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…

India and Japan boost cooperation, but no nuclear power deal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is welcomed by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe upon his arrival at the State Guest House in Kyoto, on 30 August 2014. Modi flew into Japan for a five-day official visit as their governments seek to boost security ties and counter a increasingly assertive China. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, IEG

Modi’s visit to Japan from 31 August to 3 September was dubbed a success. But what has been achieved? And what do these achievements mean for both countries?

Modi’s visit assumed far greater significance than any previous visits by Indian prime ministers. This is because Modi has a powerful mandate and, of course, because of the reported bonhomie between Modi and Abe. When Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister, Japanese firms participating in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit invested between US$2–3 billion in various manufacturing and infrastructure projects in that state, in response to its investor friendly environment. Modi shares this business friendly attitude with Abe. Read more…

India draws Japan closer as Modi embraces Abe

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo on 1 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Purnendra Jain, University of Adelaide

The unprecedented warm hug between India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe when they met in Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto sent strong diplomatic signals across the region and beyond. This was Modi’s first stop in Japan on a five-day official visit beginning 30 August. In a rather unusual move, Abe went to meet Modi in Kyoto and together they visited a temple before their summit meeting in Tokyo. Read more…

Can Modi move India?

Indian revellers wave national flags during a ceremony to celebrate India’s 68th Independence Day on 15 August 2014. The honeymoon seems be over for the Modi government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

A hundred days into the Modi prime ministership of India, the signals are mixed. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have taken a hiding in a series of state polls and by-elections. And supporters and critics alike are already baying about a massive electoral mandate that has been squandered.

The ‘honeymoon’ seems be over for the Modi government, but is this a sign of its prospects for the long term? Read more…

Modi’s first 100 days: big decisions but no big bang

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi waves during his recent visit to Tokyo, 2 September 2014. Despite difficult initial conditions, some hard decisions have been taken by Modi’s government during its first 100 days. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

Those of us who had conjured up images of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi as a reformer in the Reagan-Thatcher mould, who would boldly move mountains within his first 100 days of office, must by now be disappointed. But this disappointment is self-inflicted. Modi’s style is cautious. He is not a believer in ‘big bang’ reforms. Read more…

Narendra Modi’s foreign policy — too early to judge?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe shake hands after a joint press conference at the in Tokyo on 1 September 2014. The two leaders reached to an agreement that both countries would promote security and economic relations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, Jindal School of International Affairs

The Narendra Modi government turned 100 days old on 3 September, and while it is too early to judge its performance on both the domestic and foreign policy front, its first few months have revealed some important features of the government’s foreign policy — both positive and negative. Read more…

Is Modi’s honeymoon over?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the audience before delivering a speech during a business event in Tokyo, 2 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mahendra Ved, New Delhi

It has been just over 100 days since Narendra Modi took office amid global euphoria, but the ‘honeymoon’ period seems over for the Indian prime minister’s government and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As the media were dishing out the new administration’s ‘report card’, the party lost several state by-elections across the country. It raised the question of whether the ‘Modi wave’ is on the wane so soon. Read more…

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…