India’s 2019 general election suddenly becomes a lot more interesting
Posted on 14 December 2018
India’s recent elections in five states (Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Mizoram, Rajasthan, Telengana) were largely a contest between the Congress as the country’s grand old party led by Rahul Gandhi, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by PM Narendra Modi. Congress did not just lose office in 2014, it was routed, winning just 44 of the 543 seats in Parliament. Now it is back as a serious contender once again.
The BJP has mostly squandered the opportunity for major structural reforms of the economy. The finance minister is a clever lawyer but not a competent manager of the country’s economic destiny. The adoption of a broad-based consumption tax was botched in implementation. In demonetizing the two high-denomination currency notes, Modi confused impetuous, impulsive and arbitrary voodoo economics with bold, courageous and dynamic economic leadership. Not one of the stated major goals of demonetization was realized to offset the crushing hardship imposed on daily wage earners: curbing corruption, transitioning to a cashless economy, curtailing counterfeit currency, and crimping terrorist financing.
The 2014 campaign promises of minimum government, maximum governance with built-in responsiveness and accountability; sabka saath, sabka vikas (development and good governance for all groups and sectors); repatriation of hordes of money stashed abroad trough illicit financial outflows; expanding farmer incomes; millions of additional jobs created; all amounting to parivartan (transformation) were progressively abandoned. Modi has spent more time campaigning in states and travelling abroad in search of investment than governing from New Delhi and improving the policy and regulatory framework to make foreign investment attractive.
[Modi] [BJP] [Congress] [Gandhi] [Resurgence]
Does India Perceive China as a Revisionist Power?
By Jagannath Panda
Dr. Jagannath Panda (email@example.com) is a fellow and center coordinator for East Asia at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. He is also the series editor for Routledge Studies on Think Asia. This article is based on the author?s talk at the Institute for International Relations (IIR) in Prague, Czech Republic on Oct. 8, 2018.
The world continues to debate whether China is a ?status-quo? or a ?revisionist? power. The Trump Administration?s National Security Strategy released in December 2017 officially labeled China a ?revisionist? power and expressed concern that Beijing was upsetting the post-Cold war geopolitical order in the Indo-Pacific region through ?expansion of a state-driven economic model.?
This assessment of China is based on four broad contentions: Beijing is taking advantage of global rules and norms as an emerging economy to reap a trade surplus with others; its unilateral measures to develop infrastructure around the Indo-Pacific overlook others? interests; it is expanding its maritime military outreach across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR); and it is altering the global financial order through the promotion of alternative institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) to existing Bretton Woods institutions. As each of these issues also engages New Delhi, does India ? an Indo-Pacific partner of the United States ? also perceive Beijing as a revisionist power?
India is yet to officially term China a revisionist power. This, however, does not imply that India condones unilateral Chinese revisionism. Beijing?s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has been designed to alter the regional power equation in China?s favor and is included in the CPC (Communist Party of China) Constitution as a long-term national developmental initiative, is fueling international concern.
[China confrontation] [India China] [Belt & Road]
Kartarpur opening is a step towards peace
India, Pakistan can benefit from more cultural and economic ties as they shed inhibitions
Published: November 27, 2018 16:29 By Tariq Osman Hyder, Special to Gulf News
Pakistan?s decision to open and construct a direct corridor from the Indian border to the Kartarpur Sahib Sikh shrine in Pakistan is a significant event. How did it come about? What is its religious significance? What can it lead to in the often tense relations between these two nuclear armed nations?
The Gurudwara was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, settled after his missionary work. He assembled a Sikh community there, and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539. It is 4km from and within sight of the border; and the Sikh community has long demanded that they be able to walk to this major shrine directly from Dera Baba Nanak in India rather than through the Wagah border crossing.
[India Pakistan relations]
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): The Asian Parliamentary Assembly Meeting in Gwadar Was Good News for CPEC
By Andrew Korybko
Global Research, October 31, 2018
It was a very prudent move for Pakistan to have Gwadar host this year?s Asian Parliamentary Assembly instead of any other of the country?s cities because Islamabad showed off the progress that?s been made thus far on CPEC, encouraged its fellow institutional members to feel like they have a stake in its future success, and opened their eyes to the peaceful state of affairs in Balochistan.
This year?s Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) just took place in the southwestern Pakistani port city of Gwadar, the terminal point of the Silk Road?s flagship project of CPEC as well as its mainland-maritime pivot, which importantly allowed Islamabad to show off the progress that?s been made thus far on this game-changing initiative. Around 100 parliamentarians from 26 countries such as Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia arrived to participate in the event, which was the first high-profile multilateral one of this level to take place there. The author suggested back in Spring 2017 during a speech at Pakistan?s National Defence University (NDU) that the country prioritize hosting large-scale events in this growing connectivity nexus in order to promote CPEC, proposing at the time that a brand-new function one day be unveiled provisionally called the ?Gwadar Gathering? for bringing together a wide array of academic, political, military, business, and civil society figures.
