Opinion – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com Connecting Regions of Asia. Fri, 09 Apr 2021 07:19:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7 https://theeasternlink.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cropped-external-link-symbol-32x32.png Opinion – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com 32 32 India’s Bangladesh Compulsion https://theeasternlink.com/indias-bangladesh-compulsion/ https://theeasternlink.com/indias-bangladesh-compulsion/#respond Fri, 09 Apr 2021 07:19:43 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10824

The violent protests orchestrated by Hifazat-e-Islam against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh visit that led to a dozen deaths in police firings, have driven home the rising surge of radical Islamist challenge faced by the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government. Modi’s visit was just an excuse to intensify the agitation for regime change because the […]

The post India’s Bangladesh Compulsion appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

The violent protests orchestrated by Hifazat-e-Islam against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh visit that led to a dozen deaths in police firings, have driven home the rising surge of radical Islamist challenge faced by the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government. Modi’s visit was just an excuse to intensify the agitation for regime change because the Hifazat has continuously raked up violent public protests since the Awami League returned to power two years ago.

First it was against the installation of statues of the country’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rehman on his birth centenary. Then the Hifazat encircled the French embassy and burnt President Emmanuel Macron’s effigies over his comments on Islam following the beheading of a schoolteacher who had shown caricatures of Prophet Mohammad to his students.

The street protests raged alongside a furious social media campaign against Indian vaccines by anti-India and anti-Awami League elements. This included a few western lobbyists, Bangladeshi civil society elements and activists from the country’s Islamist eco-system (that range from the opposition and rabidly pro-Pakistan BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami to Islamic radical groups like Hifazat-e-Islam and Khilafat-e-Majlis to underground jihadi terror groups like JMB and Ansarullah Bangla).

One line questioned the quality of India-made vaccines or ‘gomutra vaccine’ as some posted, while the other raised doubts if India will abide by its committed supply of vaccine doses to Bangladesh. When all that fell through after Pune-made vaccines landed in Dhaka and the Hasina government kick-started an ambitious vaccination programme entirely dependent on India-made jabs, the detractors spread rumours of adverse effects of the vaccine in India itself. Finally, it was left to Hifazat to launch massive protests when Modi landed in Dhaka as the guest of honour on the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence.

The Awami League and the government has hit back since then. The detention of a top Hifazat leader Mamunul Haque with a massage parlour girl from a resort in Narayanganj gave pro-government elements the chance to hit back on the social mediascape. Ayesha Zaman Shimu, a top leader of the Awami league has even challenged the Hifazat and the Islamist  clergy to come clean on widespread allegations of child abuse in madrassas (seminaries) controlled by them , while posting pictures of a maulana allegedly engaged in sex with a minor boy. The government has now called for bank account details of 54 Hifazat leaders to check on allegations of Pakistani funding for the radicals, amidst some evidence of ISI funding for the anti-Modi protests.

What helps the Islamist radical cause in Bangladesh and weakens the raison d’etre for secular politics, is the rise of Hindutva politics in India and the fever-pitch anti-Bangladesh tirade by even senior BJP politicians. While Modi talks of Mujibur Rahman as a ‘game-changer’ for South Asian politics when in Dhaka, his Home Minister Amit Shah berates Bangladeshi migrants as ‘termites.’ The anti-infiltration tirade by the BJP in the West Bengal and Assam elections and the drum-beating of ‘Muslim appeasement’ trigger an anti-Indian surge which the Islamist radicals take advantage of and which embarrasses India’s friends in the Awami League and other secular groups. Bangladeshis say illegal migration to India is a thing of the past, when the country was described as a ‘basket case’ by Kissinger. Now, half-a-million Indians work in Bangladesh and Bangladeshis make up for 23 per cent of India’s tourist arrivals, spending much more money in the country than cannabis-puffing Westerners.

Modi-Shah and Hindutva preachers need to come to terms with Bangladesh’s phenomenal economic growth which provides a huge development opportunity for India’s East and Northeast. India’s ‘Act East’ will not work unless Bangladesh plays ball as it continues to grow. Mamata Banerjee missed out on that opportunity of leveraging Bangladesh’s economic growth for some in her own state by playing domestic politics over the proposed Teesta water-sharing agreement. On the other hand, West Bengal became the extended sanctuary of Bangladesh’s Islamic radicals when they fled Hasina’s furious crackdown. Hasina kept pitching for determined Indian action against the Islamic radicals like she had done against them and against Northeastern ethnic insurgents.

Related news: In Bangladesh, PM Modi talks of trade, commerce and terrorism

The BJP which rules the country and is keen to rule Bengal must come to terms with the hollowness of its anti-infiltration rhetoric and pitch for tough anti-radical action and mutual development that the World Bank predicted in its recent report on connectivity. It said the national income of India and Bangladesh will grow by 8 to 10 per cent with greater connectivity and exports would grow by 200 to 300 per cent. Indira Gandhi, often seen as the liberator of Bangladesh, knew India’s Eastern Question could be effectively tackled only if we had a friendly Bengali nation on our eastern flank. The sooner the saffron realise this, the better for India.

(The writer, a veteran BBC and Reuters correspondent, worked as a senior editor in Dhaka-based bdnews24.com between 2013-2016)

Courtesy – https://thefederal.com/

The post India’s Bangladesh Compulsion appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/indias-bangladesh-compulsion/feed/ 0
Will The Myanmar Coup Disrupt BIMSTEC’s Resurrection? https://theeasternlink.com/will-the-myanmar-coup-disrupt-bimstecs-resurrection/ https://theeasternlink.com/will-the-myanmar-coup-disrupt-bimstecs-resurrection/#respond Wed, 31 Mar 2021 03:58:21 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10726

On April 1, Sri Lanka — the current chair of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand — will be hosting its 17th foreign ministers meeting to finalise details for the fifth BIMSTEC Summit to be held later this year. […]

The post Will The Myanmar Coup Disrupt BIMSTEC’s Resurrection? appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

On April 1, Sri Lanka — the current chair of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand — will be hosting its 17th foreign ministers meeting to finalise details for the fifth BIMSTEC Summit to be held later this year.

The BIMSTEC was formed under the June 1997 Bangkok Declaration with an aim of building regional cooperation among littoral states of the Bay of Bengal in six specific sectors: trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries. However, even when it regularly held various senior-level official meetings it had held only three summit meetings till 2014. Till September 2014, it did not even have a permanent secretariat; this was later set up in Dhaka. Even then it continued with meagre staff and funding to have any real impact.

Hyperactive Reincarnation

Its recent hyperactive reincarnation is attributed the South Asian Association for Region Cooperation (SAARC) becoming dysfunctional since its November 2016 summit was cancelled in the wake of India refusing to join it following the terror attacks at Pathankot and Uri. India is since seen as the force behind this regional drift from the SAARC to the BIMSTEC.

The fourth BIMSTEC summit in Nepal in August 2018 saw the Kathmandu Declaration expanding the group’s agenda to include cooperation in security and counter-terrorism, disaster management, connectivity, agriculture, poverty alleviation, science and technology, and culture.

That said, the military coup in Myanmar has seen BIMSTEC members falling shy of taking a clear position on this matter. With this, the organisation has hit upon a road block disrupting its progression and forward-looking strive.

Coup In Myanmar

Suddenly, the most important question facing the BIMTEC is how to deal with the Myanmar military leadership that has not just defied an overwhelming pro-National Democratic League mandate in the November elections, but also detained a popularly-elected leadership. Nominal sanctions and murmurs aside, Myanmar’s deeply-entrenched and well-resourced military remains unabated in its heavy-handedness towards nationwide protests. The death toll since the February 1 coup has crossed 420.

The heat of it has already been felt on host Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena has invited the wrath of social media with Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa urging his government to withdraw the invitation to the junta’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin. As Premadasa put it, Colombo’s invitation to him has “basically legitimised the military takeover”. Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage clarified the government’s position saying it was not for Sri Lanka but the BIMSTEC to expel any member, and that the Rajapaksa government has not taken any stance on the events in Myanmar.

