Sunday, July 29, 2012

South China Sea: Is India again playing upto its old script?

The bilateral relation between India and Indonesia, it goes without saying that New Delhi would like to see Indonesia emerge as a key economic player and a valued partner. India is definitely pinning hopes to emerge as a ‘valued investment destination’ in the region on its own and Indonesia can always a crucial role towards that endeavour.

It is said, the ties between Indonesia and India date back to the times of the Ramayana. Both the countries have shared civilisational relationship over the centuries and thus the healthier ties up can be for mutual interest in more ways than one.

This traditionally friendly relation obviously received a much needed boost with the just concluded visit of the Indonesian Minister to New Delhi.

The Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has rightly said on his part that since both the nations have become strategic partners in 2005, Indonesia has emerged as a key player for New Delhi in its pursuit of ‘Look East policy’ envisaged by the government of Dr Manmohan Singh.

In the words of Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, his country and India share very robust and positive relations. Well, it goes without saying that in this delicately placed region, Indonesia and India are not merely close friends but they are critically valued regional partners to each other as well.

During the crucial Joint Commission meeting, both sides reviewed the overall bilateral cooperation and also identified ‘specific areas’ in which both countries would be working together to take the relationship to the next high level.

In specific terms, both the countries inked agreements on avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Signed by both the ministers, the revised tax agreement would provide for effective exchange of information, including banking details and information that does not have any domestic tax interest.

On bilateral trades, the two countries have touched 20 billion US Dollars and have now set a higher target of 25 billion US dollars by 2015.

Indian investment in Indonesia has also started increasing as both the countries have intensified business deals in wide range of sectors including energy, oil and gas, coal, marine and fisheries, agriculture, science and technology, education, culture and defence.

Crucially, both sides are in league in evolving strategies for counterterrorism too.
“As large pluralistic democracies we have a stake in each other's progress and prosperity,” quote unquote S M Krishna rightly remarked at the joint media interaction reflecting the sincerity of purpose.

Both the leaders also held crucial talks on South China Sea in the backdrop of increasing Chinese influence in the region.

The South China Sea is at present at the centre of jurisdictional claims between China and five other southeast Asian nations.

The issue has snowballed into a major controversy in international diplomacy after ASEAN, Association of South East Asian Nations ministerial meeting in Cambodia had failed to issue a joint communiqué.

It has emerged as big and perhaps a very sensitive issue given the fact that it is for the first time that the regional body ASEAN in its 45 years of existence had failed to bring out a joint statement on any issue deliberated by it.

The South China Sea is a marginal sea as part of Pacific Ocean and the region’s importance is largely due to its huge oil and gas reserves. It assumed importance as probably the world’s principal shipping transiting take place through its waters.
Countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam are in conflicts with China over its jurisdictional controls.

During deliberations with his Indonesian counterpart, Krishna reiterated India’s established position that all parties should engage in discussions to resolve the issue while New Delhi also supported ‘freedom of navigation and access to resources’ in accordance with principles of international law.

On his part, the visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister described candidly the challenge of the South China Sea as a “fact of life”.

But sharing India’s sentiments, he said there is a diplomatic track to resolve the issue and referring to the ASEAN-China track, he also said that a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is being formulated.

Thus, we see, India is only playing to its script. India is playing safe, as usual, may be. But, too much of playing safe, a traditional trait of New Delhi's dilomatic operatives, most of the times mean stagnancy. Stagnancy is often compared to the phenomenon of temporary suicide. This theory applies to business communities, other streams of life by and large as much also in diplomatic ballgame. These challenges ought to be overcome. India needs to position its real intent clearly.

A few months back, Indian diplomatic handling on Syria was almost historical and even path-breaking.
It had voted in favour of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Syria.
The vote was understood in the international circle as endorsing the dominating western vision vis-à-vis the ‘humanitarian concerns’ though New Delhi made it clear
that it would reject any suggestion that pointed to regime change.