Encounters, civilian deaths keep Kashmir on boil
More and more ordinary Kashmiris come out in support of armed rebels as violence escalates and death toll rises.
by Aijaz Nazir & Sameer Mushtaq
? 29 Oct 2018
A new trend in Kashmir is the attendance of a large number of Kashmiris in the funeral procession of rebels killed by Indian forces. Media reports say at least 160 rebels were killed in encounters this year across Kashmir. Sameer Mushtaq/Al Jazeera
Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir - Encounters, killings, stone pelting and protests have become a daily affair in India-administered Kashmir, with the toll on human lives spiking in past two years.
According to local reports, at least 50 people were killed in the last month, including 28 rebels,14 civilians and eight Indian security personnel.
More and more young boys join the armed resistance against the Indian rule, with some reports saying at least 250 youth have turned rebels since the summer of 2016.
Many believe it was Hizbul Mujahideen rebel Burhan Wani's killing in July 2016 that triggered a wave of protests and prompted young boys to pick up a gun.
[Kashmir] [Armed struggle]
Deep in football country, wickets vie with goal posts as the game of cricket surges
Bowler and batsman square off during a championship game on Oct. 21, 2018, at the nascent Prairie View Cricket Complex outside Houston. (Michael Stravato/For The Washington Post)
By Brittney Martin
PRAIRIE VIEW, Tex. ? A typical Sunday in Texas consists of two things ? church and football, and not always in that order. But in this community northwest of Houston, known for its agricultural roots and the historically black college that carries its name, the gridiron now has some competition.
For hours each Sunday, four circular grassy fields on the side of U.S. Route 290 play host to dozens of men wielding flat-faced wooden bats. Most are immigrants whose conversations are a blend of English, Urdu and Hindi, and terms that many outsiders might find just as foreign ? wickets, stumps and bails.
The game they play is cricket, and its emergence here reflects the incredible diversity of the nation?s fourth-largest city and its sprawling reach. Prairie View, situated about 45 miles from downtown Houston, might seem an unlikely place for an international cricket destination, but Houston businessman Tanweer Ahmed is looking to change that.
Ahmed is turning an 86-acre lot into a massive sports complex with seven cricket fields, a youth academy and a stadium big enough to host professional teams.
?Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer, and the U.S. is missing out on that part of the world,? he said. ?But the U.S. has huge potential.?[Diaspora] [Sport] [Cricket]
India Will Buy Weapons from Russia and Oil from Iran, Ignoring U.S. Warnings
By Tom O'Connor On 10/5/18
India was set to enter lucrative bids for Russian weapons and Iranian oil, despite warnings and potential sanctions from Washington.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded a multibillion-dollar deal Friday for Moscow to provide New Delhi with the advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The agreement was among a number of measures related to defense, economy and energy forged between the two leaders during Putin's two-day visit to India, whose head of state praised the country's "special and privileged strategic partnership" with Russia.
These moves come at a time when the U.S. was trying to crack down on Russia's growing international influence, accusing it of interfering in the 2016 presidential elections and of pursuing destabilizing activities across the globe. Washington has moved to enforce sanctions on those buying Russian arms and, while India has sought a waiver for its purchase of the S-400, the Trump administration has displayed an unwillingness to make exceptions to its economic restrictions.
Friday's joint statement by Modi and Putin also took things a step further by noting that "that military and military-technical cooperation between the two countries is an important element of their strategic partnership," signaling further cooperation.
Is India on its Way out of Poverty?
October 3, 2018
Jayati Ghosh discusses the UNDP report showing that poverty in India has halved in the last 10 years, and the newly unveiled healthcare plan for the bottom 40% of the population, nicknamed ?Modicare.?
GREG WILPERT: It?s The Real News Network and I?m Greg Wilpert, coming to you from Baltimore.
The United Nations Development Program, the UNDP, published a report recently showing that according to its multi-dimensional definition of poverty, poverty in India has halved in the past ten years. This comes on the heels of another report earlier this year which found that India stopped being the country with the largest population living below the poverty line in the world with, Nigeria taking first place in 2018. Then last week, India?s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a new national healthcare plan. The plan is said to offer free health care to the bottom 40 percent of the population of India, about 100 million families. Here is how he announced the new program.
271 million fewer poor people in India
The 2018 Multidimensional Poverty Index provides the most comprehensive view of the many ways in which 1.3 billion people worldwide experience poverty in their daily life. In 10 years, India has nearly halved its number of multidimensional poor ? a massive gain.
New Delhi, 20 September 2018 - India has made momentous progress in reducing multidimensional poverty, according to estimates from the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). The incidence of multidimensional poverty has almost halved between 2005/6 and 2015/16, climbing down to 27.5 percent from 54.7 percent. Among South Asian countries, only Maldives has a lower headcount ratio than India at 1.9 percent, with Nepal (35.3 percent), Bangladesh (41.1 percent), and Pakistan (43.9) having higher incidences of multidimensional poverty. Though the traditionally disadvantaged groups ? across states, castes, religions, and ages ?are still the poorest, they have also experienced the biggest reductions in MPI through the decade, showing that they have been ?catching up?. This is in line with global trends, where deeper progress among the poorest groups is reflected in the global MPI being cut by half.
The MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: health, education and living standards, and 10 indicators ? nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, sanitation, cooking fuel, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets. Those who are deprived in at least a third of the MPI?s components are defined as multidimensionally poor. The 2018 report, which is now closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, cover almost three-quarters of the world?s population. The 2015-16 district-level calculations of the incidences of multidimensional poverty for India has been sourced from the National Family Health Survey IV. The data for 2005-06 is from the National Family Health Survey III.
Despite the massive gains made in reducing multidimensional poverty, 364 million Indians continue to experience acute deprivations in health, nutrition, schooling and sanitation. Just over one in four multidimensionally poor people in India are under ten years of age. In 104 primarily low and middle-income countries, 662 million children are considered multidimensionally poor. In 35 countries half of all children are poor.
The 2018 MPI data and report is available on the OPHI website and HDRO website.
2018 global MPI launched 20 September, revealing key poverty trends related to SDG1
On 20 September at UN Headquarters in New York, the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (global MPI) results were launched. The event was hosted by UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. He was joined by Nobel Laureate Sir Angus Deaton, OPHI Director Sabina Alkire, Acting Vice President at the World Bank Akihiko Nishio, Assistant Secretary-General at UN DESA Elliott Harris, Executive Director of CESR Ignacio Saiz, HDRO Director Selim Jahan, and OPHI Research Officer Usha Kanagaratnam. The event was live streamed on the OPHI and UNDP HDR websites. People tuned in from around the world to follow the live stream and participate in the global discussion on Twitter surrounding the launch of the updated global MPI.
In 2018, OPHI and UNDP undertook a joint revision of the global MPI, adjusting five of the global MPI?s ten indicators to better align the global MPI with the SDGs. With results covering over 100 countries, disaggregated by over 1000 sub-national regions, rural-urban areas, and age groups, the 2018 global MPI is particularly useful in identifying people who are left behind in multiple SDGs. It answers the call to better measure progress against SDG1?to end poverty in all its forms. As highlighted by Sabina Alkire during the event, the global MPI serves as a tool for policymakers to design efficient multi-sectoral, pro-poor policies.
The 2018 global MPI results include data for more than 100 countries, covering about three-quarters of the global population. Key findings include:
1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, meaning they suffer from overlapping deprivations in health, education, and living standards.
46% of those who are multidimensionally poor live in severe poverty, meaning they are deprived in at least half of the dimensions.
Half of the world?s poor are children.
83% of the poor live in South Asia and Africa.
The vast majority of the multidimensionally poor?1.1 billion?live in rural areas, where poverty rates are four times higher than they are in urban areas.
Approximately 880 million people in the world are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty.
Sir Angus Deaton explained that, though there is a long way to go until multidimensional poverty is completely eradicated, there are reasons to celebrate extraordinary progress on poverty reduction. In India alone, some 271 million people have escaped multidimensional poverty in the past 10 years.
?One of the greatest advantages of the SDGs over their predecessors, the MDGs, is that the former, unlike the latter, encompass the whole world, not just the poor countries of the world. Even the World Bank now calculates its $1.90/day poverty measure for rich countries, including the US? There are more globally poor people in the US than in Senegal, or in Nepal, and the poverty rate in the US is almost identical to the poverty rate in China, in spite of the fact that the US has a GDP per capita that?s three-and-a-half times larger? It?s a matter of urgency to extend the multilateral poverty work to the United States, and to help Americans understand just how badly they are doing by their poorest citizens.?
Outrage after photo of soldiers dragging Kashmir rebel's body
Activists demand inquiry after image surfaces on social media, but Indian army officer defends 'normal procedure'.
by Rifat Faree
The Indian army frequently faces allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir [Mukhtar Khan/AP Photo]
more on Kashmir
? Kashmir: Nine-year-old 'gang-raped, eyes gouged out'last week
? India: Six people killed after 'infiltration bid' in Kashmirlast month
? Kashmir: Tension rises as citizenship rights law under threatlast month
? Unprecedented security at Kashmir's annual Hindu pilgrimage2 months ago
Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir - A photograph showing Indian soldiers dragging the bloodied, half-naked body of a rebel has triggered outrage in and outside Indian-administered Kashmir, with rights activists calling it a "barbaric" act which violates international humanitarian law.
The incident took place on September 13 in the Kakriyal forests in the Reasi area of Jammu in the southern part of the disputed territory after a seven-hour gun battle in which the army killed three rebel fighters.
Soon after the fighting was over, the image of Indian soldiers dragging the dead fighter with his face down and his feet chained surfaced on social media, attracting widespread condemnation.
The US-India 2+2 Dialogue: Implications and Challenges for the Indo-Pacific
By Prateek Joshi
Prateek Joshi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research associate with VIF India, a New Delhi based public policy think tank.
The conclusion of the first 2+2 dialogue between the United States and India takes their bilateral relationship to a new level. Challenges remain, but over the next few years Washington and New Delhi will become closer security partners.
The meeting will help strengthen bilateral defense ties between the two countries, expand bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation, promote people-to-people connections, and boost all forms of bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Of these successes, the latter has received the most attention. This is evidence of Washington?s strong commitment to the development of a ?free and open Indo-Pacific,? which has been a major foreign-policy focus after the Trump administration elevated the region to a ?top-level regional priority? in the 2017 National Security Strategy.