Will the BIMSTEC ministerial meet debate the expulsion of Myanmar? Or will it ask individual member states to clarify their policy towards Myanmar’s junta? In hindsight, Myanmar’s military is more likely to dig in its heels and be gradually co-opted. The costs of such multilateral inaction will be way beyond simply underwhelming the BIMSTEC promoting liberal democratic agenda.

BIMSTEC over RCEP

On the positive side, even when the issue of the Myanmar military may linger on and dissipate over time, attempts to rekindle the positive spirit of the BIMSTEC will see its foreign ministers adopt their most ambitious $50 billion Master Plan for Transport Connectivity. This involves construction, expansion and modernisation of hundreds of projects to provide seamless connectivity around the Bay of Bengal.

This promises to bring enormous benefit for India’s Northeast, which has also witnessed a connectivity boom that could leapfrog into this larger regional grid and further strengthen India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.

Indeed, a hyperactive BIMSTEC has also triggered debates about expanding its membership to include new aspirant states such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. This is required if the BIMSTEC has to become a true cross-regional bridge.

Experts have even begun to see it as India’s alternative to not just the SAARC, but also to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). India not joining the world’s largest free trade area agreement has also pushed New Delhi into reinvigorating the BIMSTEC.Compared to raw deal India was offered in the China-led RCEP negotiations, the BIMSTEC promises to be far more mutually beneficial for India’s MSMEs, start-ups and technology transfers. The BIMSTEC promises to allow India to shape its eastwards regional engagements — without having to deal with China and Pakistan — to further strengthen its larger expanding engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.

Courtesy – Money Control

The post Will The Myanmar Coup Disrupt BIMSTEC’s Resurrection? appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/will-the-myanmar-coup-disrupt-bimstecs-resurrection/feed/ 0
Bangladesh Will Stay Secular https://theeasternlink.com/bangladesh-will-stay-secular/ https://theeasternlink.com/bangladesh-will-stay-secular/#respond Fri, 12 Mar 2021 06:53:37 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10546

With a spiritual commitment to Islam and a cultural affiliation to being Bangalee, Bangladesh is a nation where the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Founded on secular principles, Bangladesh has been heralded by the western world as an example of a model Muslim country, whose people have taken great pride in its unique syncretic […]

The post Bangladesh Will Stay Secular appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

With a spiritual commitment to Islam and a cultural affiliation to being Bangalee, Bangladesh is a nation where the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Founded on secular principles, Bangladesh has been heralded by the western world as an example of a model Muslim country, whose people have taken great pride in its unique syncretic nature. In fact, ethno-nationalism conflicting with Islamic religious nationalism was the very embodiment of the creation of Bangladesh.

Although there have been occasional drifts towards religious extremism, the secular character has never been threatened seriously. The original constitution was secular. But after Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975, successive governments chipped away the secular edifice. Secularism was removed from the constitution in 1977 by the 5th amendment of the constitution by Ziaur Rahman and Islam was declared as the state religion in 1988 by HM Ershad. However, the concept was reinstated when in its 2010 landmark decision the Supreme Court of Bangladesh scrapped the bulk of the 5th amendment which had allowed religion-based politics to flourish in Bangladesh. By making religion-based political activities a punishable offence, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court ensured that secularism remained the cornerstone of the constitution. The Election Commission of Bangladesh demanded the religion-based parties in the country to amend their charters as they conflicted with the supreme law of the land.

While there has been criticism for it retaining “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim” and the provision for Islam as the state religion, the fact is that the amended constitution has endeavoured to give non-Islamic people a sense of belonging by rephrasing the Islamic provisions of the constitution: second translation of “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim” was added that reads: “In the name of the Creator, the Merciful” . In place of the Article 2A that reads: “The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic”, the amended constitution reads: “The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions.”

While the Islamisation of certain section of Bangladeshi society has dominated the headlines, secularism as a sustainable common platform has always withstood these challenges. Bangladesh has a highly sophisticated civil society, a population that strongly believes in capitalism (and thinks highly of the United States – according to a 2014 poll, 76 percent viewed the US favourably) and a strong religio-cultural tradition grounded in a secular political platform.

The world’s third largest Muslim country marks a crucial departure with the trend amongst some other Muslim countries in South and Southeast Asia where an Islamist agenda has become more apparent or prominent. In the case of Bangladesh, not only has Islamist militancy failed to take root, but indeed the country’s secular state and civil society have retained its strength and resilience. Muslim nationalism, which was the basis for the establishment of Pakistan, tried to rear its head in Bangladesh during the turbulent years from 1999 to 2005. During this period Bangladesh was swept by a wave of Islamist militancy that triggered considerable media and academic concern that the country would fall prey to extremism. The Islamist extremism that it experienced during those years was largely the result of an ideology and tactics brought back to Bangladesh by returnees of the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Those returnees believed that the radical Islamist ideology they encountered (and imbibed) in Afghanistan could be transplanted to the Muslim community of Bangladesh. They tried to radicalise contemporary Bangladeshi society and politics, competing against Bangalee ethnicity, language, culture, and secularism (‘Bangalee nationalism’). This was a serious miscalculation. The relative ease by which the Bangladesh government’s anti-terrorism campaign crushed this outbreak of Islamist militancy demonstrated how seriously the militants had misunderstood Islam in the Bangladesh context, a context in which Islam is intimately interwoven with deeper traditions of tolerance and secularism in that culture.

Coinciding with the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, Bangladesh also witnessed an escalation of deadly attacks on secular activists. Throughout this period, members of Bangladesh’s vibrant civil society, including publishers, bloggers, and media personnel, continued to receive death threats. Like in other theatres, violence as a political tactic is used by Islamist parties and groups in Bangladesh to silence dissent. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami encouraged the forces responsible for the radicalisation, legitimising violence as a political tactic to silences critics and opponents. The new Islamic identity took hold in at least some segments of society, evident in the effectiveness of the Islamists casting Shahbagh protesters in 2013 as “atheists” and their agenda being “anti-Islam,” successfully conflating three concepts: secularism, atheism, and anti-Islamism. Islamists try to disperse a discourse in which the rallying call is that “Islam is under attack” or “secularism equals atheism equals anti-Islamism” and within this they try to delegitimise and dehumanise outspoken secularists. This discourse is completely distinct from the traditional understandings of Islam in Bangladesh and appeals to a very narrow audience.  Consequently, the vast majority of Bangladeshis are held hostage by a small number of domestic violent networks, some of whom have linked up to global dynamics of transnational Islamist activism.

The current administration has taken some serious measures against Islamist militant outfits, especially in response to the recent targeting of the blogger community. It has taken laudable measures in countering militancy and pushed for the War Crimes Tribunal where the defendants come from the Islamist ranks.

Bangladesh is a paradox that Pakistan failed to understand during the 24 years that the country formed its eastern wing. Bangladeshis from all sections of society fast during Ramadan but also celebrate Puja; they pray at the mosque and also sing Rabindra sangeet, seeing no contradiction between the two activities, and indeed, there need not be any. Addressing a function during her visit to the Durga Puja Mandap at Ramkrishna Mission in Dhaka in 2019, PM Sheikh Hasina said, “Bangladesh is a secular state and we all irrespective of religion, caste and creed are moving together along the same road. We all are celebrating festivals including religious ones together which is the best achievement for us.” This embodies the essentially secular spirit of Bangladesh as a nation. 

The Bangladesh Awami League government’s slogan, “Dhormo Jaar Jaar, Utshab Shobar (religion as per one’s own, but festivals common to all)”, portrays the nation’s secular face. The sentiment is being implemented on the ground, with Hindu community people taking the charge of security of Eidgahs during the Eid congregations and Muslim youths guarding the Puja Mandaps during prayers.

Pahela Baishakh, which marks the first day of the new year according to the Bengali calendar, is observed by Bangalees in Bangladesh irrespective of their religion. Celebrated across Bangladesh with splendor and revelry, the festivities on the occasion are an affirmation of Bangalee culture that transcends religion, and a fitting reply to radical Islamists and their designs.

