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Strategic convergence sans robust economic engagement unsustainable

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the personal attention he has paid to foreign policy, lifted bilateral engagement to an entirely different level within a year of assuming office. There was international relief when he released the pause button that the engagement with the global community had been put into and injected the much-needed vigour that had somehow dissipated during UPA-II.

narendra-modi_505_051214102741However, the prime minister needs to urgently recognize that in a globalizing world, genuine engagement is measured principally in economic terms. India, in other words, needs to be perceived as being good for international business, especially at a time of global economic slowdown and fears of recession. If this were to happen, it would be Modi’s greatest foreign policy achievement. In the eyes of the international community, India would have finally and truly arrived.

Perhaps this is best understood in the context of India-Australia relations. For various historical reasons, starting from India’s advocacy of non-alignment, its perceived alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, its nuclear tests followed by the spate of attacks on Indian students, bilateral relations had been static and even, at times, antagonistic.

In recent years, especially after the 2009 incidents on Indian students, efforts to seek a closer engagement were largely one-sided with Canberra reaching out to an aloof Delhi. Modi’s visit to Australia last year genuinely got the people to believe that the moribund relationship was finally set to dramatically change for the better. Words like “strategic partnership” entered the lexicon and the joint statement issued by the two prime ministers was positive and exciting.

Some identified areas of cooperation, such as in the fields of defence, security and transnational crime were entirely government-led and government-administered. People would read and hear about such cooperation. They did not, however, directly participate either in the decision making process or its execution. Nevertheless, such cooperation sends out a powerful political signal that the heads of government are now committed to cutting across a gamut of sectors because they see a strategic convergence.

Where people get directly involved is with regard to people-to-people contact and more significantly, in trade and commerce. In neither of these, despite a prime ministerial endorsement, do we find any significant shift in mindsets, especially from the Indian side. Unless Modi personally intervenes, the spring of heightened hope will become the winter of lost opportunity.

Let me explain. At the end of this year, India was to hold, in Australia, as announced by Modi, the Make in India and Festival of Indian Culture. Six months into the year, the coordinating agency from the Indian side is yet to be decided upon, a calendar of events is yet to be drawn up and venues are yet to be booked. In countries like Australia, where world-class venues, such as the Sydney Opera House, are decided at least a year in advance, this is clearly unprofessional. When the image Modi is trying to project is that of a ‘will-do’ India – young, hungry, professional and competent – all we have succeeded is to demonstrate that we are none of these.

Consider again the strong message India could have sent with Modi’s flagship Make in India project, if we were to showcase examples of joint collaboration with Australian industry and other international partners in actually manufacturing in India. However, this requires planning and preparation.

Consider also how a major fillip could have been given to his related Skilling India flagship project. Australia has some exceptional vocational training institutes that could largely enhance skills in India. This could have been used as an ideal platform to begin a dialogue that engages both the Australian and the Indian public. If we get a buy-in to the Skilling India idea from the public, significant participation and thus, endorsement, could have followed.

Move now to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement [CECA] or the India-Australia FTA that is currently under negotiation. This truly would be an area of significant impact, in tangible terms, on India-Australia relations.

Less than a week ago, Australia and China entered into a historic FTA. Australia-China trade is already at $150 billion, whereas India-Australia trade is barely in double digits. Ch-AFTA, as it is referred to, is expected to unlock significant opportunities for both sides and further strengthen economic cooperation. It is anticipated that after the agreement takes effect, 85 percent of products from Australia would enter the Chinese market tariff-free.

Tourism is also expected to be a significant gainer through the FTA, with Australian service providers receiving guarantees that they can construct, renovate and operate wholly-Australian hotels and restaurants in China. This guaranteed access is also extended to travel agencies and tour operators and is expected to boost Australian tourism into China.

The India-Australia FTA will be bench-marked by the Australian business community vis-à-vis the FTA with Beijing. If we fall grossly short, this would infect the way in which we are perceived globally.

Our big handicap is that we continue to mollycoddle our industry through high tariffs to prevent market entry. Stiff opposition from the business community prevents us from flattening the playing field. It is time for the next generation of economic reforms that opens up the market and dismantles archaic legislation. Unless this happens, the Australia-India FTA would not realize its potential.

The manner in which India economically engages with the global community will determine whether the efforts the prime minister has made in the past one year on the foreign policy front would yield dividends. Strategic convergence without robust economic engagement is not sustainable. (IANS)

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Greet nation on Diwali

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Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation. VOA

New Delhi, October 19: President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday greeted the nation on Diwali.

Modi said: Deepawali ke pawan parv par sabhi deshvasio ko hardik shubhkamnaye #HappyDiwali to everyone! (On the auspicious occasion of Diwali, greetings to the nation).”