Tackling the U.S. / North Korea Standoff: Relevance of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan
by N.D. Jayaprakash
August 28, 2018
It was three decades ago on 09 Jun, 1988 that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had submitted India?s ?Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order?before the Third Special Session of the UN General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament. Sadly, the Action Plan, which was derided as utopian and impractical, found few takers at that time. According to political scientist George Perkovich, ?These proposals [the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan] were too lofty to have a practical impact, particularly on the existing nuclear powers.? However, with the demise of the Soviet Union on 25 Dec, 1991, serious attempts were made to reduce the global stockpile of nuclear weapons. While there has been considerable reduction in terms of numbers of nuclear weapons from a high of 64,099 warheads in the year 1986 to 9220 warheads in 2017, there has not been any perceptible reduction in the nuclear threat hanging over the world with its potential devastating consequences. In fact, over the last two decades, the nuclear threat has also grown horizontally with three more nations joining the nuclear bandwagon: India and Pakistan in 1998; and North Korea in 2006. The Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Test, which North Korea had carried out on 29 Nov, 2017 (Hwasong-15 with a potential range of 13,000 kms that could pose a threat to the U.S.), has finally compelled the United States to initiate unconditional negotiations with North Korea to end the nuclear impasse. However, the U.S. attempt to apply the ?Libya Model? to North Korea is at best a mere pipedream since North Korea is unlikely to fall into such a trap. The very thought that two nuclear powers would engage in negotiations to divest one of the parties of nuclear weapons is ludicrous. No highhanded approach can resolve the issue. The Joint Statement issued by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un after their summit meeting in Singapore on 12 Jun, 2018 may appear to be a balanced one and seemingly offer a ray of hope. However, the problem is too complex to be resolved at a bilateral level. A lot depends on the manner in which two key concepts ?security guarantees? and ?complete denuclearization? are defined and interpreted by the two parties. If their impending talks in this regard are genuine and purposeful, they will soon realize that ?the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world? would not be possible without the participation of every other nuclear weapon state in such negotiations.
[US NK Negotiations] [Nuclear disarmament] [Rajiv Gandhi]
Washington Warns of Sanctioning India Over Russian Missile System
The world?s two largest democracies have a burgeoning defense relationship. Moscow could play spoiler.
By Lara Seligman | August 29, 2018, 5:14 PM
A Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system is displayed at the exposition field in Kubinka's Patriot Park outside Moscow on Aug. 22, 2017. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)
A Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system is displayed at the exposition field in Kubinka's Patriot Park outside Moscow on Aug. 22, 2017. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)
The United States is refusing to rule out sanctions on India?a stated ally?if New Delhi goes through with a planned purchase of Russia?s new S-400 missile system this year, a top U.S. Defense Department official warned ahead of historic talks between the two countries next week.
The S-400 ?is a system that?s particularly troubling for a lot of reasons, and I think our strong preference ? is to seek alternatives,? said Randall Schriver, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, during an Aug. 29 event in Washington. ?If they choose to go down that route, like I said, I can?t sit here and tell you today that the waiver will necessarily be used.? The waiver Schriver referred to is a congressional loophole designed to insulate allies from ongoing U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Defying the Pentagon?s demands so far, New Delhi is reportedly poised to approve the purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft system this year, with deliveries planned to start in 2020. India?s purchase of the S-400 is especially concerning to U.S. officials because the system is designed to track and destroy aircraft, even stealth aircraft, at unprecedented ranges. It also has the ability to glean information about the capabilities of aircraft in its vicinity, which could include the U.S.-built F-35 fighter jet.
[US India] [Russia confrontation] [Arms sales] [S-400] [Counterbalance]
Shifting Alliances? India?s Purchase of Russia?s S400 Air Defense System. America?s Response
By Andrew Korybko
Global Research, August 22, 2018
Unlike how it?s being popularly reported, India didn?t exactly ?defy? the US by going forward with the planned signing of an S-400 deal with Russia later this year, but is partially obeying it because it?ll need to reduce its share of arms purchases from Moscow and continue cooperating with Washington on ?security matters that are critical to United States strategic interests? in order to earn a sanctions waiver for this acquisition.
A Russian defense official?s announcement that India will indeed go forward with its planned purchase of the S-400s by the end of the year was reported on by RT and other media outlets as the South Asian nation ?defying? the US? CAATSA sanctions threats over this acquisition, though the reality is much more nuanced because New Delhi is also partially giving in to American pressure. Prima facie, it looks like the country is thumbing its nose at the US by going forward with this deal and risking the wrath of Trump?s infamous sanctions, but it can actually evade that punishment if it abides by at least one of two clauses in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2019.
Section 1294 (1)(C)(i) allows for a CAATSA sanctions waiver if a country:
?is taking or will take steps to reduce its inventory of major defense equipment and advanced conventional weapons produced by the defense sector of the Russian Federation as a share of its total inventory of major defense equipment and advanced conventional weapons over a specified period?
While Section 1294 (1)(C)(ii) says that it could be granted if a country:
?is cooperating with the United States Government on other security matters that are critical to United States strategic interests.?