Thus, in any political rhetoric and history, it can never be forgotten that the war in 1971 was formally articulated in terms of a struggle for a secular state based on the existence of a unified Bangalee cultural identity that superseded religious identity. A competitive democratic system of politics which accommodates aspects of secularism, language, Muslim identity and Islamic ethical–moral codes continue to be retained in the political discourse for forming and consolidating the country’s multi-racial, multi-religious national identity as a sovereign state.

The author is an international security studies analyst, and former consultant at National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) of India.

Courtesy – thedailystar.net

The post Bangladesh Will Stay Secular appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/bangladesh-will-stay-secular/feed/ 0
Covid Vaccine: Advantage, New Delhi https://theeasternlink.com/covid-vaccine-advantage-new-delhi/ https://theeasternlink.com/covid-vaccine-advantage-new-delhi/#respond Tue, 09 Mar 2021 05:32:00 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10487

When Cambodia, China’s closest ally in Southeast Asia, asked for Indian anti-Covid vaccines having received a free starter supply of one million Sinopharm doses, alarm bells rang in Beijing. In what has been seen as a battle for goodwill and influence, growing requests for Indian vaccines from nations as far off as Brazil and Cambodia […]

The post Covid Vaccine: Advantage, New Delhi appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

When Cambodia, China’s closest ally in Southeast Asia, asked for Indian anti-Covid vaccines having received a free starter supply of one million Sinopharm doses, alarm bells rang in Beijing. In what has been seen as a battle for goodwill and influence, growing requests for Indian vaccines from nations as far off as Brazil and Cambodia did indicate India is ahead of China on this score. Beijing’s discomfort was writ large when its media trouble-shooter, Global Times, went on to accuse India of meddling in Bangladesh to stop trials of the Sinopharm vaccine.

With two million free doses of the India-made AstraZeneca vaccine helping Bangladesh begin its ambitious vaccination programme and another thirty million doses purchased by its Beximco conglomerate to reach Dhaka in phases, China is clearly receding from Bangladesh’s public imagination. Even virulently anti-India BNP politicians, who had railed against India-made vaccines by doubting both supply commitments and efficacy, are lining up to take the jab. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, scotched the party’s pitch against Indian vaccines when he told a television channel, “there can be no politics over the vaccine”.

With Air India charter flights landing in neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Seychelles, Maldives and Myanmar, with free gift packs of India-made vaccines, diplomats are ecstatic over what one described as ‘our finest hour’. The unmistakable thrill in New Delhi over India’s lead role in fighting Covid-19 globally was evident in a tweet by the prime minister, Narendra Modi: “Fast development of vaccine and its launch [in India] is an important landmark in our joint endeavour for a healthy and disease free world.” Modi had earlier said that India will soon be the ‘pharmacy of the world’; this promises business and credibility that can boost the country’s economy and diplomacy. Unlike the Chinese vaccines which have faced uncomfortable questions over efficacy in trials in Brazil and Indonesia, the world is not questioning the effectiveness of the Indian vaccines but asking whether it can actually produce enough — and quickly enough — to meet the global demand.

China is seen as a rising superpower, capable of taking on the United States of America militarily and economically; India has been seen, at best, as a “swing state” (How to Run the World, Parag Khanna), capable of influencing the power balance in Asia. Most military analysts did not give India much of a chance against a modernizing Chinese military. But the Indian army has stood its ground against the Chinese in the icy Himalayan heights twice in less than four years, first at Doklam in 2017 and now in Ladakh. That the People’s Liberation Army finally agreed to pull back to April 2020 positions in eastern Ladakh sends out unmistakable signals to the rest of the world (especially in India’s neighbourhood) that the Indian army has come a long way from 1962 and is capable of giving the PLA a bloody nose like the one it suffered in Vietnam in 1979. That the PLA has not come out well in military confrontations since 1962 will not be missed in Asia where many countries look to India as a future net security provider against an assertive China. The northern army commander, Lieutenant-General Y.K. Joshi, had a point when he said that China has gained nothing and lost its face in the Ladakh stand-off. India is closing the gap in terms of equipment, infrastructure and training with the PLA at some speed. Its presence in Quad, along with its ever-expanding strategic alliance with the US, France and other democracies, is surely a stronger deterrent against China.

Stealing the thunder both in vaccine diplomacy and the Himalayan stand-off has left India in a far better position in the neighbourhood. In Myanmar, demonstrators marched with placards saying ‘Myanmar Coup, Made in China’, forcing the Chinese embassy to express apprehension over the military takeover. India’s pitch for ‘orderly democratic transition’ in Myanmar, without undermining the improved military relations that are so important in New Delhi’s fight against northeastern insurgencies, was about striking the right balance. Even Pakistan, China’s ‘taller than mountain’ friend, had joined seminars on Covid-19 strategy hosted by New Delhi, and some in that country are asking Imran Khan to seek Indian, and not Chinese, vaccines. None will doubt China’s deeper pockets and technological prowess, but Covid-19 has been a leveller of sorts, leaving Beijing in a quandary and New Delhi with an edge at least in South and Southeast Asia.

Courtesy – Telegraph

The post Covid Vaccine: Advantage, New Delhi appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/covid-vaccine-advantage-new-delhi/feed/ 0
How China Views India’s Strategic Ambitions? https://theeasternlink.com/how-china-views-indias-strategic-ambitions/ https://theeasternlink.com/how-china-views-indias-strategic-ambitions/#respond Sun, 14 Feb 2021 03:14:43 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10097

New Delhi: India has always seen itself as a regional power and has wanted to dominate the Indian Ocean Region — this is how Beijing perceives New Delhi’s strategic ambitions, according to a recently translated document on China’s military strategy. The US-based China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) translated a 2013 document, which is a doctrine of […]

The post How China Views India’s Strategic Ambitions? appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

New Delhi: India has always seen itself as a regional power and has wanted to dominate the Indian Ocean Region — this is how Beijing perceives New Delhi’s strategic ambitions, according to a recently translated document on China’s military strategy.

The US-based China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) translated a 2013 document, which is a doctrine of China’s Academy of Military Sciences.

The document traces the evolution of India’s strategic thought — as perceived by China — and gives a broad outline of the People’s Liberation Army’s military strategy. Of note is the fact that such documents are drawn up only once in about every 13 years.

In episode 682 of Cut The Clutter, ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta analyses the aspects of the document that talk about India, using it as a unique opportunity to look at India from the lens of its biggest adversary.

Evolution of India’s strategic thought

According to the document, China sees India’s strategic thought as having developed in multiple stages after Independence.

The first stage is ‘Limited Offensive Strategy’, between 1947 and 1960, occurring right after Independence, when India was a young, economically backward and militarily weaker nation.

According to the Chinese, India laid major emphasis on building its economy rather than defence. However, since Pakistan remained a threat, there was limited offence but increased deployment on the Western front, and movement to the northern frontiers along Tibet, which, from the Chinese perspective, is south of the McMahon line.

“Essentially, what that means is that India asserted control over new regions of Arunachal Pradesh, or what the Chinese call South Tibet. But I suspect this is also an oblique reference to the fact that it was in this period that India went up to Tawang and asserted control,” said Gupta. By 1958, according to the Chinese, India gained control over all contested areas near the India-China border.

Between 1960 and 70, the paper says India’s strategy focused on expansion on two fronts, especially after the 1962 war, when the country started building its military power. In 1964, it started a defence modernisation plan with the first defence five-year-plan, pegged at Rs 5,000 crore. The paper says this led to two things — it gave India greater strength for its operations in the West, and provided in-depth defence against China.

In the next two decades, between 1970 and the late 1980s, the paper notes, India’s objective was to maintain land and control the sea. According to it, India had contained Pakistan at this point and its focus shifted towards gaining control over the sea, particularly the northern part of the Indian Ocean. India started focusing on building its Navy to gain power in South Asia.

In the 90s, the focus shifted from regional offence to regional deterrence. By this time, the paper says, the traditional view of annihilatory war had changed. So, India tried to build influence in an entire region on the back of a strategy of regional deterrence, from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, from Iran in the West to Myanmar in the East.

By the 21st century, India’s economy boomed, making it stronger than its South Asian neighbours, and leading to its strategy evolving again. The paper also notes that India’s strategy became two-pronged — practising defensive deterrence against China and punitive deterrence with others.

