The Hindu: December 15, 2015 00:04 IST
Cautious cooperation with Japan
Japan has long been a significant investor in India's infrastructure sector. Of late, there have been consistent efforts by both New Delhi and Tokyo to transform this economic momentum into a "special strategic and global partnership". Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's three-day visit to India this month, during which both sides agreed to major deals, including the introduction of Japan's bullet train technology in India and an agreement on nuclear partnership, clearly sets the stage for elevated bilateral ties in the future. The potential of Indo-Japanese economic partnership is huge. Despite India being one the world's largest economies, it accounts for only about 1 per cent of Japan's imports, exports and direct investments abroad. The proposed bullet train link between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, which will have access to a soft Japanese loan of $12-15 billion at a concessional interest rate of 0.1 per cent, will cement economic cooperation further. Besides, this suits well Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agenda of building quality infrastructure in the country. The civil nuclear cooperation deal, after five years of talks, marks a complete reversal of the policy Japan adopted towards India after the Pokhran nuclear tests in May 1998. Tokyo, which considers itself a champion of non-proliferation, had suspended much of its aid after India's nuclear test. The deal, however, can be seen as a Japanese seal of approval to India's status as a nuclear-armed state.
To be sure, enhanced economic and energy cooperation will benefit both countries. Japan has capital and skill whereas India has huge untapped potential. What they need is a clear road map, which, as the recent official exchanges show, is in the works. But at the same time, India should be wary of the great game going on in Asia. It may not be a coincidence that Japan is shedding its historical pacifist foreign policy, which helped its rise as an economic giant in Asia, at a time when its tensions with China are on the rise and the United States has been "pivoting" towards Asia. The American strategy appears to be to build an alliance in Asia to contain the rise of China. Japan, Washington's strongest ally in Asia, is obviously one of the pillars of this "pivot" strategy. It is hardly a secret that both the American and Japanese establishments want India to "swing" towards their alliance. Mr. Abe had earlier written about the strategic need to forge a "democratic security diamond" with the U.S., Australia and India. This is the challenge India's policymakers would face while deepening the country's partnership with Japan further. New Delhi should get its economic and strategic priorities right and state them clearly. To script its own rise, India should build strong ties with each power, instead of aligning with any particular bloc. The country will gain more from everybody's rise rather than joining some geopolitical alliance that is not in its primary interest.
Situated or placed higher than the surrounding area.
Rapid increase in numbers.
Intensify, increase, or further improve the quality, value, or extent of.
(of a resource) not yet exploited or used.
Park (a vehicle) in a depot.
A person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable.
Turn on or as if on a pivot.
The central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.
Make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it.
The Hindu: December 15, 2015 00:04 IST
Get smart on diesel cars
The National Green Tribunal's decision to bar the registration of new and old diesel vehicles in Delhi till its next hearing on January 6 comes as a blow — though a temporary one for now — to passenger vehicle manufacturers. Automobile-makers have, in recent years, been building (from scratch, in a few cases) and scaling up their production capacities for diesel cars, driven by the surge in demand for diesel-powered vehicles as the fuel was subsidised and far cheaper than petrol. The differential between petrol and diesel prices has narrowed substantially since the government commenced the deregulation of diesel pricing in 2013, and diesel now is only 22 per cent cheaper than petrol. But diesel vehicles, including the sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, that are ubiquitous status symbols in the National Capital Region and beyond, now constitute 50 per cent of the auto industry's passenger car sales. That vehicular exhaust from diesel cars, SUVs and freight trucks has been identified as one of the major contributors to the alarming levels of particulate matter in Delhi's atmosphere is well-established. The tribunal has asked the Delhi and Central governments to decide whether a more permanent injunction prohibiting the registration of diesel vehicles in the NCR would be advisable, given the "serious contribution of vehicular pollution" to the city's air quality. Separately, the Supreme Court is set to hear on December 15 an independent plea to ban diesel vehicles in Delhi.
Industry has reacted predictably, terming the move as unfair and discriminatory, and calling for a more holistic solution, while questioning the overall policy approach to diesel. With most of them investing to upgrade their technology to meet the more stringent BS-V (Bharat Stage-V) standards due in 2019, they suggest fleet modernisation to replace the older commercial transport vehicles, considered an equally major source of polluting exhaust emissions. Rating agency ICRA expects the share of diesel vehicles in annual auto sales to decline to 30-35 per cent by 2017 as the price difference between diesel and petrol narrows further. That may not help much in Delhi, the nation's largest urban market for cars and SUVs. By way of comparison, the U.S. has decided to curb emissions from vehicles by moving towards higher fuel efficiency standards for new cars, though economists say it may only encourage people to drive even more. India is pursuing similar goals, but as Volkswagen's 'defeat device' to rig emission tests for diesel vehicles shows, governments aren't capable of enforcing such norms efficiently. In the backdrop of the latest climate change commitments and the toxic air that hangs over Delhi, it could be an opportune moment for Indian policymakers to use the tools of behavioural economics to alter people's commuting preferences. Tax and other fiscal incentives to shift both freight haulage and public road transportation to cleaner CNG- and LPG-based technologies is one thing. But it's perhaps time to take a bolder step and levy a hefty green tax on diesel-fuelled private vehicles and SUVs
A sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a crowd or by a natural force such as the waves or tide.