India?s share of Russian armaments has been on a downward trajectory over the past couple of years amid heightened competition from the US and ?Israel? in this market, which is occurring in spite of increased weapons purchases simply due to the fact that the country is the world?s largest buyer of military equipment, so it already satisfies the first criterion. The second, meanwhile, is achieved by India?s designation as the US? first-ever and thus far only ?Major Defense Partner? and the publicly acknowledged100-year-long military-strategy partnership that the two sides are engaged in all across the Afro-Bengal Ocean and beyond.
[India] [Counterbalance] [Arms sales] [Russia confrontation] [Sanctions]
Hopes and forebodings in India over the rise of Imran Khan
A new predicament now arises for Delhi because the civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan now get along well
By M.K. BHADRAKUMAR JULY 29, 2018 4:18 PM (UTC+8)
Imran Khan speaks to the media after casting his vote at a polling station during the general election in Islamabad on July 25, 2018. Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi
Circumstantial evidence can be marshaled to establish that a level playing field was not available to Pakistan?s two mainstream political parties ? the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People?s Party ? in the parliamentary poll on July 25.
But that alone cannot delegitimize the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by Imran Khan.
Khan likely benefited from the denial of a level playing field to Nawaz Sharif. But that is not the whole story. His mandate is authentic and he is no one?s creation. Khan astutely presented himself as the symbol of ?change? and his mandate reflects the Pakistani people?s craving for change.
In fact, the expectations of the people are high and Khan will be hard-pressed to fulfill them. The national program he outlined in his victory speech challenges entrenched interest groups, who will no doubt resist. Compromises may become necessary, even inevitable. If not, confrontation may ensue. The robust opposition will make the going very tough for Khan at every stage.
Three things must be said here. First, the rout of the ?religious parties? has been absolute. The astonishing part is that Pakistani voters displayed impeccable secular temper to reject any politician who sought to exploit religious sentiment.
Second, India did not figure as a topic during the election campaign. The focus was almost entirely on Pakistan?s political economy. Third, and most importantly, Khan managed to secure a fairly broad-based mandate, although Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains his citadel.
[Pakistan] [Imran Khan]
China and Nepal reach across the Himalayan divide
Gaurab Shumsher Thapa
(Asia Times 6/7/2018)
16 July 2018
Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli?s visit to China last month was closely watched by both domestic and international observers.
Oli?s visit was a continuation of his groundbreaking trip to China during his first tenure as prime minister in 2016, during which a transit transport agreement between the two countries was signed. Such an agreement should have been inked a long time ago, but the economic embargo imposed by India in 2015 forced Nepal to examine its options. It was regarded as a historic step as landlocked Nepal had such an arrangement only with India until then.
Apart from agreements related to road links, infrastructure and energy, the most significant progress made during Oli?s visit was a memorandum of understanding on establishing railway connectivity between the two countries. This has great significance both in terms of enhancing cross-border connectivity and the fact that the Himalayan frontier would no longer be impregnable.
The Qinghai-Lhasa railway network is set to be extended up to the Sino-Nepalese border point of Gyirong (Kerung) within a couple of years. Similarly, the feasibility study for extending it further up to Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu has already commenced, although the modalities of investment are yet to be ascertained.
China-Nepal railway connectivity would be a part of the broader concept of a trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network proposed by China which, in turn, would be under the framework of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
[China] [Nepal] [India] [Belt & Road] [Railways]
Moon Kicks off State Visit to India
By Jeong Woo-sang
July 09, 2018 12:13
President Moon Jae-in kicked off a four-day state visit to India on Sunday afternoon by visiting the Akshardham Temple in New Delhi, the world's largest Hindu temple.
On Monday he joins Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong at the ribbon-cutting for a new Samsung smartphone plant in the nearby city of Noida. He sits down for a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
Nepal looks toward China as a measure of last resort
23 June 2018
After an exchange of high-level trips between Nepal and India, Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is to land in Beijing on Tuesday for a five-day state visit. It will be his second state visit since his accession to the Prime Minister?s Office after his party?s landslide victory in the general election in November.
Sources at the Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs have said that China and Nepal would ink several deals to implement the trade and transit treaty of 2016 and the connectivity project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Indian media, strategic analysts, and academia have been portraying Nepal?s increasing engagement with China in the areas of trade and transit, investment and the BRI as Oli?s government tilting toward China and demonstrative of China?s aim to limit India?s geopolitical strategic space. However, Nepal has not tilted toward China; India itself has been pushing Nepal toward China for a long time.
India has been imposing a permanent economic blockade by creating many hurdles to Nepalese goods exported to India and third countries, and it is the main cause of an enormous trade deficit that is the upshot of the sluggish economic growth of Nepal. New Delhi has imposed these kinds of hurdles more than 150 times since Nepal and India signed a new trade and transit treaty in 1996, and has created barriers to Nepalese agriculture goods four times in the first six months of this year alone.
Because of the Indian obstruction to goods, Nepal has signed a trade and transit treaty with China as a measure of last resort. The Indian foreign-policy regime should be mindful that no country is able to fulfill Indian interests while economically poor, weak, and bearing an enormous trade deficit and stagnant economy.
