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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 598,966 515,000  481,400 12
GNI per capita
 US $ 530 480 470 160
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on India

Update No: 048 - (30/01/08)

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited India on the eve of the Republic Day Parade. This was the French President’s first visit to India since his coming to power. The highlight of Sarkozy’s visit has been the controversial civil nuclear energy deal signed by United States and India. The nuclear deal, if finalized, will allow India to acquire civil nuclear technology from countries like the U.S. and France. Even though India has been banned from buying fuel and technology in the wake of the 1998 nuclear tests which ten years ago challenged the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), India is keen to continue testing and building its nuclear technology base. In this context, the French president’s visit has become extremely significant as Sarkozy has suggested that France is willing to supply civil nuclear equipment and atomic fuel to India as well. Both countries have been working on negotiating an agreement. Mr. Sarkozy says he hopes to obtain a consensus in Europe and the international community that an exception should be made for India. He says it should be done because India has never proliferated, and has made it clear it wants to separate its civil and military nuclear programs. Sarkozy’s advocacy of Indian concerns to the international community might hold favorable results for New Delhi in its future talks with the United States. The greater the support for India’s nuclear technology program in countries such as France, the higher the possibility of a successful nuclear deal going through with the United States. In the wake of Sarkozy’s visit, both countries have also decided to strengthen defense cooperation with each other. According to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India and France have agreed to go beyond a “buyer-seller relationship” in defense cooperation. Both countries plan to place increasing emphasis on joint research and development projects, transfer of technology, and greater military exchanges. France has been one of India’s largest arms suppliers. French firms are hoping to win an approximately $2 billion contract to upgrade India’s existing fleet of Mirage fighters. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was also guest of honour at India's Republic Day parade where New Delhi showcased its latest military hardware, including nuclear-capable missiles. 

In the recent past, the Sri Lankan military has mounted an offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) which has made India push for a political solution to the 25-year-old Tamil ethnic problem. Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Alok Prasad, has noted that a political settlement acceptable to all communities in the Island Country should be arrived at immediately. In his words, “it is our firm belief that the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka has to be resolved through a political settlement, acceptable to all sections of the Sri Lankan society, and consistent with the principles of democracy, pluralism and human rights.” Prasad also said that India has had a long and abiding interest in fostering peace and stability in the country. Ever since the Sri Lankan government reneged on the 2002 ceasefire with the LTTE this month, fighting has re-surfaced. On the issue of promoting and strengthening economic ties with the country, Prasad also indicated that the net Indian investments in Sri Lanka today stood at 300 million dollars and recent trends suggest a further increase in the numbers in core sectors, such as infrastructure development, power, telecom, creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Information Technology (IT) parks. The High Commissioner said the bilateral trade turnover between India and Sri Lanka had grown more than five times since March 2000, when the Free Trade Agreement came into force. The bilateral trade between the two countries stood at 2.3 billion dollars and is expected to pass 3 billion dollars in the current financial year. India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner in South Asia! Given the amicable economic relationship both countries share, it is in the best interests of India to maintain a peaceful neighbor in the region and not jeopardize its own security. 

While attending the World Economic Forum, Pakistan’s President mentioned that talks with India on resolving the Kashmir issue are “now on track.” He said that in the last few months, Pakistan got sidetracked on Kashmir but that it is “now on track.” Musharraf said he was confident that bilateral talks would gain momentum after the February 18 general elections in Pakistan. On the issue of terrorism, Musharraf said that the Pakistani government was following a multi-pronged strategy to fight the menace. The Pakistani President also tried to convince over 2,500 business and political leaders at the Forum that his government should be assessed based on the country’s economic performance, and the well-being of Pakistanis. Musharraf also allayed rather nonsensical fears that Pakistan’s atomic weapons were now in the hands of terrorists, although that eventuality is what the world rightly fears the most.

But it has become very hard to assess the import of President Musharraf’s claims on the improvement in talks on Kashmir, or the crackdown on terrorists in Pakistan, particularly since the terrorist murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto plunged the country into a political crisis. Neither has there been any evidence of acknowledgement on the Indian side with regard to a progress on the Kashmir issue, although there appears to be a welcome lack of violent incidents. It would seem that in the current Pakistani situation, talks on Kashmir are likely to be quite far from the actual focus of President Musharraf’s worries when he has had to try very hard to bring back from the brink, a semblance of peace and stability to a country that has failed to embrace democracy. Musharraf’s address to members of the World Economic Forum is a way of assuaging concerns that Pakistan may be in dire straits. By making statements about the progress of talks with India on the Kashmir issue, Musharraf is holding on to a very shaky foundation and as to the thwarting of terrorism, let us see. Suicide bomber are notoriously hard to intercept. We can just hope that the elections will come and go without terrorist violence 

India and Brazil, both of whom declared some of their major reservations with the Doha negotiations on agricultural tariffs and subsidies are now open to holding the next Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in March. India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath made this sentiment clear to reporters after a meeting of 16 trade ministers on the heels of the World Economic Forum. However, Kamal Nath maintained that India would not compromise on the issue of livelihood. The main concern for New Delhi is that the United States will move towards a more protectionist policy. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken of the importance in the global expansion of free and fair trade but feels that America cannot ensure the success of these talks by itself. Rice has argued that “it is not easy for a US president to advocate free and fair trade at a time of growing economic populism.” Therefore, while India’s concerns remain genuine, there seem to be two issues that are problematic with regard to fulfilling India’s objectives at the WTO. The first and general issue deals with the nature of agricultural subsidies; and the second, more specifically involves a protectionist design followed by the Americans, which would be detrimental to Indian interests. If these two roadblocks can be removed, the talks should be successful. 

Indian infrastructure projects major GMR Group has been awarded a major hydropower project in Nepal after several political obstacles. This has allowed more Indian firms to enter a very lucrative sector in Nepal and highly significant for the small Himalayan state whose principal export is hydro- electricity . The Bangalore-based GMR Energy has signed a pact with the Nepalese Ministry of Water Resources to develop the 309 MW Upper Karnali hydropower project in one of the most inaccessible and underdeveloped regions of Nepal. GMR’s Senior Vice-President, Avinash Shah signed the deal that will give Nepal 12 per cent free energy, amounting to about 36 MW. This would be a huge contribution to a country which has a very weak domestic power sector. GMR’s success comes despite the Maoists urging the government not to sign any major deal before the April election and a French company threatening to go to court, claiming that it had been granted an earlier license. The ministry said it would now begin negotiations for another project, named Arun-III. But GMR will not get another project, since a parliamentary committee has directed the government not to award more than one project to a company at a time. The directive is expected to benefit the second contender for the Arun-III project – India’s Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam, which will begin negotiations with the concerned ministry. Talks are likely to begin in the first week of February.

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