But having said these, one must note that the same Indian
establishment and the foreign policy engine room had kept aloof during the turbulent time with regard to countries like Libya.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pawar wants sacrifacial goat in Maha CM: Will Sonia oblige

Sharad Pawar is actually left with little choice. The provocation is from
Maharashtra as the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, a so called high command's
choice and paratrooped from Delhi, has been trying to needle NCP and more so
Ajit Pawar, NCP supremo's nephew.

The 'demotion' of the Maratha strongman and NCP supremo in the union cabinet ranking is just a good excuse that NCP has used. Both NCP cabinet members from the party Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Praful Patel sent in their resignations to the Prime Minister on July 19 night.

"Letters of resignations have been sent to the Prime Minister," top
party sources even as the Agriculture Minister declined to comment
on the episode.
Mr Pawar also declined to react to reports that the Prime Minister Dr
Manmohan Singh had tried to reach out to him to mollify him over the issue.

Now, by the weekend, bracing for the crucial meeting of the party's
core group on Monday, July 23, which would try to redefine the party's relations with UPA, the NCP hinted that the "settlement at this
juncture looks remote".

Besides the issue of lack of coordination, there is a feeling that the
NCP's ministers are being targeted in Maharashtra at the instance of the chief minister. A section of NCP leaders privately do not rule out working out some new combination in Maharashtra though party spokesman Prof D P Tripathi said that such
a step would be "suicidal".

Sources say that NCP leadership has come under "personal pressure"
from Mr Pawar's nephew Mr Ajit Pawar as he is much antagonized
with the Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr Prithviraj Chavan's order for a
'white paper' on irrigation. Mr Ajit Pawar was Irrigation Minister
from 2000 to 2009 and the portfolio is now held by the NCP's Mr Sunil
Tatkare. The allegation is that despite over Rs 70,000 crores being
spent on dams, only 0.1% of land was added to the area under irrigation during last 8-9 years. Another NCP bigwig, PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal is also facing
allegations of corruption in construction of Maharashtra Sadan in
Delhi. The NCP supremo is keen to buy peace with his nephew as he is considered a real inheritor of Pawar legacy though Sharad Pawar would like to ensure smoooth
position for his daughter Supriya too.
Moral of the story: Prithviraj Chavan can be made sacrifacial goat?
Sonia has to oblige...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Moily makes veiled attack on Salman, Chidambaram(Interview)

‘Cong leaders should talk responsibly’


Senior Congress leader and Union corporate affairs minister Mr M Veerappa Moily is known to speak his mind. These days, the minister is busy charting out a roadmap to ensure ethical functioning of the Indian corporate sector. Mr Moily shared with
NIRENDRA DEV his thoughts on the state of the Indian economy, the crisis in the Karnataka BJP and the perceived policy paralysis and governance deficit afflicting the Congress-led UPA government

Let us start with Karnataka, your home state. How do you perceive the recent change of guard?

It’s no change of guard. It’s just a case of surrender before the whims and fancies of one leader ~ BS Yeddyurappa. The BJP has revealed that it has the weakest leadership at the central level. It has also endorsed the politics of corruption and casteism. The infighting in the BJP has now come out in the open.

But as a Congressman, it should suit your party…

That is another chapter. But it does not suit the state of Karnataka. There is drought, people are suffering and there is governance deficit. Karnataka has never seen such a dark period in its history.

Coming to your phrase ‘governance deficit’, that’s how people describe what the UPA regime has to offer. There is a widespread perception that the Congress-led UPA II regime is gripped by policy paralysis and governance deficit.
That is not true. Ours has been a very focused approach towards inclusive growth catering to all sections of people and that addresses rural employment, health care, among other things. Such inclusive growth is not addressed in Western countries. In our case, for all important government policies in the past eight years, Congress president Sonia Gandhi personally gave specific directions, especially for flagship schemes such as MGNREGA other than the food security and RTI Acts. So where is the question of the Congress lacking in direction?

