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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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)

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Update No: 053 - (01/06/08)

Class Related Violence in the State of Rajasthan 
The West Indian state of Rajasthan has recently witnessed the killing of at least 35 people in a spate of riots caused by class discrimination. Members of the Gujjar community, a part of India’s social caste order have been demanding a bigger share of government jobs and education benefits. This community has taken recourse to blocking rail and road tracks at Bharatpur as a means of protest against the state government crackdown by police forces which resulted in the loss of innocent lives. Gujjar leader Kirori Singh had expressed his refusal to hold talks with state government officials. As the Indian constitution forbids caste-based discrimination, the Central government is trying to develop an affirmative action plan with provides quotas for jobs and educational opportunities to under-represented and disadvantaged groups classified as Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. But the The Gujjars, a major farming community, have been categorized as an “unscheduled tribe” by the government as this group has faced much less discrimination when compared to other disadvantaged groups in Indian society. The Gujjars, however, believe that they should be regarded as a scheduled tribe which would allow them to access government jobs and educational opportunities as part of a quota system. The Congress party and other opposition parties have blamed the BJP government in Rajasthan for precipitating violence. The Congress party opposition leader, Hema Ram Choudhary stated that “because of the incompetence of the BJP government, the issue has not been resolved as yet.” The CPI-M, Samajwadi Party and Nationalist Congress Party also criticized the Vasundhara Raje government of Rajastan and alleged that it had failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation and did not make any efforts to solve the issue through talks. 

India-US Negotiations at the WTO
In an effort to expedite trade liberalization on agriculture at the WTO negotiations, Indian trade negotiators are meeting with their US counterparts in Geneva. The negotiations will center on the subject of non-agricultural market access popularly known as NAMA. Don Stephenson, Chairman of NAMA, has invited WTO members for a meeting after countries like India expressed their displeasure at various proposals. Indian officials argue that “many square brackets on agriculture can be further reduced through talks between senior officials from respective countries.” The latest draft text on NAMA was rejected by many countries, including India. Square brackets on NAMA rose to 97 in the latest draft, from 15 in the February text. On NAMA, India’s criticisms emerge from differentiated duty cuts proposed in Don Stephenson’s draft which proposes to reduce tariffs to a maximum of 19 to 26 per cent; a much wider range than those contained in the February proposals of 2008. But this overall range is composed of three distinct bands (19-21 per cent, 21-23 per cent and 23-26 per cent) which have their own implications for any exemptions. Members applying the lowest range, known in WTO parlance as a coefficient, would be able to exclude up to 14 per cent of their most sensitive industrial tariff line from the full effect of the formula. In essence, the more the industrial tariffs are lowered, the greater would be the right of Governments to safeguard ‘sensitive’ items. For the middle-band, countries would be able to either shelter up to 10 per cent of their most sensitive tariff lines, which would be subject to cuts equal to half the agreed formula reduction. Alternatively, they could exclude five per cent of all products, subject to the proviso that they do not exceed five per cent of the total value of all NAMA imports. The top band would not allow any tariff line exemptions. This differential duty cut strategy coupled with the possible offer of special treatment for South Africa and Venezuela have encouraged India to brand the NAMA proposals as one of ‘divide and rule’ since it maintains a wedge between developing countries.

India Works on Investment Opportunities with Australia and New Zealand 
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) is currently heading a 50-member strong business delegation to Australia and New Zealand. According to the FICCI-Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) study on India-Australia and India-New Zealand trade and investment flows, India’s demographic profile, with over 550 million people below the age of 25 years, offers a sharp contrast to the labor constraint being faced by Australia. The study outlines abundant opportunities for Australian companies to invest in tourism and infrastructure, petrochemicals and mining technology, and engineering in India. There are also new areas like information technology, biotechnology and bio-informatics which provide a rich ground for investment. The Indian mining sector has also been of special interest to Australia as India has a strong mineral resource base. In the field of bio-technology, the Australian government has committed $20 million over five years to the Australia India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), to support a range of joint research projects and workshops for Australian and Indian scientists. In the farming sector, Australian stakeholders have a lot to offer in the latest farming methods, cropping patterns and development of new varieties of crops. 

India and New Zealand are working on the feasibility of a free trade agreement which can augment the bilateral trade between both countries. Briefing a group of Indian representatives in Auckland on his recent visit to New Zealand, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said that he wanted a time frame for India-New Zealand free trade agreement. Meetings of the Joint Study Group on FTA have made good progress, Nath said, hoping the negotiations on the agreement can start by next year. He said there was scope for cooperation in a number of areas, including education, telecommunications, bio-technology and information technology. Commenting on the progress towards a bilateral FTA, New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said that given food shortages in key commodity areas like dairy, this is a good time to develop trade relations in these areas. Various agricultural sectors within New Zealand concerning agricultural technology, biotechnology and infrastructure engineering have played a huge role in aiding India’s food production. According to Goff, there is potential for further increase in the present bilateral trade between New Zealand and India

India-Brunei Investment Pact 
India has recently signed a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPA) with Brunei. Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram signed the agreement with Pehin Dato Rahman Ibrahim, Minister of Finance, Brunei. According to Chidambaram, Brunei becomes the 70th country to have signed the BIPA with India. Brunei is the third largest producer of oil in South-East Asia and the fourth largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and India hopes that the agreement will help boost investment flows in the oil sector. The BIPA seeks to protect and promote investments from either country in the territory of the other country with the objective of increasing bilateral investment flow. An official release said that the agreement also stipulates Most Favored Nation (MFN) treatment and national treatment, besides providing elaborate dispute resolution mechanism. 

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