Rajnath Singh said: “Warm greetings and best wishes to you and your entire family on the auspicious occasion of Deepawali. Wishing you a Shubh and #HappyDeepawali.” (IANS)

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PM Modi is Optimistic about NDA’s Reforms to Boost Up Indian Economy

Lashing out at the critics, the Prime Minister elucidated about his government’s firm determination to boost up India’s economy. Admitting the economic plummet witnessed during the span of April-June, Modi declared that his government was devoted to back-pedal the mishaps due to the structural reforms of the economy. Let us look at what PM Modi said in his speech.

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Challenges to Modi Government
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

After facing severe criticisms over economic deceleration for a very long time, Modi finally broke his silence while addressing the Golden Jubilee Year Celebrations of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) in Delhi. Lashing out at the critics, the Prime Minister elucidated about his government’s firm determination to boost up Indian Economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization policy brought down the country’s GDP growth rate to a mere 6.1%. The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) added to the plight of already sick Indian economy.

Admitting the economic plummet witnessed during the span of April-June, Modi declared that his government was devoted to back-pedal the mishaps due to the structural reforms of the Indian economy. Let us look at what PM Modi said in his speech.

On Economic Reforms

PM Modi was very straightforward to acknowledge the economic slump caused. He assured that the BJP government was capable of reversing the trend and would take important decisions in that direction. Further, the Prime Minister informed that a cleanliness campaign has been started to remove the people who try to undermine the nation’s unity and integrity. Under this cleanliness campaign, a Special Investigation Team (STI) has started working ever since the Modi government came to power.

On Critics

Welcoming the constructive criticisms, Modi declared that his government is sensitive enough to accept the prevailing denigrations in the Indian economy and are rectifying their mistakes. The Prime Minister opined that people have the right to criticize the wrong, but one should restrain from fabricating an environment of panic in the country. Further, he added that his government has started working towards the “development of new India, new culture, new celebration, and new traditions.” Some people do not welcome the reforms even though they are good for the nation simply because they are anti-BJP. “People who sleep well only after spreading pessimism about government’s economic reforms need to be combated”, emphasized Modi.

Past Economic Deceleration

After achieving a whopping growth of 7.5% over the last three years, Modi acknowledged that the growth rates dropped sharply in April-June but the BJP government would not sit back until putting Indian economy on firm footing. While addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister recalled a time when Indian economy growth rate was as low as 0.2% under the previous government thereby emphasizing the fact that India can recover from the economic sluggishness.

Mainstreaming Informal Sector

Encouraging the movement from the informal sector to mainstream economy, PM Modi assured, “People coming to mainstream fear that their old records may be reopened. We will not let that happen because earlier their old way of business was necessitated by prevailing circumstances. Nothing is more sinful than blocking those who want to come to the mainstream. Let bygones be bygones.”

On Doklam

Many people opined that the BJP Government would not be able to handle the Doklam crisis. Describing the censurers as hypocrites, Modi elucidated that “when the economic growth is favorable, it is the same people who like the institutes and process; but the moment situation becomes unfavorable to them, they say that the system is not right, the process is not right, people working in it are not right and just accuse people.” The Prime Minister also held the view that before drawing any conclusion, it is imperative to identify these people at once.

On Transport System

Modi made a comparative study of the BJP government with the previous ones. He argued that in its last three years, the UPA government constructed National Highways spanning an area of 15,000km while the period under his government has witnessed the construction of more than 34,000km National Highways. As far as the construction sector is concerned, Modi claimed that the total number of foreign investment has increased by 75% from 2014-2017. The foreign direct investment in the air transport sector has also registered a growth by 69% in the past three years. Likewise, in the mining sector, there has been an increase by 56%.
The Prime Minister also told that the BJP government is trying to increase the speed of development while creating a large number of job opportunities. He added that the government knows the value of the hard-earned money and thus their policies are aimed at improving the lives of poor and middle class. Moreover, most of the government schemes are launched to empower the poor. What affects them the most is corruption and black money estimated Modi.

– Prepared by Mohima Haque of Newsgram
Twitter: mohimahaque26

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PM Narendra Modi: Don’t believe in vote bank politics, Nation comes first

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

Varanasi, Sep 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday, said that the BJP did not believe in vote bank politics as the country was above party politics. This is his second day of the visit to his parliamentary constituency in Varanasi.

Modi told a gathering that he had launched a major war against corruption and the corrupt to ease the life of the common man. He also said cleanliness was worship for him as it could rid the poor of various diseases and a lot of economic burdens.

“Governance for us is not about votes or winning elections. The priority is the development of the nation. For us, the country is bigger than party,” he said, in his address to farmers in Shahanshahpur on the outskirts of Varanasi.

He said most of the problems faced by the common people in India were rooted in corruption.

“I have launched a war against it and will take it further to ensure that graft is weeded out from the country.”(IANS)