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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)

Books on India



Update No: 109 - (26/11/13)

Summary: India witnessed tremendous political turmoil this year but also saw some landmark achievements in its history – a mission to Mars being one. However, India’s fascinating democratic process is in full swing at the moment. With national elections approaching in April-May 2014 the electorate stands divided and the debate has become very passionate. The debate is shaping in the form of ‘a choice between two evils’ i.e. a corrupt, dynastic but socially inclusive party (the Congress); and a relatively clean and performance-oriented but highly communal figure (Narendra Modi of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP). In addition to this, the ghost of the Sri Lankan civil war came to haunt India as PM Manmohan Singh got caught up in domestic political turbulence, over Colombo’s hosting of the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM). With a tough history of military intervention, Sri Lanka remains critical to India’s strategic interests, however, Tamil political parties within India would want the central government to hold Colombo responsible for alleged human rights violations. Thirdly, and from a security perspective, India is bracing for more militancy in its northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), believing that fighters now focused on resisting US-led troops in Afghanistan will shift toward the Himalayan flashpoint with Pakistan. It is increasing its use of drones, thermal sensors and foot patrols as it tries to catch out any battle-hardened militants moving through the forested mountains near the turbulent frontier. Finally, The Indian Navy received a new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, from Russia, boosting the number of carriers in its fleet to three. This will make it the third Navy in the world after US and Italy to operate more than one carrier.

2014 Elections and the challenge of Narendra Modi
India’s fascinating democratic process is in full swing at the moment. With national elections approaching in April-May 2014 the electorate stands divided and the debate has become very passionate. The current government led by PM Manmohan Singh has been reviled by many for being corrupt, ineffective, and lacking accountability. Moreover the leading political party i.e. the Congress, known for promoting political dynasties i.e. the Gandhi family, has come under tremendous criticism for fielding Rahul Gandhi, son of former PM Rajiv Gandhi and the strong current chief of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi. The challenge for the incumbent comes from the Hindu ultra right-wing leader Narendra Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and three times Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat. Modi himself is a highly polarising figure and has been accused of orchestrating the carnage of more than 2000 Muslims in the infamous Gujarat riots of 2002. The debate is thus shaping in the form of ‘choosing between two evils’ i.e. a corrupt, dynastic but socially inclusive party (the Congress) and a relatively clean and performance-oriented but highly (religious) communal figure (Modi). According to some, the contest is between Narendra Modi and Congress, and not between Congress and BJP per se, reflecting the authoritarian nature of Modi. While the popular sentiment remains staunchly against the Congress, people are taking Modi’s development driven agenda with scepticism, particularly as communal tension recently heightened in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) – which is the largest Indian state and most crucial in terms of Parliamentary representation. There remains a small third camp within the electorate, which is hoping for a third alternative that is both secular and non-corrupt, but the possibility of the same remains bleak.

In addition to corruption and secularism the debate has expanded to issues such as economic growth and development, as well as foreign policy. While Congress-led governments have traditionally spearheaded economic reforms in India, the slump in growth rate from approx. 10 per cent per annum to a bit over 4 per cent per annum, shocked many. Even though the current government says that it fared well, relative to Western countries that were hit hard by the global recession, it has failed to convince many. Economic anxieties were fuelled by the crash of the Indian Rupee in the global market, where its value fell from approx. Rs. 45 per US$ to Rs. 63 per US$ and is expected to fall further to Rs. 78 per US$, within a span of two months. Even though Modi has not articulated any particular plans to reverse the economic tide, his election agenda is loaded with rhetoric of growth and development. Having attracted the big Indian corporate and even mid-sized businesses, Modi has popular support from the print and electronic media. However, critics have targeted him for not enunciating a clear economic policy. In the meantime the Congress-led government have been actively introducing populist policies to catch the imagination of the voter. These include the Food Security Bill, a specialist report on oil and gas prices – to put a cap on them – called the Rangarajan Committee Report among others. Finally, regardless of their political and economic advocacies, both Modi and Gandhi face the challenge of working in a group. While it is well known that regional political parties are wary of forming a coalition with Modi due to his authoritarian style, there has been tremendous criticism of even Rahul Gandhi for being rigid and unaccommodating of regional political interests.

India’s Sri Lanka Dilemma
Caught in domestic political turbulence over Sri Lanka’s hosting of the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on from 15-17 November, PM Manmohan Singh refused to participate in the meeting. Instead, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid represented India and ultimately expressed regret that the PM could not attend. While proponents of national and strategic interests pushed for PM Manmohan Singh to attend the meeting, various human rights activists and political parties from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu actively discouraged him to visit Colombo. The reason was simple – Sri Lankan government and armed forces have been accused of committing gross human rights violations against Tamil minorities, in their fight against the militant Tamil nationalist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE had been seeking secession of the Tamil-dominated northern parts of Sri Lanka since 1976. With roots in social fragmentation – Sri Lanka has a Sinhalese majority and a sizeable Tamil minority – the island nation witnessed a bloody civil war from 1983 to 2009. According to various human rights organisations, the Sri Lankan army used massive force not just against the LTTE cadres and fighters but also Tamil civilians in its 2009 Northern Offensive – which led to the final defeat of the LTTE. Often, allegedly, firing in No-Fire zones meant for relief purposes, the offensive led to the death of more than 40,000 civilians and many more were displaced. Interestingly, India has had its own historical trajectory of involvement with the Sri Lankan conflict and actively – militarily and politically – supported the Sri Lankan government in its 2009 operations.

