India Insight

Rupee spoils holidays abroad for Indians, but not for all

With the rupee hovering near a record low, Indian tourists would be tempted to give foreign shores a miss this year. But staying home is not an option for Harsh Chadha, a multinational executive just back from a three-week family vacation in the UK.

Chadha, 35, is part of India’s growing elite, whose trips abroad are not affected by the vagaries of the currency market.

“[If I’m planning] a trip to a place like London [and] already spending enough money … a 10-15 percent increase in the dollar will not be pinching me a lot,” says Chadha, an IT director who bought pounds for 92 rupees ($1.5) each before going on vacation.

The Indian rupee has fallen around 10 percent since March and reached a low of 61 to the dollar in June, hurt by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s plans to taper stimulus measures and India’s ballooning import bill.

And it’s not just the dollar. The rupee hit 93 to the pound, compared to about 80 in March, while the euro jumped to 78 rupees from 70 in recent months.

from Anooja Debnath:

In India, what goes up must keep going up

With a faltering economy, political gridlock, high interest rates, delayed monsoons and an epic power outage that has plunged half its 1.2 billion population into darkness, optimism is a sparse commodity in India.

Just not when it comes to rising house prices.

'What goes up a lot must keep going up' was the conclusion from the very first Reuters Indian housing market poll this week. And it sounded very familiar.

Past experience shows that respondents to housing market polls - whether they be independent analysts, mortgage brokers, chartered surveyors - tend to cling to an optimistic tone even as trouble clearly brews below the surface.

from Breakingviews:

India’s power vacuum needs to be filled

By Jeff Glekin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Perhaps Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi got trapped in the Delhi metro yesterday. If the two leading Indian politicians were indeed victims of the world’s largest electricity blackout ever, they would at least have an excuse for their lack of public response to this clear sign of policy failure. Actually, there was a response, but it was not what might be expected. The power minister was promoted to Home Minister and replaced with a part time substitute.

The promotion was not really a reward for failure; it was part of a planned reshuffle prompted by the move of Pranab Mukherjee from finance minister to the ceremonial role of President. Mukherjee’s tenure in the finance ministry was basically disastrous. He overturned the Supreme Court’s tax ruling in the Vodafone case and tried to retrospectively tax foreign investors. And he appears to have pursued these policies without consulting Singh, the prime minister.

from The Human Impact:

Climate change means doing Asian development differently

In the face of climate change, is it time to re-examine the way we do development in Asia?

For years, many developing countries have believed it can be only one or the other - economic growth or reducing carbon emissions.

But a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says it’s possible for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to do both.

Has India squandered its English advantage?

When the British were finally expelled from India in 1947, driven out of a country scarred by decades of imperialist rule, they left at least one parting gift: a linguistic legacy that has formed a crucial ingredient in the country’s economic miracle.

English proficiency is hailed as an invaluable foundation in India’s rise to the top of the world’s information technology and knowledge outsourcing industries, fuelling the country’s rapid growth with billions of dollars of business every year and streams of overseas investments into global IT centres such as Bangalore.

Nine-year-old Chinese pupil, Sun Minyi, listens to his teacher during a special English class at Chongming county, north of Shanghai July 12, 2002. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

But, as Asian rival China surpasses India’s English proficiency rates for the first time, that advantage over other developing economies looks to have been squandered.

Is India really the world’s fifth most powerful country?

India is the world’s fifth most powerful country, according to a New Delhi-authored national security document, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, as Indian analysts placed the emerging nation above major European powers.

Outranking traditional global powers such as the UK, France and Germany, India’s ballooning population, defense capabilities and economic clout were cited as reasons for its position behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in India’s National Security Annual Review 2010, which will be officially released by the country’s foreign ministry next week.

Its statistical foundations in terms of population numbers and GDP aside — in terms of purchasing power parity, it should be noted — India’s experience of wielding power on the global stage of late, boosted by its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, has been less encouraging.

Does the Indian media overplay Indo-Chinese tension?

New Delhi’s flat-out denial of the most recent reports by state authorities of Chinese military incursions across its border with India in Jammu and Kashmir may show a tendency to gloss over such seemingly insignificant events — in favour of bigger strategic and trade interests — that the media appears to ignore. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 16, 2010. Wen pressed on with a charm offensive in India on Thursday, vowing "friendship and cooperation" a day after striking business deals with his hosts worth more than $16 billion. REUTERS/B Mathur

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 16, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files

On Monday afternoon, amidst a lull in the seemingly endless Indian news cycle, all major TV news channels flashed a breaking story of Chinese troops crossing the Indian border in the disputed northern state.

Congratulate Team India on Asia Cup win

India cricket team members celebrate their victory over Sri Lanka in the final match of the Asia Cup one-day international cricket tournament in Dambulla June 24, 2010. India beat Sri Lanka by 81 runs in the Asia Cup final played at Dambulla on Thursday. REUTERS/Dinuka LiyanawatteIndia outplayed Sri Lanka in all departments of the game on Thursday to win the Asia Cup cricket final by 81 runs and record a fourth win in seven tournament finals under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

India compiled an impressive 268 for six with opener and man-of-the-match Dinesh Karthik striking 66 from 86 balls after Dhoni had won the toss and decided to bat first in Dambulla.

Their pace attack then dismissed Sri Lanka for 187 from 44.4 overs.

Join us in congratulating Dhoni and his men. For slideshow, click here 

Reactions to the Kasab verdict

A Mumbai court sentenced to death Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab over the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Here are some reactions from people in New Delhi.

Is the media going overboard in its coverage of the Ambani feud?

The war of words between the billionaire Ambani brothers took an unexpected turn when younger sibling Anil offered an olive branch to elder brother Mukesh in a bid to resolve a feud over the split of the Reliance business empire in 2005.

The widespread coverage the Indian media has given to the squabble between the brothers has led to a debate on social networking sites such as Twitter, with some accusing news organisations of playing host to a reality show or soap opera that stars the Ambani family to boost ratings.

Prominent columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote through his Twitter account virsanghvi: “Do you think some network should plan a reality show on the Ambani battle? Or are they doing it already on the news?”

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