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from Expert Zone:

India’s decade of decay

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author's own)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been in office since 2004, recently held what was only the second press conference of his current five-year term, which is rapidly approaching an inglorious end. Betraying his yearning for approval, Singh told the assembled journalists that he hoped that history would judge his tenure more kindly than his political adversaries do.

That outcome seems unlikely, at best. On the contrary, Singh’s once-great Congress party is now at a political impasse, from which it can escape only if it frees itself from its destructive dynastic leadership. After more than a half-century in government - much of India’s modern life as an independent country - the era of Congress dominance appears to be over.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the party's decline occurred in December, when it suffered crushing defeats in four key state-assembly elections. In Rajasthan, Congress won only 21 seats, while India’s second-largest political force, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won 162. This represents a massive shift from the 2008 election, when Congress gained 96 seats, compared to the BJP’s 78.

from Expert Zone:

India Markets Weekahead: Driven by hope in an election-led rally

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The New Year was ushered in with a steep and sudden correction in the broader indexes, with the Nifty closing 1.63 percent lower at 6,211. However, the mid-cap and small-cap indexes outperformed.

Though the holiday mood was evident, it was a politically charged week. The newly installed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi won a confidence motion with the support of the Congress. They subsequently announced power subsidies after granting water sops last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a rare press conference, the third in 10 years, announcing his intent of handing over the baton to a new prime minister.

from India Insight:

Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh slip in Forbes’ most powerful list

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India's top politicians Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have fallen out of the top 20 in Forbes' annual list of the world's most powerful people.

Gandhi, leader of India's Congress party, was No. 21 on the 2013 list, down from 12 last year. Prime Minister Singh took the 28th spot in the list, also losing nine spots since 2012.

from Expert Zone:

Time to brace yourself for a hard landing

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In his speech to parliament last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "The depreciation of the rupee and rise in dollar prices of petroleum products will no doubt lead to some further upward pressure on prices. The Reserve Bank of India will therefore continue to focus on bringing down inflation."

By saying this, the economist in Singh seems to have won against the politician. This has also been a vindication of sorts for outgoing RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao.

from Expert Zone:

India Markets Weekahead: Cash is king

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Around mid-week, the Indian markets seemed akin to a sinking ship which saw unabated selling with Nifty hitting a low of 5,168 on Wednesday, before recovering sharply to close the week at 5,471 on the hopes of concrete action by the government to shore up the sentiments and the Reserve Bank of India’s moves to save the rupee.

The street expected structural reforms from the government to tackle this crisis whereas the textbook solutions of the RBI and the government backfired. The rupee cracked to touch 69/dollar, but recovered to close the week at 66.55.

from Expert Zone:

Chinese general warns India even as Antony visits Beijing

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

India’s Defence Minister A. K. Antony is in Beijing on an official visit and a provocative curtain-raiser was provided by a retired major general of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who cautioned India not to “provoke new problems and increase military deployments at the border area and stir up new trouble.”

Predictably, this statement by Major General Luo Yuan, who is associated with the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, hit the headlines in both countries. Luo is no stranger to such controversy and has in the past made shrill and hostile remarks to local media and in Chinese cyberspace about Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. One assertion - since denied - was that China should bomb Tokyo if Japan stepped out of line in relation to the long-standing island dispute between the two East Asian neighbours.

from Expert Zone:

Budget 2013: A chance to leave ‘policy paralysis’ behind

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not those of Reuters)

In India, the government continues to both talk a good game and walk a decent game, having apparently learnt its lesson after a prolonged period of policy paralysis, before gaining a fresh lease of life with last summer's economic reforms.

This year also, the government of Manmohan Singh has been unusually active ahead of the budget, scheduled for Feb. 28. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has just completed a global road show.

from India Insight:

Narendra Modi follows his roadmap to Delhi

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The Narendra Modi charm offensive showed up in full force in India's capital on Wednesday. Modi, the main opposition party's likely prime ministerial candidate gave a speech on progress and development at one of Delhi's premier colleges, the youthful audience greeted the 62-year-old politician with gusto, news outlets called his speech a "roadmap for India," protesters showed up en masse and Twitter went bananas.

If not a direct declaration of grand political ambition, the nearly one-hour speech at the Shri Ram College of Commerce sounded like a pitch for a national role: here was the chief minister of Gujarat talking about development to more than a thousand students in New Delhi, staying away from the usual and divisive political overtones, repeatedly referring to the youth of the country (future voters), and outlining his vision for India.

from India Insight:

Window closing on Prime Minister Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

It is eerily quiet on the fenced border between India and Pakistan in the southern plains of Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are planting paddy, you can hear the sound of traffic in the distance from both sides of the border, and sometimes the squeals of children. Overhead in high watchtowers that can be seen from a mile, soldiers peer through binoculars at the enemy across while in the rear just behind the electrified fence with its array of Israeli-supplied sensors, soldiers are strung out in a line of bunkers. It's a cold peace on one of the world's most militarised frontiers.

from India Insight:

A user’s guide to India’s cabinet reshuffle

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(Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.)

In what is most likely the last cabinet reshuffle for the UPA-II government  before the 2014 general elections, 22 ministers were sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday.

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