katz, TOE

Once again, talk of an ‘India boom’ has emerged in Japan.

This year, India came in second (behind Indonesia) in a government survey on the top countries in which Japanese firms want to set up operations in the medium term and first in the long term— and, at last count, nearly 1000 Japanese firms had already set up there. Some of these new firms are suppliers to Japanese companies who already have operations in India. Read more…

It’s time to get down to business in India

An Indian Loop Mobile staff member speaks with a customer at a company store in Mumbai on February 18 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Deepanshu Mohan, O.P. Jindal Global University

In a recent interview, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Raghuram Rajan, stressed the need to pay more attention to one of the most underestimated issues currently facing the Indian economy: the country’s poor performance in the ease of doing business. It is undeniable that Indian policymakers and legislators have neglected this issue for too long, leading to a downgrading of India’s business and investor environment. Read more…

Beyond Bali: imperatives for reforming India’s food security system

Farmers cut paddy in a field in Baruipur village, about 20 kilometers south of Kolkata, India. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Raghbendra Jha, ANU

India agreed to an interim ‘peace clause’ on its food subsidy policies at the ninth ministerial conference of the WTO held in Bali in December 2013. While the Indian media largely heralded this decision as a triumph for India’s food security policy, a closer inspection of what was actually agreed to shows that this optimism could be misplaced. Read more…

India needs original thinking to lift its economy

Welfare Society members distribute free food to passers-by at a roadside in Amritsar on 29 January 2014. India's economy grew at a decade low of five percent in 2013 - a far cry from near-double digit expansion during the nation's boom times - due in part to high interest rates to combat inflation that have slowed borrowing and spending. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took the market by surprise by raising the repo rate (the rate at which the central bank lends money to commercial banks in the event of a shortfall of funds) on 28 January by 0.25 per cent to 8 per cent.

But to those who have followed the recommendations of the Urjit Patel Committee (UPC), the measure will be seen as consistent with the RBI’s declared target of bringing headline CPI inflation to below 8 per cent. With this move, the RBI has tried to move ahead of the curve of inflationary expectations, in line with its new official policy of inflation targeting. Read more…