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By Amit Dasgupta
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started his second year with a reasonably positive track record. He, however, faces four clear challenges that he needs to urgently address if he aspires for a second term.
First, the biggest challenge he faces is with regard to the aspirations and expectations of domestic constituencies, business and industry – and from the international community. This is unprecedented in terms of both scale and speed. UPA 2 had regrettably earned the tab of ‘stand-still governance’. Both within India and abroad, there was clear frustration at the manner in which UPA-2 demonstrated utter disregard for India’s future.
When Modi spoke of better days, it was hugely appealing to a population that had only seen the Indian economy slide for five years. In the biography of individuals, five years can be an interminably long period.
Consequently, expectations in terms of what better days meant were considerable in terms of both scale and speed. Five years of inactivity had made people impatient. They needed to catch up on lost time. This was fast-forward aspiration. The demand was to cut red tape, create a forward looking budget and to put in place incentives that would spur economic activity and create jobs. But more importantly, the demand truly was to get all of this done overnight.
As the past one year has demonstrated, this is a Herculean task and constitutes a significant challenge for the Prime Minister and his cabinet.
If the second year of his governance does not show a positive turnaround, the Opposition and the international community would, most certainly, dub him as being high on intentions and low on delivery. He is confronted with a genuinely serious challenge.
The second challenge is with regard to the bureaucracy and this is, to a considerable extent, a consequence of his personal style of functioning. Known to be a person who makes up his own mind, he has so far only succeeded in springing surprises on the bureaucracy and clearly leaving them out of the loop when he makes public announcements. While this might win him applause from crowds in Madison Garden and the Sydney Olympic Stadium that he appeared to revel in, it does not necessarily translate into approvals.
The yardstick of good governance is verifiable translation of promises. Today, there appears to be – at least in terms of perceptions – a serious shortfall between promises and delivery.
Consider, similarly, the strong manner in which the government has made its intentions clear with regard to zero-tolerance towards corruption. With the repeated allegations of corruption during the previous regime, this anti-corruption move has been largely welcomed. However, corruption cases, as we all know, are difficult to prove and where, indeed, traps have successfully ensnared officials and others, these are few and far to have any significant impact in curtailing prevalent levels of corruption. Focus on Swiss bank accounts, while important, ignores how deeply corruption has become an integral part of our everyday biography.
The third challenge is from his cabinet and party colleagues. At one level, clearly irresponsible statements by many of his party members have been a cause of serious concern because of the manner in which they have been perceived as imposing a Hindutva agenda and challenging the secular fabric of India. The Prime Minister has chosen to keep silent on every occasion and opted for an alternative course where he has, through his own public statements and personal meetings, sought to assuage fears among minority communities. While this is good, it is not good enough because it does not unambiguously demonstrate clarity on how the Prime Minister himself thinks.
More serious is the manner in which chest-thumping took place after the Special Forces’ action in Myanmar, especially because words of bravado and public boasting, including threats to neighbouring countries, were made by those who were clearly not directly in the know of the things. The army, the NSA and the Prime Minister’s Office did precisely what they needed to do: they did not comment or issue long-winded statements. Every country that has carried out such operations issues a bland statement: ‘An operation was carried out successfully by the Special Forces, which suffered no casualties.’ The media and others are then left to draw their own conclusions. Bizarrely, however, this became a media circus with wild statements and hypothetical threats. Modi needs to recognize that his cabinet colleagues lack maturity and understanding. Unless he is able to curb their enthusiasm for making press statements, his own credibility is likely to be seriously undermined.
Modi has given sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he possesses all the tools to be a master tactician and strategist. But as Capablanca, the great chess genius advised, ‘Play chess backwards; start from the endgame.’ Strategies and tactics or ‘the how’ works only when you first have clarity on ‘the why’ and ‘the what’.
After a year of governance, sadly, the Prime Minister appears to have been so fascinated by his own style that he has mistaken it for content. This is his fourth challenge and one which is self-imposed. (IANS)
NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.