However, ever since the Anna Hazare movement was launched, the Congress and the government seem to have lost their way. What has really gone wrong with the Manmohan Singh government? Were the movements spearheaded by Mr Anna Hazare and Ramdev mishandled?

Firstly, let us not go back into the past. There is no truth in your statement that the Congress has lost its way. If you are referring to the Time magazine report, I should say, Dr Manmohan Singh has led the government and the country well all these years. The periodical has only deviated from objectivity as it got swayed by the malicious environment created by BJP and a section of civil society. Any objective analysis of the Indian economy would reflect that the country has registered an average GDP growth of around 7.7 per cent in the last 10 years. Indian share in global exports has doubled from 0.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent. Literacy rate has increased. The country has a burgeoning middle class and the people’s purchasing power has increased too.

What about the latest ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease syndrome in Congress affecting all from Mr Salman Khurshid to Mr P Chidamabaram?
This (foot-in-mouth) is not my phrase, but the Congress is not given to this culture. We are expected to be disciplined and remember that the party’s prestige and image is of utmost importance. Without taking any names, I should say leaders should appreciate that everything has some repercussions (for the party). Therefore, leaders should talk responsibly and always keep the party’s image in mind.

Are you disturbed by such a trend? How much of this ‘loose talk’ do you think had cost the party in the UP polls?

For UP election results, there were several factors. Yes, it was one of them.

After the Prime Minister took over the finance portfolio, some of his steps such as review of taxation norms give the impression that there might have been a disconnect between Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Pranab Mukherjee. Your opinion.

There is no disconnect. Any new finance minister will have his own roadmap. There is nothing wrong in it. You must also remember that in 1991, it was Dr Singh who had revived the Indian economy.

But what about the talk of policy paralysis? Dr Singh is the captain of the ship.

I agree. But there is no policy paralysis. Everyone is making a big fuss about the 6.5 per cent GDP rate. You all are missing the point that the fundamentals of our economy are very strong today. I think, it is more about perception paralysis. We have weathered a global crisis more than once. We have shown our resilience. Even in personal life, one cannot be cheerful always. A dull period comes… that does not mean the same cheerfulness will not return. Similarly, it will be erroneous to believe the Indian economy will not revive. The Prime Minister has already talked about taking important steps.

How do you think the economy can be rebooted? What should the government do in the remaining two years of its term?

We do not need any drastic policy changes. Things are on track. There may be need for some corrective steps… perhaps the Reserve Bank of India could think about reducing the interest rate.

Are you all pushing for that?

Well, RBI should go by the sentiments of bankers on this. As the corporate minister, I understand their pulse... the bankers are willing or are ready for a reduced rate of interest. Moreover, we need to improve the inflow of foreign investments. Look at big players like Vodafone. The General Anti-Avoidance Rules was formulated with honest intentions. But lobbyists launched a campaign suggesting the investment climate in India is not favourable. The Prime Minister has already spoken about these things.

Coming back to party politics, how much do you think can the Congress depend on the Rahul Gandhi factor?

The Congress has displayed a very strong and focused leadership under Sonia Gandhi. We have been pursuing party principles and manifesto sincerely. RTI is today a strong weapon in the hands of the citizens to ensure transparency in government functioning. Rahul Gandhi has increased Congress acceptability among the younger generation. The results will be seen in the long term. Rahul will emerge a stronger leader in 2014 like an Amazonian force and there will be no one from the Opposition parties to match him.

(The Statesman, July 14, 2012)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Failure of Manmohan regime: Are We, the people, to be blamed

I cannot agree more with my good friend, Binu, a journo and an expert commodity watcher, that: In early 2000, the big hope of India becoming a great nation with intelligent people with extraordinarily skills are shattered. A decade later, I see this country as a nation of a certain unscrupulous elements out to loot whatever ....

