The Peace Route
The Modi government has completed one year of governance since its corporate-sector-backed surprise victory in the 2014 general elections. Although one year is not a long enough period to judge the performance of a government as it is impossible for any government to bring discernible changes in the economy and system of governance within such a short span, yet it is perhaps appropriate to conduct a critical evaluation of the trend setting policies and their likely impact on the overall impact on the economy and the lives of the masses.
There is an indisputable consensus that the Indian economy has shown signs of revival. The GDP growth rate reportedly stands at 5.7% as compared to 4.6 last year. Some official sources though put the figure at 6.9 %, a claim contested by many economists and business entities. If the official sources are to be believed, then it makes India one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The Index of Industrial production has shown an upward trend and inflation stands at 5.7%, the lowest in the last nine years. According to an UNCTAD report, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India during the last year reached $35 billion, registering an increase of 26% over the previous year, which in the other developing countries of Asia remained in the vicinity of 15%, indicating growing confidence of investors in the resilience of the India economy. The buoyant and upbeat mood of the government also stems from the fact that India has been able to seek commitments of $30 billion and $20 billion investment by Japan and China, respectively, in the infrastructure projects in India which, if materialized as envisaged, would give a big boost to the Indian economy.
Nonetheless, some detrac-tors of the government believe that the good performance of the economy was mainly attributable to a steep fall in the global oil prices which helped the Indian economy to a great extent in terms of a drastically reduced oil import bill and other contributing factors rather than any substantial structural reforms in the eco-nomy. They also concede the claims about a turnaround in the economy, though grudgingly. The Indian government takes the trend as its big victory in the economic arena.
There is a, however, a permeating feeling among India-watchers that Modi’s honeymoon seems al-most over after the crushing defeat inflicted by the Aam Aadmi Party on the BJP in the Delhi elections and now there is more pre-ssure on the Modi government to deliver. The economic agenda
unf-urled in the budget by the Indian Finance Minister reveals that the Modi government would be focusing more on infrastructure spending, safeguards for the rural poor and tax cuts for corporations. The big mistake being made is that the government is not bothered about the rising fiscal deficit which in the ultimate analysis could prove a bane for real economic progress in India. A cut in corporate taxes is also viewed as a pro-capitalist initiative. The Modi government is also struggling to get the controversial Land Acquisition Bill passed by the parliament and also striving to negate the notion that the legislation was anti- farmer in its implications.
Another very debilitating factor for Narendra Modi is going to be his failure to shun communal politics and the impression that his government was basically promoting India as a Hindu state. As a consequence of some recent anti-Muslim and anti- Christian incidents, both the communities feel isolated and excommunicated from the mainstream of Indian politics. Modi must move to cast off his communal garb and act as benefactor of all the communities living in India. He needs and will have to promote an ambience of amity between them if he really wants India to make progress in a peaceful atmosphere.
In the arena of foreign relations, the Modi government has sealed an agreement with the US on transfer of civil nuclear technology and support for its bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council when President Obama visited India on its last Republic Day. The Chinese President visited India in September 2014 and recently Modi has visited his country. China has committed to make an investment of $20 billion in India and both countries are willing to work together in the economic arena by not allowing old disputes to hamper their way. The settlement of the boundary dispute with Bangladesh is also an encouraging move. These are all positive developments from the Indian perspective.
However, there are certain areas where the policies of the Modi government on the internal and external front are fraught with danger. The likely moves on the part of the BJP government to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution which grants special status to Kashmir and its recent steps to change the demographic contours of Jammu and Kashmir are akin to Israeli efforts to change the demographic features of the Palestinian state by building more and more Jewish settlements. These step are neither acceptable to the people of Kashmir (as indicated by recent protests in Kashmir) nor Pakistan and would continue to mar peace within India and in the region. These moves are against the spirit of the times and might ultimately scuttle the efforts of the Indian government to change the fate of the teeming millions of India who are consigned to below-subsistence level existence.
Improvement of relations with Pakistan and the resolution of the disputes between the two countries is the key to regional peace, security and shared regional economic prosperity that is waiting to be exploited through the implementation of trans-regional projects like CASA-1000 and TAPI. India also needs cooperation from Pakistan in implementing its proposed project of a gas pipeline from Iran through the sea, as after the extension in the maritime area of Pakistan by the UN, the proposed pipeline now falls within the waters under Pakistani control.
Both the countries need to take steps towards reducing tensions. But as they say it takes two to tango. The Modi government has been taking steps that are tantamount to creating more tensions in the region with all the accompanying negative fallout. Immediately after return of Nawaz Sharif from New Delhi after participating in Modi’s inaugural ceremony, raising hopes for a breakthrough, the Indian security forces reignited hostilities along the LOC and then unilaterally suspended the scheduled secretary-level talks between the two countries. The Indians have been lobbying intensely against the financing of the Basha-Diamer Dam by the ADB, maintaining that the dam was being constructed in disputed territory. The Indian media and government have also tried to undermine the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the same lines and reportedly Modi, during his talks with the Chinese leaders, raised the issue with them. The alleged involvement of RAW in promoting insurgency in Balochistan and acts of terrorism throughout Pakistan are also irritants to the already strained relations between the two countries. India must realize that a war-like state, no matter how strong it is, is destined to disintegrate. The way to progress only leads through peace.