Characteristics that define India’s strategic thought 

The Chinese paper notes that there are four inter-woven characteristics to India’s strategic thought. It says India has a strong geopolitical core since the nation believes it’s the heart of Asia, and its region of influence is South Asia. The paper also says Pakistan and China are India’s biggest obstacles in achieving its geopolitical goals.

Indo-centricism has been identified as another objective, one the Chinese think India has inherited from the British. India considers itself the heart of the continent, and regions at its peripheries, including Kashmir, Assam, Bangladesh, Sikkim and Bhutan, are its internal line of defence. The country also wants Tibet as a buffer zone with China. The paper says India relies on the Chanakyan philosophy, dealing with peripheral nations as rivals and regions that are far off as friends.

According to China, India wants to dominate South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, and rise as a first rate world power for which a strong but limited offensive is needed. The paper also says India has been ‘nibbling’ away at Chinese territory in the meantime.

“Chinese say this ‘nibbling’ has been done rather carefully, to turn defence into offence during war time,” Gupta said.

Finally, the paper says, India’s strategic thought emphasises deterrence in all directions. This analysis breaks India’s deterrence strategy into two distinct halves — ambition for dominance and ambition for deterrence.

“India knows that its military power is limited, so for the second one, India has reached out to countries like the US and Japan, and improved its relations to get more people into the tent… you can see that the Chinese scholars had foreseen the coming up of the Quad in 2013,” Gupta said.

The post How China Views India’s Strategic Ambitions? appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/how-china-views-indias-strategic-ambitions/feed/ 0
From BAM To RAM https://theeasternlink.com/from-bam-to-ram/ https://theeasternlink.com/from-bam-to-ram/#respond Sat, 06 Feb 2021 00:43:00 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=9999

Since the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Bengal when BJP won 18 seats and got over 40 per cent of the vote share, a whopping gain of 30 per cent from the 2016 assembly election, the shift of the Left support base, from 26.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent during the same period, explains […]

The post From BAM To RAM appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

Since the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Bengal when BJP won 18 seats and got over 40 per cent of the vote share, a whopping gain of 30 per cent from the 2016 assembly election, the shift of the Left support base, from 26.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent during the same period, explains the new political dynamics in the state. While the politically potent slogan “Agey Ram, Porey Bam” (First BJP, then Left) became the explainer, the anchor of the slogan and the intent behind the same became a matter of contentious debate.

The incumbent Trinamool blames it on the vitriolic anti-Mamata mentality of the CPM, which in their desperation to see the Trinamool defeated, aligned with the devil. To the Left, the slogan was a mischievous strategy employed by the BJP and other Hindutva affiliates to mislead the people and cash in on their genuine anti-Trinamool sentiment. But on the ground, a majority of the respondents who admitted shifting from the CPM to the BJP in 2019 offered a genealogy which reveals that none of these parties played an active part in coining the slogan.

They felt let down by the sheer inability of the state level Left leadership, a factor perceived intensely in the backdrop of the aggressive anti-Trinamool pitch Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah peddled. Thus, the sentiment of the majority of the Left voters and the BJP struck a chord. The result was visible in 2019. Interestingly, with the further consolidation of the anti-Trinamool sentiment, the Left, particularly the CPM, is standing on the inter-sectionality of having a positive perception among its erstwhile voters while being considered electorally irrelevant in the ensuing election. This puzzle of faring positive on perception but negative in terms of electoral relevancy signifies the uneven dialectics between the anti-Trinamool rhetoric of the CPM and the BJP.

Shorn of ground assertion, the Left leaders intensified their verbal attack against the Trinamool. Politically, this was a phase of everyday isolation for the Left support base. The entry of Modi and Shah with the same anti-incumbency pitch, albeit with a cultural twist, was both beautiful as well as frightening for them. It was in this state of dilemma that a pragmatic approach became the common sense for the majority of Left voters as they had two templates to choose from: the rational but complacent body language of the Left leadership and the decisive and aggressive posturing by the BJP’s top leadership.

Unambiguously, they got swayed by brand BJP and abandoned the Left, at least for the time being. The Left by its complacency contributed to constituting a conducive ambience for the popular reception of the BJP as a credible alternative to the incumbent. This led to the emergence of the BJP as a credible alternative to the incumbent despite their organisational weakness. Having lost the perception war to the BJP, the Left was further trapped into another dilemma. While they were on the same plane with the BJP as far as attacking the Trinamool on corruption and hooliganism was concerned, they had to align with Mamata Banerjee on ideological grounds. It was here the BJP scored a clear advantage.

A combination of issues like a series of low and high intensity communal incidents, NRC and CAA led to the Left and the Trinamool coming on the same horizon against the BJP. Normatively, the Left was making the right choices in all the instances, but politically it was facing further marginalisation. The people on the ground were privileging their experience over the ideology. The coming of the Left and the Trinamool together on many issues on an ideological ground led to the polarisation of the polity wherein the political fault lines got clearly demarcated between the incumbent and the BJP with the Left playing the second fiddle to the saffron party.

This state of in-betweenness further alienated its own support base. The ones who were at the receiving end of the Trinamool’s violence felt let down by their old party. Lastly, the BJP played its cards quite meticulously fearing an electoral backlash from a significant section of the electorate on NRC as the northern and eastern regions of the state is inhabited by the partition-affected refugees who have deep apprehension of the law. To placate the expected antagonism, the BJP hurried with the passing of the CAA and thereby assured its emerging support base, particularly the Namoshudra Dalits.

Unlike other partition refugees, the Namoshudras’ migration to India picked momentum in the 1980s when Bangladesh witnessed Islamisation under President Hussain Muhammad Irshad. Since then the community has been crossing the border and coming to India continuously. My interaction with the community members revealed an interesting dynamics. Shah’s remark on first the CAA and then the NRC has served its purpose among the community, which is willing to believe the BJP. Hence, if ground sentiment is the explainer, the BJP by the instrument of the CAA has emerged as the main votary of the refugee issue which the Left once championed.

Courtesy – https://www.newindianexpress.com/

The post From BAM To RAM appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/from-bam-to-ram/feed/ 0
Importance Of Shubman Gill https://theeasternlink.com/importance-of-shubman-gill/ https://theeasternlink.com/importance-of-shubman-gill/#respond Fri, 01 Jan 2021 05:30:00 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=9290

Is Shubman Gill for real? After his cameos in the Melbourne Test, I called clued-up cricketing friends for a reality check. Was he, in fact, the best desi prospect since Tendulkar? Or even, touch wood, the most highly finished debutant in whites since Sunil Gavaskar took guard at the Queen’s Park Oval half a century ago? Or […]

The post Importance Of Shubman Gill appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

Is Shubman Gill for real? After his cameos in the Melbourne Test, I called clued-up cricketing friends for a reality check. Was he, in fact, the best desi prospect since Tendulkar? Or even, touch wood, the most highly finished debutant in whites since Sunil Gavaskar took guard at the Queen’s Park Oval half a century ago? Or was I dreaming?

He had, after all, been dropped twice while making 45 in the first innings and the fluent 35 not out in the second could be put down to the confidence that chasing a small winning total brings. Even Joe Burns, the hapless Australian opener, looked the part while scoring a fifty in his second innings in Adelaide when Australia had set off in pursuit of a paltry 89. Had I been carried away by a pretty technique and perfect teeth?

I can report that the consensus is that Gill is the goods. There has been whispered excitement about him for a couple of years now, but it was constrained by the usual ‘can he keep this up at the highest level’ caveat that haunts all cricket prodigies. Starc, Cummings, Hazlewood and Lyon, as good an attack as any Australia has fielded this century, will testify that he can.

Gill is gasp-inducing for two reasons: the rate at which he scores runs and the style in which he scores them. Of the eighty runs he scored at Melbourne, sixty of them came off fifteen boundaries, eight fours in the first innings and seven in the second. By way of comparison, Ajinkya Rahane, batting as fluently as he has done in years, struck 12 boundaries while scoring nearly three times as many runs as Gill did in the first innings. The other batsmen managed ten boundaries between them. Gill’s strike rate for the match was nearly 80.