Present, appearing, or found everywhere.
An authoritative warning or order.
Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
The largest group of naval vessels under one commander, organized for specific tactical or other purposes.
(of a time) well-chosen or particularly favorable or appropriate.
The commercial transport of goods.
The October numbers for the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) published last week were a pleasant surprise. After hovering in the low single digits for much of the first half of the current financial year, industrial output growth for October was measured at a five-year high of 9.8 per cent. Manufacturing, which accounts for three-fourths of the IIP, grew in double digits at 10.6 per cent, the highest since June 2011. The government has quickly taken credit for the rosy numbers claiming that the economy is responding positively to the policy measures taken in the past few months to revive growth. The numbers are also being cited as validation for the earlier government claims of an economic upturn based on healthy growth in indirect tax collections. Now that manufacturing growth too has seen a healthy uptick, the spurt in revenue collections seems to have been explained. All this may be true. But no assessment of the October numbers of IIP would be appropriate without judging them against the unusual dip in industrial performance in the same month of 2014, when industrial output declined by close to three per cent and manufacturing output fell by even a higher margin of 5.6 per cent. Celebrations over an industrial revival would therefore need to be tempered by the fact that the statistical base effect of October 2014 also had a significant role to play in throwing up the healthy numbers for the same month this year.
That apart, the trajectory of industrial output in the past seven months has been by and large positive. Barring blips caused in some months, overall industrial growth in the April-October period of the current financial year is close to five per cent, compared to around two per cent in the same period of 2014-15. Manufacturing too has seen a steady improvement; its seven-month growth this year is estimated at around 5.1 per cent, compared to only one per cent growth in the same period last year. Capital goods continues to clock impressive growth at 16 per cent for October and nine per cent for the April-October period this year, compared to a decline of over three per cent and growth of 4.6 per cent, respectively, in the year-ago periods. Much of it, though, could be due to the healthy growth in sales of commercial vehicles and tractors in this period. The weakness in consumer non-durables - essentially the fast-moving consumer goods sector - is, however, still a worry, even as consumer durables continue to grow at a healthy double-digit rate. The latter is borne out by an improvement in sales of passenger cars and two-wheelers.
It must be noted that the benefits of a steady decline in oil prices and an increase in public investment in roads in particular are clearly showing in the growth witnessed so far in industrial output. The challenge is to sustain the growth already recorded as the advantages of lower oil prices wear off and the government's spending capacity comes under strain, thanks to the imperatives of a tougher fiscal consolidation target next year. The recommendations by the Seventh Central Pay Commission for increased wages for government employees will take effect from January, and this might sustain the consumption-led growth somewhat longer even as it would put more pressure on government finances in 2016-17. The government's focus, therefore, has to be firmly on policies that can help create better infrastructure by ensuring increased investment, greater efficiencies and higher productivity in the long run. The Union Budget that is due to be presented in about ten weeks from now would do well to take note of these lessons and the policy imperatives of sustaining the current growth momentum.
Remain in one place in the air.
Restore to life or consciousness.
Quote (a passage, book, or author) as evidence for or justification of an argument or statement, especially in a scholarly work.
Gush out in a sudden and forceful stream.
The evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something.
Improve the hardness and elasticity of (steel or other metal) by reheating and then cooling it.
The path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces.
Fasten (something, especially a door or window) with a bar or bars.
A short high-pitched sound made by an electronic device
Combining into a solid mass
Congress leaders will be conspicuous by their absence when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates a statue of R. Sankar, the first Congress chief minister of Kerala, in Kollam on Tuesday. They have threatened, instead, to sit on dharna in front of the Sankar statue in Thiruvananthapuram. Their grouse: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was asked by the organisers of the Kollam function — the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an outfit of the Ezhava community — to stay away after inviting him to chair it. On Monday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh clarified in Parliament that the PMO had little to do with the invites since it was a private function. But the Congress insists that Chandy was dropped from the list of invitees at the behest of the BJP. The CPM has expressed solidarity with the Congress and both parties have accused the BJP leadership of "insulting" the people of Kerala.