India provided covert support in terms of training and supplies to the Tamil rebels between 1983-1987 and played an important role in the creation of the LTTE, against the Sri Lankan government. Most Sri Lankan Tamil groups – political and militant – had developed deep links with India’s own Tamil political parties since early 1970s. The idea was to maintain pressure on a pro-American Sri Lankan government within the Cold War context. However, in 1987, under the leadership of the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J R Jayawardene, the India-Sri Lanka Peace Accords were signed. While most Tamil militant groups agreed to give up arms and participate in provincial elections, the LTTE refused to abide by the Accord. As a result, India moved in its armed forces, called the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF), in July 1987 to North Sri Lanka. Mandated with ensuring a ceasefire between the rebels and government forces and helping Colombo organise provincial elections, the IPKF was also to disarm and demobilise the rebels. However, instead of achieving either of the two, India got sucked into a bloody conflict itself with the LTTE when the latter declared war against the IPKF. Lasting till March 1990, IPKF intervention in Sri Lanka cost the Indian Army 1,200 soldiers and more than 3,000 were wounded – LTTE lost more than 8,000 people. In a shocker, an LTTE suicide bomber assassinated the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi during a political rally in Tamil Nadu on 21 May 1991. India, including its Tamil politicians (tacitly though), by now had turned decisively against the LTTE and provided critical military and naval support to Sri Lanka in 2009 to wipe out the LTTE.

Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations in 2009 not only sparked international outrage but also made the issue of political consequence in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil political parties in India – such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (AIADMK) who are part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government – have been pressuring PM Manmohan Singh to boycott Sri Lanka and initiate an international inquiry into war crimes. With national Indian elections at the doorstep (April-May 2014) a strong alliance with these parties is crucial for the Congress to challenge the momentum of its Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rival Narendra Modi. This anti-Sri Lanka advocacy was matched by a strong ‘engage-Sri Lanka’ advocacy across the country. While the former had political interests, the latter wanted India to stand by its decisions and not allow China to make gains in post-war Sri Lanka, which not only has a wealth of natural resources but is important for India strategically. Interestingly, British PM David Cameron’s visit to Jaffna, the region where the civil war was most acute, made international headlines, much to the embarrassment of many in New Delhi, who wanted PM Manmohan Singh to undertake a similar visit.

India expects more militants in Kashmir as US quits Afghanistan
India is bracing for more militancy in its northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), believing that fighters now focused on resisting US-led troops in Afghanistan will shift toward the Himalayan flashpoint between India and Pakistan. According to security experts, increased violence in the recent months along the Line-of-Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan proves that the shift is already underway. While it is unclear which side started the firing, both the countries have suffered losses due to exchange of fire in the recent months. India is increasing its use of drones, thermal sensors and foot patrols as it tries to catch out any battle-hardened militants moving through the forested mountains near the turbulent frontier. At the same time, Indian troops have increasingly been engaging in skirmishes with Pakistan's military.

According to an Indian Army commander in J&K, the militants are ‘making their presence felt by launching audacious attacks’. There has also been an increase in recruitment of disenchanted and radicalised youth. According to experts the main anti-India terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as we had forecast, have already started operating from training camps within Afghan territory. There has also been an increase in training local Kashmiri youth that have become extremely radicalised over the last few years. India has also increased its engagement with the US to address this upcoming challenge and the two countries are regularly in touch over security matters. According to Admiral Samuel Locklear of the US Navy, ‘we are thinking about it more and more each day, and this includes dialogue with our partners in India and Pakistan’. India has long accused Pakistan of arming and training militants who fight in J&K, a charge Pakistan vehemently denies. Pakistan has consistently said it gives the rebels only moral and diplomatic support but Pakistan’s government and institutions are so fragmented, that is still unconvincing.

Indian Navy gets new aircraft carrier
The Indian Navy received a new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, from Russia, boosting the number of carriers in its fleet to three. This will make it the third Navy in the world after US and Italy to operate more than one carrier. The aircraft carrier was commissioned into the Indian Navy at a Russian shipyard recently, ending a five-year delay to the US$ 2.33 billion project. The 44,570-tonne carrier, which will operate supersonic MiG-29K fighters and Kamov-31 helicopters from its deck, is the largest-ever warship to be inducted by India, as also the most expensive single military platform ever bought. India's solitary carrier till now, the 55-year-old INS Viraat, will now be a poor second at 28,000-tonne. Formerly called Admiral Gorshkov (Kiev-Class carrier for Soviet Navy), the INS Vikramaditya was commissioned at the Sevmash Shipyard in the northern Arctic at a ceremony attended by defence minister A K Antony, Russian deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin,’ and senior officials of the two countries. The warship, with its array of fighters, helicopters and other weapon systems, will go a long way in bolstering the Navy's blue-water capabilities, and is already being described as “a game-changer” in the region. Given the delay in the delivery of the carrier many Indians had started worrying that they may not receive the war-ship at all. With geopolitical competition with China on the rise, the INS Vikramaditya is supposed to give India an advantage in the Indian Ocean vis-ŕ-vis China.

  

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