This is derived from two relatively small scores in one match but a little light digging into Gill’s first-class record will show that over forty innings, he has a strike rate just under 75 in the service of a batting average just under 70. This is rampaging on a Sehwagian scale, only conducted in such a well-bred way that it doesn’t feel like carnage.

Which brings us to the way Gill plays. Gill is to stroke-play what Pixar is to full motion, hyper-realist animation: his batting seems to happen at 48 frames a second instead of the customary 24. The preternatural smoothness of his stroke-production, the absence of hurried or spasmodic motion, the refusal of flourish, suggests to the spectator, a pared-back classicist with time to spare.

How he achieves these effects is not something that enthusiasts like us are likely to understand, but that impression of unhurried poise is what marked him out from the other 21 batsmen on view in Melbourne. This is not the only way to be a masterful batsman – Steve Smith has shown us, right through a great, maverick career, his zombie brand of twitch and spasm genius – but because it has an obvious relationship with orthodoxy, the uncanny grace and economy with which the classical prescriptions are performed, is immediately recognizable. It’s the cue for us, enthralled tamashbeen that we are, to go ‘wah!’

There was an upright backfoot force, played backward of point, off Hazlewood’s bowling that reminded some people of Tendulkar. Australians, inevitably, searched for and found an ancestor in Laxman. Gavaskar, who knows something about opening the batting, felt Gill should drop down to number five for the next Test because his technique suggested that he was a middle order batsman, not an opener. He probably had the precedent of Laxman in mind, who was made to open till he found his natural niche in the middle order.

Gavaskar, arguably the greatest Test batsman India has produced, has long maintained that an opener’s dharma is self-denial. The willingness to give the first hour to the bowler, to leave everything outside the off stump by default, defined Gavaskar’s batsmanship even though he played every shot in the book. He can see that Gill is not that kind of batsman. Gill’s default mode is to play every ball he faces. On at least four occasions that I can remember, he met short of a length balls outside his off stump with a diagonal bat, just to knock them down defensively. It was as if he was looking to cut or square drive off the back foot, then decided not to, but still wanted to feel bat on ball.

d to have the time to deftly tonk the ball into an unmanned space.

It’s worth making an obvious point: Gill scored these runs against fast bowlers who had flattened India for 36 in the previous match by moving the ball both ways at unplayable speeds. On the face of it, the ‘can he do his stuff in a Test match’ question has been answered. His second innings, which should find immortality on YouTube as the ultimate batting cameo, was played against Cummings, Hazlewood and Starc, ranked first, fifth and seventh, respectively, in ICC’s list of the best ten bowlers in the world currently.

In the course of scoring 35 at nearly a run a ball, his sequence of boundaries went like this: he cover-drove Cummings, then drove Starc through straight mid-off, forced him to square third man, guided him through slips, edged Cummings through the same area, pulled Hazlewood through mid-wicket and then drove Labuschagne through mid-on to finish up. In between times he produced defensive shots off the back foot to the fast men and played forward, bat welded to pad, to Lyon, with the composed solidity that is the stuff of coaching dreams. Wasim Jaffer has properly reproached pundits for reflexively comparing Gill to past immortals; they should be careful not to hail Gill as the new Tendulkar or Laxman, but it can be said with some confidence that he isn’t the new Graeme Hick.

Batting aside, Gill’s presence might signal a significant aesthetic shift. It’ll be a nice irony if the ascension of a clean-shaven Sikh ends the trend of Kohli-bearded clones. In the meanwhile, cricket’s spectators can look forward to the unlikely sight of a young Cary Grant walking out to open for India.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in Delhi. His most recent book is ‘Homeless on Google Earth’ (Permanent Black, 2013).

Courtesy – NDTV

The post Importance Of Shubman Gill appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/importance-of-shubman-gill/feed/ 0
Should Pawar Replace Sonia As UPA Boss? https://theeasternlink.com/should-pawar-replace-sonia-as-upa-boss/ https://theeasternlink.com/should-pawar-replace-sonia-as-upa-boss/#respond Sun, 13 Dec 2020 06:55:35 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=8876

An interesting debate has raised its head this week. According to media reports, the anti-BJP camp is debating whether Sonia Gandhi can be replaced by Sharad Pawar as the chairperson of the UPA. With equally interesting ease, the Shiv Sena, which is running the government in Maharashtra with Pawar’s party and the Congress too has […]

The post Should Pawar Replace Sonia As UPA Boss? appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

An interesting debate has raised its head this week. According to media reports, the anti-BJP camp is debating whether Sonia Gandhi can be replaced by Sharad Pawar as the chairperson of the UPA. With equally interesting ease, the Shiv Sena, which is running the government in Maharashtra with Pawar’s party and the Congress too has endorsed his candidature. Pawar has outright rejected the proposal, but the debate goes on.

There are three reasons why this debate is important.

One, Sonia Gandhi is ill, and should not be burdened with the extra pressure of running the UPA.

Two, even before her illness, she had lost her touch of keeping allies in good humour and leading a coalition.

Three, she is no longer decisive as she was known to be. Maybe she has slowed down due to age and illness, but the UPA definitely needs a more dynamic leader to prove itself as a coalition of opposition parties to keep the Modi government on its toes.

But is Sharad Pawar the answer? Three reasons can be cited for those who believe that’s correct.

One, the 80-year-old has the stature to lead the coalition. Apart from Parkash Singh Badal, he is the only leader who has vast experience, having run enough governments and done and seen enough politics to claim that space. If the Thackeray government is running smoothly today, credit should be given to Pawar – he was the architect of the coalition.

Two, like an old-fashioned politician, Pawar has friends in every party. He is the most networked politician in the country.  Even Modi has publicly called him his political guru (how much this is to be believed is another matter). He can pick up the phone and talk to any leader in the country and is on first-name basis with all of them. This is a huge thing in today’s polarised atmosphere.

Three, being based in Mumbai, he can get enough resources for politics, his friendship with big business houses is legendary. Today, the BJP has unimaginable resources to discredit and destroy opposition parties. I am aware that it is impossible to match the BJP on this front, but to put up a good fight, one needs sizeable resources, which Pawar can organize.

But counter-arguments can also be floated. Three equally strong reasons can be articulated for why he is not the right person to lead the coalition.

First, his eminence is unchallenged, but his credibility is suspect. Pawar has a history of deserting his party and leaders. In 1978, he backstabbed his mentor Vasant Dada Patil, broke the party and formed his government. He became the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He was only 38 then. Pawar finally rejoined the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi in the mid-80s, only to break it again in 1998 when he rebelled against Sonia Gandhi on the issue of her foreign origin. But in 2004, he was again happy to work with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh and became Agriculture Minister.

Second, ideologically, he is not very solid. Sharad Pawar, in true Machiavellian sense, believes in power politics. For the sake of power, he is willing to make any compromise. In 1978, he was happy to take the support of the Janata Party to become Chief Minister. And to keep his party strong in Maharashtra, he allied with the same Sonia Gandhi against whom he had rebelled, and accepted being the junior partner in the government in 1999.

Courtesy – NDTV

The post Should Pawar Replace Sonia As UPA Boss? appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/should-pawar-replace-sonia-as-upa-boss/feed/ 0
Loosing Hope On India ! https://theeasternlink.com/loosing-hope-on-india/ https://theeasternlink.com/loosing-hope-on-india/#respond Sun, 29 Nov 2020 06:29:03 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=8605

My generation of Indians has often been disappointed in our country, and we have sometimes despaired about the direction it was taking, but it’s been impossible for us to stop hoping. Our own past has trained us to see the silver lining. Opportunities we couldn’t imagine growing up in the 1970s and ’80s emerged from […]

The post Loosing Hope On India ! appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

My generation of Indians has often been disappointed in our country, and we have sometimes despaired about the direction it was taking, but it’s been impossible for us to stop hoping.

Our own past has trained us to see the silver lining.

Opportunities we couldn’t imagine growing up in the 1970s and ’80s emerged from nowhere and changed our lives, and many of us believe history will keep repeating, with the pain of the pandemic shocking the economy out of its pre-Covid inertia.