Indian political leaders, diplomats, academia, and media repeatedly express that Nepal and India have had a special relationship from the time of antiquity. If India thinks that Indo-Nepalese ties are so valuable, why are there tariffs? Why are there quarantine check posts? Why does India need a sanitary and phytosanitary standard (SPS) for Nepalese agricultural products?
A vast discrepancy exists between what Indian leaders say and the ground realities.
[India Nepal] [China Nepal]
Uncle Sam is shaking down Indian agriculture
7 June 2018
Author: Biswajit Dhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University
In May, the United States submitted a document to the WTO questioning the compatibility of India?s agricultural subsidies with the relevant provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). The document targets the minimum support price (MSP) granted to wheat and rice, two key food crops. The United States? complaint is that the MSPs of these two crops are well above the limits set by the AoA.
A farmer winnows rice in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, 4 November 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave).The main contention of the United States is that the support that India provides to rice was consistently above 70 per cent of the value of agricultural production since 2010?11 and above 60 per cent for wheat during the same period. These levels of subsides, claims the United States, were way above the 10 per cent limit imposed on India by the AoA.
This affront on India?s farm subsidies provides an opportunity to expose the mala fides of the United States, and also the illogicality of the subsidies? regime of the AoA. The AoA was crafted primarily by the United States and the members of the European Union to serve their interests, while developing countries like India were reduced to mere bystanders.
Although the WTO abhors the use of subsidies, it allows this instrument of trade policy to be used for agriculture. The subsidies regime included in the AoA has three forms of subsidies, ranging from those that were considered ?non-distorting? to those that seriously ?distorted? markets
The only thing that differentiates the subsidies is that, while there is no limit for spending on the non-distorting subsidies, spending on the distorting subsidies has to be limited to 10 per cent of the value of agricultural production for the developing countries, and 5 per cent for the developed countries. Significantly, the AoA provides no means to assess the impacts of these forms of subsidies on the market.
An important facet of the subsidies regime of the AoA was that developing countries were relying more on the so-called ?distorting? forms of subsidies, both when the regime was introduced in 1995 and in the years thereafter, while the United States and the European Union used more of the non-distorting categories of subsidies.
[India] [Agriculture] [US] [WTO][UNUS]
India says it only follows U.N. sanctions, not U.S. sanctions on Iran
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India said on Monday it abided by sanctions imposed by the United Nations but not those imposed by any other country, such as those announced by the United States against Iran.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj walk after a photo opportunity in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Altaf Hussain
U.S. President Donald Trump this month withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and ordered the reimposition of U.S. sanctions suspended under the 2015 accord.
Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi?s position was independent of any other country.
?India follows only U.N. sanctions, and not unilateral sanctions by any country,? she said at a news conference.
[Tribute] [Resistance] [Iran]
U.S. sanctions on Iran threaten vital Afghanistan trade project
Jonathan Landay, Rupam Jain
U.S. President Donald Trump?s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord and re-impose sanctions on Tehran threatens to derail a project to help build Afghanistan?s economy, endangering a key goal of the U.S. strategy to end America?s longest war.
An Afghan security guard stands while supply trucks carrying containers for export line at the Customhouse in Jalalabad, Afghanistan May 14, 2018. REUTERS/ Parwiz
The Indian-backed Chabahar port complex in Iran is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan that could potentially open the way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan, its sometimes-hostile neighbor.
Building Afghanistan?s economy would also slash Kabul?s dependence on foreign aid and put a major dent in the illicit opium trade, the Taliban?s main revenue source.
But Trump?s decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran and penalize financial institutions for doing business with Tehran is clouding Chabahar?s viability as banks, nervous they could be hit with crippling penalties, pull back from financing.
?President Trump?s decision has brought us back to the drawing board and we will have to renegotiate terms and conditions on using Chabahar,? a senior Indian diplomat said. ?It is a route that can change the way India-Iran-Afghanistan do business, but for now everything is in a state of uncertainty.?
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Launched in 2016, the joint Iran-India-Afghanistan Chabahar project already was facing holdups. It has yet to see significant traffic apart from some containers of donated wheat from India, and the first shipments of Afghan dried fruit to India are not expected before July.
[Trump] [Iran deal] Renege] [Consequences] [India]
Pakistan Prevents U.S. Diplomat From Leaving the Country
By Haroon Janjua
May 12, 2018
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan ? The authorities in Pakistan barred an American diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country on Saturday and briefly detained him for questioning, according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official.
A United States military aircraft flown in to bring home Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall, a U.S. military attach?, had to leave without him, the intelligence official said.
Pakistan?s Interior Ministry said Mr. Joseph is on a ?blacklist? and is not allowed to leave because of the criminal case pending against him.
Colonel Hall is accused of involvement in a road accident in which his car ran a red light and killed a motorcyclist named Ateeq Baig in the capital, Islamabad, on April 7. Pakistan officials have demanded the United States waive his diplomatic immunity so that he can face a criminal trial, but American officials have refused.
