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Himalayan Crossings: Explaining the Rise of China and India

Selected Insights on US Foreign Policy and on Political Economy, Security, Finance, and Information Technologies in and between South Asia and Greater China


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Posts Tagged ‘India’

Indian economic reform from the bottom up

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Madhu Kishwar has a piece on East Asia forum drawing attention to the difficulties facing the 92 % of Indian workers in the unorganized and informal sectors.  The controls that effect these sectors, she points out stifle dynamism.  These controls includes regulations on agricultural goods (no national market), land (transfer and property rights need clarification), and small-scale merchandise (limited access to national and international markets).

Her point about small scale industry applies to the area of handicrafts where Ubuntu at Work is seeking to help.
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She writes:

Similarly, the poverty of India’s traditional artisans and technologists cannot be eradicated by treating them as ‘backward’, while roping them into government jobs as clerks and peons as a panacea. They need access to national and international markets without exploitative intermediaries. In addition, they should be welcome in appropriate institutions of higher learning such as textile engineering, departments of metallurgy and schools of architecture, as well as in institutions for training artists and performers — both as teachers and students — so that they are able to build on their traditional skills.

via Indian economic reform from the bottom up | East Asia Forum.

M.K. Gandhi’s Three Legged Stool vs. the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty’s Tippy Stilts

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The UP elections compel us to reflect on an enduring question of democratic politics — are individuals more important than organisations?

Ashutosh Varshney’s recent oped on the meaning of the UP election had me wondering though if the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty can or should ever rebuild a solid Congress organization.

UP, long having put the nation first, may have learnt to look out for itself

The UP elections compel us to reflect on an enduring question of democratic politics — are individuals more important than organisations?

Consider Mahatma Gandhi’s classic answer to this question. Individuals are necessary, he said, but not sufficient. Without organisations, big political campaigns cannot be launched, let alone victories achieved, but without individual drive, energy and leadership, organisations cannot be created.

Dynastic charisma and organization building may not work for them. There may be an inherent conflict between the legal and mundane elements of organizational strength and legitimacy that can’t ever grow in the shade of the Nehru-Gandhi family’s long shadow.

I remember back in the mid-1990s when there was still hope that Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot might rebuild or at least renovate the Congress edifice.

Jagdish’s comment that Manmohan and the reform team may now be relatively stronger suggests the actual absolute weakness of both sides of the Congress dyarchy.

Akhilesh’s laptops, referred to in the piece, suggest some inklings of venturesome policy in the SP, it seems to me from a normative perspective, that the sad thing about the trend in the regionalization of party politics is the absence of wide and deep fresh policy ensembles for the things that really matter such as education, infrastructure and health.

US Defense and Foreign Policy Planners are Learning to Deal with India, Slowly

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The process of trying to sell Medium-Range, Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to the Indian Ministry of Defense will be an important learning process for the American foreign policy establishment.

It may be possible that some smugness, or even hubris, crept into that establishment after concluding the Indo-US nuclear deal several years ago.

The trickiness of the nuclear liability issue in the wake of the nuclear deal should have been a corrective.

America and key departments of its executive branch such as the State Department and the Defense Department (as well as Commerce and eventually Treasury) will have to learn how to conduct relations with an India whose Grand Strategy and policy-making process is entirely unfamiliar.  Few in Washington understand the drivers and constraints of Indian foreign policy.

The recent events surrounding the Indo-US strategic dialogue make this clear.

The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata) | Nation | US friendship faces ‘St Antony’ test.

Those events also present further evidence for HC’s theory of Indian Grand Strategy and foreign-policy-making as geographically, structurally, culturally and politically inclined toward “equipoise”.

India's African Soft-Power Counter to China's African Push

Monday, February 14th, 2011

This is the kind of thing that HC has long been suggesting would be an opportunity for India.

India Steps Forward as Africa Seeks Academic Aid – NYTimes.com.

India's Response to China's role in global economic governance

Monday, February 14th, 2011

China and global economic governance: History matters | East Asia Forum.

Wendy Dobson over at East Asia Forum has written about China’s positive participation in global and multilateral institutions.  This is something that Ian Johnston has written about with greater rigor elsewhere.

Global climate change will be the key issue area in which to observe and evaluate deep patterns of Chinese policy behaviour and thinking on global multilateral institutions.

Dobson and Drysdale in their anlyses of Chinese participation in mulitlateral institutions have not yet pointed this out.

What has this got to do with India?

As HC has written elsewhere, climate change policy and carbon-control institutions and processes present India with the opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on global institutions.

It will be interesting to see if Jairam Ramesh who is spearheading India’s efforts in this direction will keep his job in the coming months.