So it breaks my heart to have to suggest to today’s rising generation that this crisis is different than others we have weathered, that the walls are closing in again, and the opportunity set for India is shrinking, perhaps for a very long time. The national dream of emulating China’s rapid growth is receding – by some economic yardsticks, we can’t even keep up with Bangladesh.

A disturbing arbitrariness has crept into policymaking, institutions have decayed and the economy’s structural deficiencies have worsened. Animal spirits have been sucked out of all but a handful of firms. Zombie business groups are perched atop the debris of debt-fuelled expansion, waiting for politicians to signal what role they still have, if any. The defeatist slogan of self-reliance, which blighted our parents’ generation, is back. Politicians are using religious discord and caste conflicts to drive a wedge in the society.

To make matters worse, India has handled the coronavirus pandemic with the same inept authoritarianism that’s come to define its approach in all spheres, economic, political and social. With more than 9 million infections, India is the second-worst affected country after the United States. The economy slipped into an unprecedented recession last quarter.

The post-lockdown economy will simply not have enough demand to consume what can be produced. There’s some attempt to reform the supply side – labour and farm markets, in particular. But not much is being done to revive demand, either in the short or the long run. Some of us are wondering if this callousness will cause India’s demographic dividend – two out of three Indians are still in the magic age group of 15 to 64 years – to go unclaimed.

Yes, there’s time. If India stops turning inward and embraces an open, transparent partnership with global investors, hundreds of millions more would get a shot at prosperity. A stagnant world economy could tap a new source of future demand. The West might win a strong and reliable security partner in Asia. The ’90s optimism will renew itself. But if India remains stuck in a middle-income trap, people will soon stop asking if it could be the next China. My generation already has.

Stagnation

A previous generation of Indians also knew violent change. My parents went from being British subjects to citizens of an independent republic. They carried the trauma of partition and lived through four post-World War II armed conflicts, one with China, three with Pakistan.

They recoiled in horror when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – the child of the great democrat and freedom hero Jawaharlal Nehru – suspended democracy for two years in the mid-1970s.

Amid this turmoil, they underestimated the shadow on their lives of the mid-’60s economic crisis, when after a bad drought, India devalued the rupee by 37% because that was the World Bank’s condition for assistance.

The promised funds didn’t arrive in full. Indira Gandhi, too new to power to be in control, took a sharp pro-Moscow turn and rejected the capitalist path that South Korea, almost as poor as India back then, was choosing for itself. She raised tariffs, nationalized the banks, but failed to democratize credit. The government bloated up; small firms remained stunted.

The “developmental enthusiasm” of Nehru’s idealistic socialism gave way to political expediency and policy incoherence. The post-colonial dream of rapid industrialization faded. India remained agrarian and poor, led by a tiny English-educated urban elite. At the top of the order were bureaucrats with the power to say “no” to any expansion in the private sector. The economy’s speed limit was 3.5%, pejoratively described by scholars as the “Hindu rate of growth.”

To those of us whose families neither owned rural land nor had secure urban jobs, life was about making the most of a heavily state-subsidized education. Very few experienced upward mobility, and often only when the U.S. or U.K. embassy stamped their passports. The friends and family who came to see off the newly minted doctor or engineer at the airport went back to their unchanging lives.

Rebirth

All this ended when Manmohan Singh, the economist who became finance minister in 1991, devalued the currency to stanch the bleeding of foreign reserves, made the rupee convertible for trade, dismantled industrial licensing and began slashing import duties.

After the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, our politicians ran out of their anti-imperialist excuses. India engaged with a victorious West, my elder brother got a job in New Delhi with AT&T Corp., and he brought home a shiny red push-button telephone.

A hook-up from the state phone company still took years, so we borrowed the neighbour’s line. But there was no time to brood over what we lacked – or what our parents had lost to autarky and state planning. Somehow we knew that our shortages were ending, and our choices were expanding. India’s ruling elite had run out of options for self-preservation. It had to open the doors to a better life to more of us. There was work to do.

Fledgling software firms got down to it with the help of a colourful lobbyist. Dewang Mehta sported a luxuriant crop of hair – it was a wig – and went around selling a puffed-up story to global corporations that their computers were going to crash at midnight on the new millennium because of the Y2K bug. Outsourcing of code-writing, at a fraction of what it cost in the West, began in earnest. Jobs were created in telecom, media, technology, finance and newly denationalized aviation industries; the median home-buying age began to fall. Global carmakers came to India, inspired by the popularity of a small hatchback, the Maruti 800, made locally by Suzuki Motor Corp.

China’s example beckoned. After the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Beijing wouldn’t brook political freedoms, but the economic reforms begun by Deng Xiaoping were deemed irreversible and foreign investors were mostly welcomed. The economy took off. China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and grew at 10%-plus rates for 20 years.

It was never going to be easy for India to emulate its neighbour, whose single-party state struck a bargain with foreign investors, while discriminating against its own business class. Such stratagems weren’t possible in India’s noisy, federal democracy. Politicians couldn’t ignore local businesses that gave them money to fight elections. So India cleaned up the stock market and opened it to overseas investors. This made sense. Unlike China, which was saving more than half of its national income before the 2008 global financial crisis, India lacked the capital to sustain a liberalising economy through messy cycles of coalition politics, let alone to build the roads, power plants and other basics of missing infrastructure.

So we put our faith in institutions. Our heritage of English common law, independent courts and regulators held the promise of fairness and protection for all stakeholders, and we thought these would get stronger over time. The state, we hoped, would shrink as an economic player, and become a more robust referee. Governance would improve, endemic corruption would recede. The anonymity fostered by urbanization would smash the regressive caste system. We liked it when scholars such as Yasheng Huang, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, said that India could overtake China.

To me and many of my generation, Manmohan Singh was a saviour, someone who carried the scars of partition and had known poverty as a child. He was one of us. Our disillusionment with him was 20 years in the future.

Unfinished reforms

The 1990s reforms in India began with trade and investment liberalisation. Tougher “second generation” reforms in markets for land, labour, capital, energy and goods were to follow.

However, myriad interest groups captured the weak coalition governments that became a norm after 1996. Even as India’s openness grew, the larger project of boosting competitiveness kept getting shelved. Internal markets continued to malfunction.

An additional problem arose: Now that the government was retreating from being a producer, it had to give land, energy and commodity rights, wireless spectrum and other concessions to the private sector and procure – on behalf of the public – electricity, roads, ports, telecom services and jobs. The opportunities for corruption swelled, and a nexus of businesses, politicians and criminals coalesced to exploit them.

By 2004, the once-dominant Congress Party’s Manmohan Singh was prime minister, leading yet another ragtag coalition. He returned to power in 2009, but the triumph of his victory didn’t endure. With the world economy entering its post-2008 funk, India’s unreformed markets, political opportunism, fiscal profligacy and the private sector’s unregulated greed overwhelmed Singh’s second term.

Around 2010, I was heading up editorial operations for a business TV station in Mumbai. That’s when, surrounded by the nouveau riche (my toddler’s return gift from his host at a birthday party was an iPod), I began to notice cracks in the enterprising spirit of the ’90s. Peeking from those gaps was a business class seeking riches in private rents. Praful Patel, the then-aviation minister, gave me an interview at the newly modernized Delhi airport, which was going to replace the shambolic terminal that used to frustrate and embarrass us. The private consortium that had won the 60-year management contract wangled a passenger fee to cover a big part of the cost of the upgrade – after snagging the project. “This important condition should have been known upfront to all the bidders at the time of bidding,” the government’s auditor noted.

Public-private partnerships of all hues proved problematic. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous Indian state, made a special zone for alcohol distribution and gave it to an Armani suit-wearing businessman named Ponty Chadha, who on a November day in 2012, went to his farmhouse on the outskirts of New Delhi with his security detail. His brother arrived with his own henchmen. The two sides were there to sort out a property dispute. Before long, they were shooting at each other. Both brothers ended up dead.

The vulgarity of crony capitalism became a lightning rod for mass mobilization. An “India Against Corruption” movement fed a frenzy of disgust against crooked politicians and businessmen who were usurping farmers’ land, promising to create jobs and then not delivering. But most crucially, people’s anger was aimed at the Nehru/Gandhi dynasty. Even as Singh nominally ran the government, Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, the Italian-born Sonia, and her son Rahul wielded real power, as Singh’s former media adviser Sanjaya Baru claimed in “The Accidental Prime Minister.”