On Friday, Islamabad?s High Court, noting that Colonel Hall did not have full diplomatic immunity, left it up to the government to decide whether to add his name to a travel ban list
[Pakistan US] [Friction]
How Modi has failed as prime minister of India
By Sachi Satapathy May 11, 2018
Narendra Modi has completed four years in office but there is widespread disappointment among the Indian people with his performance as their prime minister. There is a strong perception that Modi spent most of the last four years either in state election campaigns, on foreign tours, or giving scores of moral lectures on state-run television, radio, and his own online app.
Modi promised 20 million jobs a year, but instead more than 7.2 million jobs meant for the 15-24 age group were lost over the last four years. Job creation in India is at an eight-year low. There is an undercurrent of anger among the middle-class population over having to pay excessive excise taxes, which has led to historically high prices of gasoline and diesel, in spite of lower international crude-oil prices.
The government has collected US$150 billion in taxes on motor fuel since 2014. Instead of giving the benefit to people, the government is putting more burdens on them.
The previous government of Dr Manmohan Singh lifted close to 140 million people above the poverty line between 2004 and 2014. However, no one has any clue as to whether the present government is doing anything substantive to uplift the poor.
Agriculture exports, which had seen a fivefold increase under the Singh government, have since come down by 21%. At the same time, agriculture imports have risen by more than 60%.
New investment is the lowest it has been in 13 years; bank credit growth has sunk to a 63-year low, while loan growth has fallen to 5.1%, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
[Modi] [Economy] [Poverty]
As China cleans up its act, India?s cities named the world?s most polluted
by Annie Gowen May 2
India?s capital, New Delhi, choked by rising automobile emissions and construction dust, was named Wednesday the world?s most polluted megacity by the World Health Organization, which analyzed the levels of the pollutant PM10 in the air in cities with populations above 14 million between 2010 and 2016.
Greater Cairo was the second most polluted large city. India?s other megacity of Mumbai ranked fourth on the list and Beijing fifth.
[Pollution] [China India comparison]
Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping set stage for deepening India-China ties at Wuhan summit
At Wuhan, Narendra Modi thanks Xi Jinping for meeting him twice outside the Chinese capital while Chinese president praises ?good momentum? in India-China ties.
Updated: Apr 27, 2018 23:53 IST
Hindustan Times, Wuhan
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands as they visit the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan.(Reuters via China Daily )
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said cooperation between India and China is essential to maintain peace and stability around the world and offered to host the next informal summit between leaders of the two Asian giants.
Modi said he hoped his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the central Chinese city of Wuhan would open a new chapter in bilateral relations. The leaders are meeting for two days of candid talks, mostly without aides, in an effort to reset a relationship that was hit by the military standoff in Doklam, at the India-China-Bhutan trijunction, nearly eight months ago.
Following a one-on-one meeting earlier in the day at Hubei provincial museum in Wuhan, Modi and Xi were joined by small delegations for further talks. The delegation-level talks were expected to last for 30 minutes. Instead, they went on for two hours, an indication that both sides were keen on detailed discussions before Modi and Xi engage in three one-on-one conversations on Saturday.
[India China] [Modi]
As China offers a model for developing countries to follow, India must position itself suitably
M. K. Narayanan
March 02, 2018 00:15 IST
Each succeeding week brings fresh evidence of how anarchic the international global order has become. Quite a few nations, including many of the newer ones, are seeking a new salience in the affairs of their region, aiming to establish their dominance. This is one cause for many of today?s turmoils.
The unfortunate aspect is that while there is greater clarity on the new challenges that nations face, the international system is unable to come up with sustainable solutions to deal with these multiple challenges. For instance, currently the U.S. is seen to be incapable of playing a balancing role in Asian affairs, and to have ceded ground to China. China appears unrivalled in Asia at present given its military might and economic power. The only opposition to China today comes from India.
India and China both adhere to a rules-based international order, but a wide gap separates their perceptions of what constitutes the international order. This has more than ordinary significance today even as global powers are beginning to shift their stance, and a ?balance of power? approach is no longer the norm. For Asia, this is proving to be a destabilising development, affecting peace in the region as the U.S. is no longer willing to take on responsibilities for peace.
Indian military scrambles to keep up after China moves to put forces in Africa
China and India are competing for regional supremacy in the Indian Ocean as they look establish a stronger military and economic presence in bordering countries.
In response to Beijing's overseas military base in Djibouti, New Delhi has sought to access facilities in the Seychelles, Oman and Singapore.
Commercial projects by Indian and Chinese firms may be deployed for defense use, experts warned.
Nyshka Chandran | @nyshkac
Competition between historical rivals China and India is spreading across the ocean.
From Tanzania to Sri Lanka, the two Asian heavyweights are trying to establish a stronger military and economic presence in countries along the Indian Ocean in a quest for regional supremacy.
China, the world's second biggest economy, is looking to build what some policy experts call a "string of pearls" ? a network of defense and commercial facilities ? around the massive area. Beijing in 2016 revealed plans to launch its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Numerous business projects by state-owned Chinese enterprises under President Xi Jinping's massive Belt and Road program, which includes a port in Tanzania, have reinforced its efforts.
New Delhi, unsettled by the thought of Beijing dominating its own backyard, is responding in kind.