For-Profit Micro-Finance on the Hot Seat

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Further to HC’s recent post on mobile telephony and what it would take to make micro-finance really be effective against poverty in the long run, the BBC broadcast one of the few interviews Vikram Akula has done since investigations and new legislation have been in the works in India’s state of Andhra Pradesh.
(Full disclosure, Akula was a student of Lloyd Rudolph — my father — in the University of Chicago Political Science Department, and he has graciously offered his time in the past to give advice to Ubuntu at Work, a non-profit micro-finance coaching and assistance organization that I advised).
A few things stand out in this broadcast. First, Y. V. Reddy, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (whom I’ve interviewed, and who is a reasonably mainstream and market-friendly thinker on political economy) compares “for-profit micro-finance” to “sub-prime lending”. Listen for yourself. Akula is hoping that the current RBI Governor will succeed in centralizing regulation of the microfinance sector.
Second, Vikram Akula, ends up with a mixed performance in this broadcast. He is founder of SKS micro-finance, which is now a for-profit micro-finance provider. Last year SKS had a widely-covered IPO listing on the Bombay Stock Exchange. According to the BBC, Akula took home 13 million US $ from that offering.
SKS Microfinance, an Indian firm that makes small loans to the poor, had raised about $358 million in an IPO after pricing the sale at the top end of the indicated price band.

SKS Microfinance(SKSMICRO.NS) Stock price(INR) since IPO in Aug 2010. Source: Yahoo Finance

When SKS was still a non-profit (missing word) part of its mission statement and its marketing claimed it would help “irradiate poverty”? The BBC journalist unkindly, and rather opportunistically, but not inaccurately puts Akula on the spot for this claim. Alas, he is not as adroit when handling his firms past messianic claims as he is on making the general case promoting for-profit micro-finance.
There are two key issues that the BBC report is, perhaps, a bit irresponsible about:
First, the opportunistic targeting of “for-profit” micro-finance. While the profits made by such firms interacting with the poor “bottom of the pyramid” justify close scrutiny and demanding business ethics, inquiry, research and moral reasoning on the benefits of micro-finance should extend to non-profit micro-finance as well.
This is a theme HC has been covering for some time.
While randomized field experiments have serious problems, they are some of the better evaluations we have of micro-finance, and they do not suggest that non-profit micro-finance is significantly more effective at poverty alleviation than is for-profit micro-finance. The BBC is verging on journalistic demagoguery with this imbalance in the story.
Second, if journalists, policy-makers and other are interested in understanding the dynamics that Y. V. Reddy alludes to in his “sub-prime” analogy, they may want to interview or analyze the venture capitalists and investors who are supporting the for-profit micro-finance boom.
Below is a table made from the shareholder pattern data available on SKS Microfinance Website.
Table Showing Shareholding Pattern
What is their view of the industry? Why do they consider it a good investment? What do they think of what is going on now in India?
In conclusion, let me remind regular readers of HC, that the idea behind micro-finance-oriented business services, coaching, and mentoring, is to help support the success of women entrepreneurs, through business advice, moral support and greater loan-life-cycle audit-trail visibility.
Hopefully, the “business services and coaching” phase of the micro-finance trend will soon reach its adolescence and we will be able to see the results of social science research of all types (not just randomized field experiments) on whether and how such services may effect the welfare of women micro-financed entrepreneurs.

Daring to be different — and right

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Daring to be different — and right.

Greenstone and Pande slyly show that Jairam has put the Chinese on their back foot with his proposal.

The interesting thing is how Jairam is surviving in this government.  He has no popular electoral base.  He is not making friend is industry.  Its not clear who is patron is?  Sonia? Manmohan.

India's Dilemma: Real Opportunity, Real Threat

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The dynamic that has been unfolding between the Indian government and global technology firms over the last five years presents an acute dilemma for the India state, its businesses and its citizens.

This dynamic is not new and goes back to scuffles between Indian parliamentarians and Google over Google earth as early as 2005.

HC will have more to say about this shortly.

Tech Firms Resist India on Software Code Secrets – NYTimes.com.

Kashmir: Who and what will break the deadlock?

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Basharat Peer has a piece in the Guardian.  Peer is as well-informed and reasonable a Kashmiri observer of the Kashmir situation as “mainland” Indian’s are likely to get.

In his piece Peer refers the list of requests put forward by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

“New Delhi should accept Kashmir as a dispute, free Kashmiri political prisoners, and withdraw its troops. Soldiers guilty of civilian killings must be punished, and their blanket protection withdrawn.” (this last point is a reference to the application of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in several select districts of Kashmir)

This list was put forward by a figure whom all agree has a largely “separatist” and “hardline” agenda.

But, this is the same list that moderate Kashmiri’s are suggesting.

From the Delhi-Mainland side, no one is offering anything concrete, other than negotiations, promises of development aid, and other non-political bromides.

Some fresh suggestions are necessary to provide the basis for momentum-generating conversation.

Social scientists studying India, this author included, agree that a strange thing has happened over sixty-three years of Indian independence; while states of the heartland have seen increases in the degrees of federal and identity-based autonomy from the Union government in Delhi, Kashmir has seen decreases in those things.

As usual, HC is always interested in comparison with China.   Kashmir is more like Tibet (steadily decreasing autonomy) in China than it is like Hong Kong (a dynamic political tension over degrees of autonomy, with real, identifiable elements of autonomy in spite of dramatic undemocratic institutions).

What is not clear at all from the current impasse in India over Kashmir is whether the Congress-led UPA government is aware that it missed a great opportunity in the 2006-2007 period when Mufti-family-led People’s Democratic Party engineered a period of stability compelling enough that the state, the central government and the key ministries (Home and Defense) seriously considered a comprehensive demilitarization of the Kashmir valley.

Pakistan, militants, and outside powers all benefit from confrontation between the Indian state and Kashmiris.

Yet, the moderates of neither side can seem to devise ways to de-escalate and recapture momentum.