Beyond the acrimonious exchange about protocol and propriety is the move by the SNDP-BJP to appropriate Sankar and reach out to the Ezhavas. Sankar, who headed the SNDP, is remembered as an institution-builder. He also attempted to build an alliance of Ezhavas and Nairs, two numerically significant Hindu communities, on a political platform, namely the Hindu Mandalam, in the 1960s. The project did not take off and electoral politics in Kerala evolved into a battle between two fronts, led by the Congress and the CPM. The SNDP-BJP hopes to become the third front by building a coalition of Nairs and Ezhavas. The attempt to erase the Congress past of Sankar and reinvent him as an Ezhava-Hindu leader seems part of a strategy to consolidate the Hindu vote.
With less than six months left for assembly elections, the statue furore is only the beginning of the battle for Kerala
Standing out so as to be clearly visible.
Complain pettily; grumble.
A set of clothes worn together, typically for a particular occasion or purpose
A person's orders or command.
(typically of speech or a debate) angry and bitter.
A sustained fight between large, organized armed forces.
An outbreak of public anger or excitement.
view on the French elections: Front National fails to gain power but its defeat is only partial
Relief that Front National has failed to win even one of the regions it was contesting in France at the weekend must be tempered by apprehension. A victory for Marine Le Pen's party would have had a dramatic impact, bringing to power an anti-European and anti-migrant party in one or more of the regions, with perhaps radical consequences for the policy areas in which they have responsibilities, such as education, economic development, and arts and culture.
Success would have given the FN a big push along the road that it wishes to travel, from being a party of protest to a party of government, and from being a movement tainted by its past to one that has distanced itself from it. Finally, a spell in regional power might well have boosted Ms Le Pen's chances in the presidential elections in 2017. The irony is that what would have been true in the event of an FN victory is equally true in the actual case of its defeat, apart from the immediate effects on regional policies.
That defeat came about only because the Socialist party stood down some of its candidates, in effect directing its supporters to vote for its opponents on the right. It is hardly surprising that the increasingly large number of French people who vote for the FN regard this as a way of cheating them of the victory that would otherwise have been theirs. Their sense of grievance is likely to strengthen, not weaken, the broad constituency that the FN has, like it or not, been building up for some years. Even the fact that the FN does not fully control any region could work in its favour. Full control might have exposed its inadequacies. But the tripling of the number of its regional councillors – to the point where it will have more than the Socialists – will give the FN a good share of patronage opportunities and much local influence, while leaving others to take the flak for the failure to address popular discontent that is so manifestly the cause of the decline in the fortunes of the mainstream parties.
The most fundamental problem is that a democratic country cannot be run for long on the basis of denying a voice in government to a large proportion of the population. You can't laugh off or ignore 6.8m votes. When the FN was smaller, less competent, and more evidently extreme, that was possible. Now its voters must either be won back by the traditional left and right, or the FN may well prevail, either directly or by merging with parts of the centre-right. It is a sign of the times that while it was already accepted that Ms Le Pen might well make it to the second round of the next presidential elections, now it is seen as not utterly beyond the bounds of possibility that she might win.
The great division in French politics, she said after the results, is no longer between left and right but between "patriots and globalisers". There is of course a split of this kind in every European country, indeed in every country in the world. Mainstream parties live, uneasily, with the split; new parties, outsider parties and protest parties exploit it. Voters, buffeted by unemployment, dismayed by immigration, scared of terrorism, and angry at growing inequality, crave the alleged certainties of a past where the strong nation state was a rampart for its citizens. But restoring the nation state in its old form is an illusion. Leading a nation in a globalised world is a balancing act that requires skill and luck and a citizenry that recognises the limits of the possible.
Nicolas Sarkozy, hyperactive and changeable, was not the best of presidents, while his successor, François Hollande, has often seemed hapless. Nor were their parties dynamos of reform. Into the void came the FN. Had it been a new movement, like Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, that would have been upset enough. But it comes with a quasi-fascist, antisemitic and anti-Muslim background. That makes France's problem peculiarly difficult, and presents its mainstream parties with a challenge that all Europe must pray they can meet
Improve the hardness and elasticity of (steel or other metal) by reheating and then cooling it.
Anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
The support given by a patron.
Lack of contentment; dissatisfaction with one's circumstances.
(especially of wind or waves) strike repeatedly and violently; batter
Cause (someone) to feel consternation and distress.
A defensive wall of a castle or walled city, having a broad top with a walkway and typically a stone parapet
Abnormally or extremely active
(especially of a person) unfortunate.
An advocate or follower of fascism.
Anti-semitic: relating to or characterized by anti-Semitism; hating Jews
More than usually; especially.