[China confrontation] [Counterbalance]
China and India: Comparisons of Soft Power
January 29, 2018
2018: Vol. 17, No. 1
Review of Parama Sinha Palit, Analyzing China?s Soft Power Strategy and Comparative Indian Initiatives, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, SAGE, 2017.
Because India is situated at the very geographic center of the South Asia-Indian Ocean region, Indian civilizational influences have washed repeatedly over that vast region. Indian patriots are keenly aware of this history, and it is easy to assume that Indian influence in the region is somehow natural or inevitable. That may indeed be the case, but the breadth and vigor of China?s efforts to make itself and its policies attractive to the publics and governments of the region suggests that Indian soft power faces a new and very strong competitor.
Dr. Parama Sonha Palit?s book, Analyzing China?s Soft Power Strategy and Comparative Indian Initiatives, offers an interesting and solid study of an important but under-researched aspect of China?s rise in Asia: the scope and character of China?s exercise of soft power. After extracting from the secondary literature a working definition of soft power (the attractiveness of a country) and exploring the evolution of Chinese scholarly thinking about soft power with Chinese characteristics, Palit examines China?s pursuit of soft power in several geographic regions, starting with South Asia. The overarching purpose of China?s soft power activities in the region, Palit concludes, is to establish the image of China as a benign power. Palit turns to a survey of the various mechanisms China uses to advance this soft power goal. The list is long.
[Softpower] [China India]
Samsung Loses Top Spot in Indian Smartphone Market
By Park Keon-hyung
January 31, 2018 12:49
Samsung has ceded the top spot in India's burgeoning smartphone market to China's Xiaomi.
Samsung ruled supreme in India's smartphone market, scaled at more than 100 million phones a year, since 2011. But Chinese rivals aggressively expanded their presence in India, Southeast Asia and Europe and are now posing a direct threat.
Even as Samsung was battling it out with Apple in the premium market, Chinese rivals expanded their share of the affordable market, trapping Samsung awkwardly somewhere in between.
[China competition] [Smartphone]
Cutting Off Pakistan, U.S. Takes Gamble in Complex Afghan War
By Mujib Mashal and Salman Masood
Jan. 5, 2018
Afghan officials have pleaded with three American presidents to reconsider their support for Pakistan, which was both receiving billions of dollars in American aid and harboring the leaders of a Taliban insurgency that the United States has struggled to defeat.
But when President Trump suspended nearly all American security aid to Pakistan on Thursday for what he called the country?s ?lies and deceit,? any jubilation in the halls of power in Afghanistan ? and there was some ? was leavened with worry over how the move might affect a complex war that has pushed the Afghan government to the brink.
If there is one consensus among Afghan leaders and their American counterparts, it is that dealing with Pakistan is both vital and difficult.
[US Middle East Strategy] [Afghanistan] [Pakistan]
Piling on pressure over safe havens, U.S. suspends military aid to Pakistan
Supporters of Pakistani religious groups rally in Karachi on Jan. 2 to condemn President Trump?s comments about Pakistan. (Fareed Khan/AP)
By Missy Ryan, Annie Gowen and Carol Morello January 4 at 7:42 PM
The United States will suspend most of its security assistance to Pakistan, the State Department said Thursday, signaling the Trump administration?s intent to force the country to eliminate militant safe havens.
The announcement came just days after President Trump lashed out in his first tweet of the new year, saying Pakistan had repaid years of generous U.S. aid with ?nothing but lies & deceit,? a claim that Pakistani leaders labeled ?completely incomprehensible.?
Unveiling the new measure in a news briefing, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the suspension would remain in effect until Pakistan takes ?decisive action? against the Taliban and Haqqani network, militant groups blamed for stoking violence in Afghanistan and prolonging a conflict that has become America?s longest war.
?No partnership can survive a country?s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials,? Nauert said.
Officials acknowledged that the suspension, which follows a previous decision to freeze $255 million in military aid, will have a mostly symbolic effect in the near term. But it is certain to accelerate a downward trajectory in a fragile anti-terror allegiance forged after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
[Pakistan] [Alliance] [Incompetence] [Counter-productive]
?No more!? Trump tweets to Pakistan, accusing it of ?lies & deceit?
Pakistan?s foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif (shown here at a Dec. 26 metting in Beijing) promised to give a full accounting of how U.S. aid has been spent. (Pilipey/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)
By Shaiq Hussain and Annie Gowen January 1 at 4:19 PM
ISLAMABAD ? Pakistan?s defense minister responded angrily Monday to an early-morning tweet by President Trump that accused America?s once-close ally of ?lies & deceit,? countering that the United States had given Pakistan ?invective & mistrust? in return.
In his first tweet of the new year, Trump had said the United States had ?foolishly? given Pakistan $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, ?and they have given us nothing but lies & ?deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.?
Trump wrote further: ?They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!?
Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan hit back on ?Twitter, writing that Pakistan, as an ?anti-terror ally? of the United States, had given Washington land and air communication, military bases and intelligence cooperation that ?decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs? while America ?has given us nothing but invective& mistrust.?
[Trump] [Pakistan] [Incompetence]