Scandals surfaced and metastasized. In 2012, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 telecom licenses. The government’s auditor said that the granting of those licenses had cost the country $23 billion. This debacle was soon dwarfed by what the auditor said was a $42 billion scam in allocating coal mines to private firms. Those were also scrapped.

Wounded and cornered, Singh’s government lashed out. It began to hound long-term investors like Vodafone Group Plc for outsized tax liabilities, charged retrospectively. It passed a law that made it prohibitively expensive for private businesses to acquire land. None of this helped politically. Singh’s failures, meanwhile, were helping to make Narendra Modi, a leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and chief minister of Gujarat, look good. Although his stint there had begun with huge Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002, Gujarat’s economy grew 10% annually through the first decade of the millennium, faster than the rest of the country.

As the 2014 general election approached, many voters thought that only muscular leadership could end India’s economic paralysis and social stasis. Even those of us who found Modi’s Hindu right-wing politics abhorrent thought his development record as an administrator had earned him a place in federal politics. In our impatience for growth, we ignored the warnings of scholars such as Indira Hirway that Modi’s capital-intensive “Gujarat model” was built on generous subsidies to businesses, and that the state was slipping in poverty reduction, human development and hunger removal. I wrote that Modi could be like Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a leader who would suppress his nationalist instincts, and use his popularity to drive hard economic reforms.

PM Modi’s “permanent revolution”

PM Modi came to power promising business-friendly policies and an end to “tax terror.” But when he tried to undo the previous government’s land acquisition law, the opposition attacked him for being anti-farmer. PM Modi had to drop the plan.

Vodafone’s troubles in India didn’t end. In fact, harassment by tax authorities intensified. “Sab chor hain,” Hindi for “Everyone’s a thief,” became the state’s informal motto for dealing with the private sector.

Then, in November 2016, PM Modi performed a high-voltage stunt: He outlawed 86% of the country’s cash, presumably to unearth illicit wealth. People queued up for days to return their worthless notes. New currency was in short supply. Small businesses in my hometown – a shoe-making hub – couldn’t pay workers. Women-run micro enterprises on the outskirts of Mumbai later told me that their going rate for weaving golden threads into a sari crashed to ₹ 4,000 from ₹ 7,000.

Ultimately, demonetisation was a fruitless exercise. Most of the outlawed money came back to banks, but the pain PM Modi inflicted on society helped launch his cult. As Arvind Subramanian, then PM Modi’s chief economic adviser, would argue later in a book, sacrifice, “as a necessary condition for achieving a larger, loftier objective,” resonated with the population because it harked backed to Mahatma Gandhi’s strategies during India’s freedom struggle. That elevation of PM Modi in the public consciousness was a turning point in the citizen-state relationship. Unquestioning devotion was in; critical examination was out. Gone was the pre-poll promise of “minimum government, maximum governance.” The dirigisme of the ’60s and ’70s was back. “We are now entering the politics of ‘permanent revolution’,” Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political scientist and commentator, presciently warned after PM Modi’s currency ban.

Since then, the government’s whimsical decision-making has intensified. Don’t like what a consumption survey shows? Suppress it. Getting flak for a slowing economy? Publish unbelievably rosy GDP data. Think Covid could get out of control? Impose a nationwide lockdown on four-hours notice.

“Sab chor hain” now defines most interactions. Homebuyers don’t trust builders to deliver homes; financiers don’t trust property developers to repay loans. The government doesn’t trust either the builder or the lender. Nobody trusts politicians, though PM Modi, like all strongmen leaders, can elicit any response he wants from the public. During the coronavirus lockdown he asked Indians to light candles, go on the terrace and bang utensils. They did, as told.

True, some bottlenecks have eased. After failing to double in size in the four decades before 1991, the national highway network has quadrupled since then. From less than 65,000 megawatts in 1990, power generation capacity has surged to almost 375,000 megawatts. Half of it is in the private sector. A further doubling by 2030, without setting up any more polluting coal-fired plants, is possible, thanks to investor interest in solar and wind power.

But therein lies a problem, a variation of the old resource crunch. A large section of the capitalists to whom a cash-strapped government outsourced roads, ports, airports, power stations and mobile towers is bankrupt.

( Courtesy: Bloomberg )

The post Loosing Hope On India ! appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/loosing-hope-on-india/feed/ 0
Bangladesh’S Turnaround Past India Shocks Giant Neighbour https://theeasternlink.com/bangladeshs-turnaround-past-india-shocks-giant-neighbour/ https://theeasternlink.com/bangladeshs-turnaround-past-india-shocks-giant-neighbour/#respond Tue, 20 Oct 2020 04:03:21 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=7474

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has now got to literally eat his words– his ‘termite’ remark on Bangladeshis nullified by harsh economic realities . As he battles Covid infection and plans out his party’s impending electoral battle for West Bengal and Assam next year, growth projections of India and Bangladesh is leaving his government headed […]

The post Bangladesh’S Turnaround Past India Shocks Giant Neighbour appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has now got to literally eat his words– his ‘termite’ remark on Bangladeshis nullified by harsh economic realities .

As he battles Covid infection and plans out his party’s impending electoral battle for West Bengal and Assam next year, growth projections of India and Bangladesh is leaving his government headed by his long-time boss PM Modi high and dry.

According to International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Economic Outlook (WEO), Bangladesh’s per capita GDP in dollar terms is expected to grow 4 per cent in 2020 to $1,888.

 India’s per capita GDP, on the other hand, is expected to decline 10.5 per cent to $1,877 – the lowest in the last four years.  The GDP figure for both countries is at current prices.

But Indian government sources claimed tbat in Purchasing Power Parity(PPP), India’s per capita GDP in 2020 is estimated by IMF at $6284 against Bangladesh’s $ 5139.

 ” The IMF data showing Bangladesh overtaking India in 2020 on per capita GDP is a temporary one and India will again overtake Bangladesh in 2021,” said Indian Finance Ministry joint secretary Chandan Heblikar. 

He said India was all set to post higher growth rates in dollar terms in 2021 , so Bangladesh overtaking India on this score is a short-lived phenomenon.

But Bangladesh’s achievement is no flash in the pan . Atul Thakur listed 15 areas in a graphic presentation ( attached) in Times of India’s Thursday edition where Bangladesh has surged ahead of India.

An editorial in the daily titled ” Look East India” asserted that Bangladesh’s gains are siginificant and durable. And apart from GDP per capita growth, the editorial flags Bangladesh’s population control success.

India’s economic downslide has long been flagged by leading economists like Jayati Ghose, Ajitava Raychoudhury, World Bank economist Kaushik Basu and Nobel laureates Amartya Sen and Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee.

They have persistently blamed the sharp drop in Indian economic growth to demonetization and then poor handling of Covid.

Industrialisatist Rajiv Bajaj have joined these five in rubbishing Modi’s late nation-wide lockdown , saying the Angela Merkel model of selective lockdowns depending on Covid intensity map may have been a better option.

 Actually, the IMF projections  makes India the third poorest country in South Asia, with only Pakistan and Nepal reporting lower per capita GDP, while Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives all positioned ahead of India.

The WEO database suggests that the Indian economy will be the worst hit from the pandemic in South Asia after Sri Lanka, whose per capita GDP is expected to shrink 4 per cent in the current calendar year.

In comparison, Nepal and Bhutan are expected to grow their economies this year, while the IMF has not divulged Pakistan’s data for 2020 and beyond.

IMF predicts a sharp economic recovery in India next year, which is likely to push per capita GDP ahead of Bangladesh in 2021 by a small margin. India’s per capita GDP in dollar terms is expected to grow 8.2 per cent in 2021, against an expected 5.4 per cent growth for Bangladesh. This will grow India’s per capita GDP to $2,030 next year, against Bangladesh’s $1,990.

Till five years ago, India’s per capita GDP was nearly 40 per cent higher than Bangladesh’s. In the last five years, Bangladesh’s per capita GDP has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 per cent, against 3.2 per cent growth reported by India during the period.

