India Insight

Jury still out on Indo-U.S. “unclear” deal

US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …You could be forgiven for thinking that the civilian nuclear deal with the United States is all about whether India holds early elections or not.

Every newspaper is speculating if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has staked his personal reputation on the deal, will resign to disassociate himself from an administration that failed to save a pact keenly watched by the world.

But are these the arguments India should be debating in the short-term or should we be discussing the real benefits and drawbacks of the deal?

The communists oppose the deal, in large part because they see it as a front for Washington’s strategic bulwark against a rising China and increasingly unstable Pakistan.

Besides, they say there are many holes in the deal that Washington will use to manipulate India’s foreign and strategic programmes, and that nuclear energy is not a solution to the shortage of electricity in the country or rising oil prices.

Crude realities for India’s economy

sg1.JPGOnly last year Indian policymakers were showing off the strong fundamentals of the economy to the world and pressing for a seat at the high table of global fora. Everything was going well — high growth, a surging stockmarket and a lot of attention from global investors attention.

But high oil prices and rising inflation threaten to bring the India growth story to its knees. Finance Minister PalaniappanChidambaram’s speech at a meeting of oil producing and consuming nations in Jeddah on Sunday showed the cracks in India’s confidence levels.

No doubt oil prices have spiralled, threatening the economic gains made by developing countries, as Chidambaram said in his speech.

Has India got it right on fuel prices?

So it’s official. India has finally raised fuel prices, by more than most people expected. A hike in diesel prices in particular is sure to feed through into overall inflation. At the same the government removed the import duty on crude oil.

A petrol station attendant counts currency notes in Jammu.We’d be keen on your opinion. Has the government got it right?

Despite the price rises, oil companies are still going to be losing huge amounts of money and gas-guzzling cars are still going to be heavily subsidized by ordinary taxpayers. The oil ministry had even argued for steeper price hikes.

Are subsidies really the right way to go in the modern world? Is the government sacrificing good economics on the altar of political populism?

Too early to write off India’s Congress-led coalition

Is the sun setting on the Congress-led UPA government? India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is certainly riding high after victory in the southern state of Karnataka at the weekend , giving it a first chance to run a government in the south.Party workers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) light smoke flares to celebrate the party’s victory in the state elections in Karnataka, outside the party’s headquarters in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad May 25, 2008. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA)And it’s the latest in a long losing streak for Congress in state elections. The question is whether the ruling party can turn things around.

The economy certainly isn’t helping. Rising inflation seems to have already wiped out whatever electoral benefits the farmers’ debt waiver might have brought. A slowdown in growth, already apparent in industrial production statistics, won’t help either.

So the first problem for the government is to bring down inflation in time for next year’s national polls.

Are Indian Muslims leading the way in condemning terror?

A man prays at the Nizamuddin shrine in New DelhiFor those Western critics that say Islam does not enough to to condemn terrorism, perhaps they should look at India, home to one of the world’s biggest Muslim populations — around 13 percent of mainly Hindu India’s 1.1 billion people.

 On Wednesday, it was the turn of Khalid Rasheed, head of the oldest madrasa in the northern city of Lucknow — a traditional centre for Muslims and religious scholarship. He rejected terrorism as anti-Islamic after he and his colleagues had been accused of apostasy over their pacifist stance by at group that calls itself the Indian Mujahideen.

Indian Mujahideen made threats against the madrasa in which they also claimed responsibility for last week’s bomb blasts in Jaipur, western India, which killed 63 people.

from FaithWorld:

India’s Hindu caste quotas edge towards private companies

The issue of redressing the imbalance of Hinduism's ancient caste system by creating job and college entry quotas for lower caste and other disadvantaged groups in India seems to be gaining headway in an election year. Now it may be the turn for private industry.

Medical students attend protest in Kolkata, 26 Sept 2006/Parth SanyalParties across India's political spectrum appear to be seeing caste-based reservations, as the quotas are known, as potential vote winners. It is a sign again that caste consciousness will become ever more important in what in theory is a secular Indian state.

Now multinationals enjoying the fruits of an Indian economic boom may find they are not immune. Much to the horror of many industrialists worried about their international competitiveness.

Iran or the US? India’s delicate balancing act

The visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to India on Tuesday was a slightly low-key affair. But it throws up an interesting conundrum for the Indian government.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks on during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi April 29, 2008. REUTERS/B MathurJust how close can New Delhi afford to be to Tehran before it seriously angers Washington. In the end, will India be forced to choose — Iranian gas or American friendship?

Ahmadinejad was here to promote plans for a $7.6 billion pipeline to bring Iranian gas to Pakistan and India.

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