My response: has been

To a large extent people voted themselves into this by voting in so called UPA: Unscrupulously Pathetic Alliance in 2004
--- this happens when a country of 120 crore leave their fate on an Italian lady!

Checklist: in 2004 u had Shivraj Patil as Home minister, Lalu as rail minister, and above all PM with a golden silence and 'mmeenu ki approach' and of course Sonia with her little knowledge and commitment....only for her son, Rahul -- who ultimately stands exposed in UP and at the same time lacked the vital will-power!!

Initial few years/months since UPA took over power in 2004 went along okay for India, probably as an impact of some good works and the foundations laid by the NDA government. In 2004 and aftermath, I too strongly believed that 'India Shining' was a misnomer, but in circa 2012, who can dispute that THINGS WERE MUCH BETTER IN 2002, 2003, 2004 AND THIS DESPITE GUJARAT'S RIOTS.
NOW, the moment u say these: u r labelled :: Nagpur-walla.... I am not.

But, today, any honest analysis would suggest that things have not turned the way it appeared when Vajpayee government was voted out. If Gujarat riots of 2002 was a tragedy, the bigger national tragedy was Indian voters punished Vajpayee regime for the foly of Modi regime. And today, if we want BJP reviving, the hopes are ironically pinned on Narendra Modi only notwithstanding skirmishes from Nitish kumar.

On development front, Modi has also set the pace for inclusive growth, something cherished and given a lip-service in most cases. There is no denying that at the national level too, despite having someone like Dr Manmohan Singh at the helm, too much of growth has been concentrated in a narrow part of the economy – IT, BPO and some urban-based sectors. But in Modi’s Gujarat, there have been actions of the ground for generating mass employment with focused approach for expansion in manufacturing. The Gujarat government, despite its lapses, has also taken steps for high-value agriculture and food processing.

Gujarat today is a manufacturing hub especially as an emerging leader in auto sector.

Therefore, what can be the measure of Modi’s success rate on the developmental front?
He has put the subject of rebalancing the growth chart on the agenda. The question in Gujarat and in those minds interested in Gujarat affairs is now whether his developmental saga has to be checked or reversed. On the contrary, the clamour is for taking these to the newer heights.

Like his critics and admirers admit, Modi functions like a modern day CEO laying emphasis on the outcome and often allegedly putting the rules and normal norms into backburner. If his government helped Ratan Tata in 2008, it did come to the help other corporate players as well from Bambardier to Maruti. Such delivery level is appreciated but skeptics also wonder whether all procedures are being followed or reduced to a mere whimsical clearance by the chief minister just because it would go well with his image building exercises. A good-governance should also have proper checks and balances; and these are not happening.

So there are already talks about the cost of making things hassle free for big businessmen. But, first hand accounts say even small-time entrepreneurs are benefiting by the overall atmosphere. The state government officials deny that there is any special treatment for anyone and that a clear policy driven approach make things move. Many things and essential works are done in advance through IT facilities and thus when entrepreneurs or business houses come to the government for final clearance, things move fast.

Industry players like Adi Godrej and Ratan Tata have time and again said that single party government and a decisive chief minister also contribute their part in pushing matters, unlike in a state like Maharashtra wherein the pulls from coalition partners like NCP and Congress often end up creating hassles.

Even in single-party Congress-ruled Haryana and Andhra Pradesh, these are lacking because the fear of high command, some sacred cows in Delhi often prevent things moving. Industrialists admit that the cross purposes the government and the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC or even Rahul Gandhi himself function often add to the administrative and business delivery woes even at the government of India level.

Moreover, some point out that Congress has union ministers like Jairam Ramesh, who as in-charge of environment ministry, often blocked projects deciding by the tour programme of his ‘real boss’ – Rahul Gandhi. In Gujarat, to the contrary, Modi has put even his party into the second fiddle and other onetime influential forces like VHP and Praveen Togadia have been forced vanished from the scene.