Amartya Sen and Kaushik Basu attribute this success to the Hasina government’s commitment to inclusive growth and a push for human development like in areas of health and education , which, in turn , pushes economic growth.

“The sole credit for this high annual growth goes to the Hasina government which has coordinated its economic growth and human development strategies as few countries in Asia has . Only Vietnam might better Bangladesh on this score, not anybody else in South Asia, surely not India or even China,” said economist Indraneel Bhowmik , who teaches in Tripura University and follows Bangladesh closely.

 The speed of growth has allowed Bangladesh to close the economy gap with its giant neighbour India . 

According to some Western economists, Bangladesh’s economic growth has been underpinned by its fast-growing export sector and a steady rise in rate of savings and investment in the country. In contrast, India’s exports have stagnated in recent years, while savings and investment have declined.

According to the WEO database, India’s economic contraction in 2020 will be its worst since the 1990-91 economic crisis when the per capita GDP had contracted 17.5 per cent in 1991. India’s GDP per capita in dollar terms had last contracted 1 per cent year-on-year in 2012 due to currency depreciation. In all, India’s per capita GDP in dollar terms contracted on eight occasions in 40 years, five of which occurred prior to 2000.

India first woke up to the fact that Bangladesh had overtaken it in GDP growth rate when the Asian Development Bank (ADB) updated its Asian Development Outlook (ADO) report in September 2019 – though this was clear from its earlier April 2019 report too.

What the update did was to revise Bangladesh’s GDP growth for 2019 upward from 8% to 8.1% and downward for that of India from 7.2% to 6.5%. Further, it retained Bangladesh’s growth forecast for 2020 at 8% but downgraded India’s from 7.3% to 7.2%.

The official data of both the countries, using their own fiscal calculations, however, show Bangladesh overtaking India in FY18, as shown in the following graph. That is because of differences in their calculations. Bangladesh’s ‘fiscal year’ calendar is from July 1 to June 30 but that of India is from April 1 to March 31. The ADB uses ‘financial year’ and counts fiscal years of both countries differently – for example, for it Bangladesh’s FY19 ended on 30 June 2019 but that of India will run till 31 March, 2020.

ADB’s report shows Bangladesh is growing richer at a faster rate than India. Its per capita GDP growth overtook India’s in 2017 when it clicked 6% growth compared to India’s 5.8%. It would continue to grow faster in 2020 too – at 6.6%, compared to India’s 5.9%.

Bangladesh is also catching up fast in income with its per capita GNI for 2017 reaching $1,470 against India’s $1,800. The same for some of the other Asian countries are: South Korea – $28,380; China- $8,690; Sri Lanka – $3,850 and Pakistan – $1,580.   As per the UNDP’s 2018 Human Development Indices and Indicators, its Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality (0 representing absolute equality and 100 absolute inequality) for the period of 2010 to 2017 was 32.4, against India’s 35.1. The same for other Asian countries are: South Korea – 31.6, China – 42.2, Sri Lanka – 39.8 and Pakistan -30.7.

It should, however, be kept in mind that Bangladesh is a much smaller country with a population of 161 million – against India’s 1,351 million – and a GDP size of $274 billion – against India’s $2.7 trillion – as per the World Bank data for 2018.

Prof Selim Raihan of the University of Dhaka lists four major drivers and a minor one: (a) exports of readymade garments (RMG) (b) inward remittances (c) sustained growth in agriculture (d) growth in microfinance and (e) public investment in big infrastructure projects. Other experts list ‘women empowerment’ as well.

A distinguishing feature of Bangladesh’s boom is strong growth in its manufacturing (industrialisation) and exports, unlike India’s but very much like Japan, China, South Korea and other Asian economies. A study by the ADB found Bangladesh to be among the Asian countries with the highest increase in their manufacturing share and output (GDP) growth during the 1970s-2010s, along with Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand. Its manufacturing has grown by a simple average of 10.2% during the past 14 years (FY06 to FY19). Analysis of data shows the services sector contributes most to the output in both Bangladesh and India while their agriculture is rapidly declining.

For the purpose of comparability, the construction’s share has been deducted from India’s services sector since it is a sub-sector of Bangladesh’s industry, not services.

As the graph makes it clear, Bangladesh’s manufacturing has taken off in a big way and contributes nearly a quarter to its GDP while in India’s case it is still less than a fifth. Consequently, Bangladesh’s manufacturing is also providing more jobs. Agriculture remains the top job provider but services are fast catching up in both the economies.

Garment sector leads the high manufacturing and export growth History talks of the dominance of Dhaka’s Jamdani muslin in world trade during the Mughal era, drawing in pots of gold and silver to the subcontinent from Europe. Since it required great skill, it was “costly and could be afforded by only the very rich”.

Now Bangladesh’s garments, both readymade and knitwear, are redefining its economy. Prof Raihan says Bangladesh has emerged as the second-largest exporter of garments after China and constitutes about 45% of its manufacturing GDP and 7% of total GDP. It is also the largest labour-intensive manufacturing sector employing 5 million people, 80% of whom are women, and the fastest-growing sector. It has contributed more than 80% to Bangladesh’s total export since FY13.

Export contributes a great deal to Bangladesh’s growth, contributing 14% to 20% to its national GDP. The sudden dip in export for FY19 is because the data is up to March 2019 while the fiscal year ends in June.

The country’s status as a Least Developed Country (LDC) in the UN list – set to graduate to ‘developing country’ in 2014 – has helped in availing zero-tariff preferences offered by advanced markets like the European Union, China and Canada (India too accords such benefits).

Prof Nisha Taneja of the ICRIER, India points at a few critical other factors: (a) success in upgrading its RMG sector in the global value chain through backward linkages (b) establishment of large scale firms and (c) flexible labour market and low wages. Contrasting the scene with India’s, she says though India too has developed strong backward linkages, its rigid labour laws and decades of restricting RMG production to small scale units inhibited growth of large scale units or achieve economy of scale. Economist Prof Kaushik Basu has attributed this boom to discarding of the Industrial Dispute Act (IDA) of 1947. Both India and Pakistan inherited it from the British but Pakistan’s military regime repealed it in 1958. This law, he says, has done more harm than good to India by restringing the ability of firms to contract workers and expand labour force.

Sustained agriculture growth

Another key to Bangladesh’s success is its incredible resilience in the face of decreasing arable land, population growth, flood, drought and salinity induced by climate change to improve its agricultural output. It is fast-moving to achieve self-sufficiency in food production – producing 41.3 million ton (MT) in FY18 against the target of 41.57 MT.

The agriculture sector has been grown at an impressive (simple average) rate of 3.5% in the past 14 years since FY06, with the fisheries growing the fastest (simple average of 6.3%), contributing 3.6% to its national GDP and 25% to the agriculture GDP. It is interesting that Bangladesh’s services have been contributing more than 50% to national GDP and about 40% to employment and yet finds only a passing mention in its Economic Review of 2019 – which runs into 15 chapters and 271 pages. The following graph highlights the top sub-sectors and their contributions to output.

Some experts on regional integration and connectivity like Prabir De of RIS, Delhi  and Subir Bhaumik of CRG, Calcutta  have strongly pitched for the integration of the economies of East and Northeastern Indian states with Bangladesh rather than “leave them at the tail-end of the Indian economy and state-system.” 

Bangladesh has emerged as the main driver of regional growth and its natural proximiity to East and Northeast India makes it incumbent on Delhi to allow its border states closely integrate in the economic sense with Bangladesh.

Prabir De argues for strong connectivity between East and Northeast India through Bangladesh , if India’s Act East thrust has to make sense. “Indian mainland has to first connect to the Northeast through Bangladesh if India looks East to Southeast Asia .  Bangladesh holds the key to India’s Look East , Delhi needs Dhaka more than the other way around. By all indications, Amit Shah’s insulting ‘termite’ remark has backfired humilatingly for India.

The post Bangladesh’S Turnaround Past India Shocks Giant Neighbour appeared first on The Eastern Link.

]]>
https://theeasternlink.com/bangladeshs-turnaround-past-india-shocks-giant-neighbour/feed/ 0