Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Modi's Hypocrisy on Full Display at Davos 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in support of globalization and talked of his commitment to diversity in his country.

Modi's Rhetoric:

Prime Minister Modi warned that "forces of protectionism are raising their heads" against international trade and commerce. "Bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations have come to a kind of standstill," he said.

He also praised his country's commitment to democracy and diversity. "For a society with diverse religions, cultures, languages, attires and cuisines, democracy is not just a political system but a way of living," he said, adding that inclusion is the "main principle" of his government.

Is Modi living up to the ideals of globalization and diversity that he spoke of in his Davos speech? Let's compare these words to his government's actions.


In December 2017, Modi's government imposed stiff tariffs on imports of cellphones, video cameras and televisions, according to a report in New York Times.

The Indian government is also seriously considering a recommendation by Indian Directorate General of Safeguards, Customs and Central Excise that the country impose 70 percent tariffs on imported solar panels.


Mr. Modi has pursued Hindutva politics and policies in spite of warnings by leading economists, including Ragu Rajan, Arun Shourie and analysts at Moody's. These have created a lot of fear among religious minorities and Dalits.

But Mr. Modi has built his entire political career on the intense hatred of  Muslims. US President Donald Trump built his successful presidential campaign on Islamophobia and xenophobia. That's what the two men have in common.

 India's largest state of Uttar Pradesh elected rabidly anti-Muslim chief minister Yogi Adiyanath who was hand-picked by Muslim-hating Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017.

Just as white racists form the core of Trump's support base in America, the Modi phenomenon in India has been fueled by Hindu Nationalists whose leaders have praised Adolph Hitler for his hatred of Jews.

M.S. Golwalkar, a Hindu Nationalist who Mr. Modi has described as "worthy of worship" wrote the following about Muslims in his book "We":

 "Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”

"To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's actions do not match his rhetoric on globalization and commitment to diversity.  His government's protectionist trade policies and treatment of minorities speak far louder than his words at the World Economic Forum  Davos, Switzerland.

  Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Hindu Nationalists Love Nazis

A Conversation With White Nationalist Jared Taylor on Race in America

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

Modi and Trump

Anders Breivik: Islamophobia in Europe and India

Hindu Nationalism Goes Global

Hindutva: The Legacy of the British Raj


Samir said...

Deception thy name is Modi

Ranjit S. said...

Call it whatever you feel like but world will buy it.

Riaz Haq said...

The #India that #Modi sold at #Davos isn’t quite the India we live in. #ModiAtDavos https://qz.com/1186653 via @qzindia


Silence and violence
So is the case with the fractures in Indian society.

One of the key issues the Indian prime minister sought to highlight was that of terrorism. “As dangerous as terrorism is, the artificial distinction being made between good terrorist and bad terrorist is more dangerous,” Modi said.

This assertion, perhaps pointing at Pakistan’s dilly-dallying with sections of the Taliban and Kashmir-focused militant groups, seems a little off in the Indian context, not the least under Modi’s watch.

India, of course, is no stranger to religious or caste-based strife.

However, since he took power in 2014, incidents of Hindu right-wing aggression, both online and offline, have gained momentum. Yet, the prime minister and senior leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have mostly turned a blind eye towards those indulging in such violence—sometimes even tacitly backing them.

The argument could also be extended to Modi’s claim of “inclusiveness” followed by his government.

“In 2014 after 30 years, Indian voters provided complete majority to any political party to form a government at the centre. We took the resolution for the development of everyone and not just a specific group. Our motto is sabka saath sabka vikas,” Modi said at Davos, referring to his campaign motto that roughly translates to “Support for everyone, development for everyone.”

However, many would counter him on this front, too, not just on the basis of his government’s and colleagues’ public stances but also his own personal approach.

In the Gujarat legislative elections late last year, for instance, his party used outright toxic rhetoric against non-Hindus and Dalits. And Modi, as prime minister, spearheaded such bigotry. In campaign mode, he hasn’t shied away from gaining electoral dividends by sharpening religious divides.

At other times, when serious crimes were committed against non-Hindus, he chose a piercing silence.

Speaking at Davos, Modi quoted Rabindranath Tagore, the venerated poet who espoused universalism and striving for an India that was “a heaven of freedom where the world is not divided by narrow domestic walls.”

It is ironic then that the Nobel laureate himself would likely be branded an anti-national today—not the least by Modi’s own partymen.

Riaz Haq said...

At the other end of town in #Davos, a senior #Chinese diplomat helped introduce the prime minister of #Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at a breakfast meeting. #WEF18 http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/in-davos-the-real-star-may-have-been-china-not-trump

DAVOS, Switzerland (NYTIMES) - US President Donald Trump used the World Economic Forum meeting to woo investors and business leaders by reassuring them that "America first does not mean America alone".

But it was clear in Davos, Switzerland, this past week that geopolitical momentum lay with Beijing, not Washington.

At one end of town, President Michel Temer of Brazil welcomed an unexpected offer from Beijing for Latin American nations to work closely with a Chinese initiative, known as the Belt and Road, intended to spread its economic and diplomatic influence abroad.

At the other end of town, a senior Chinese diplomat helped introduce the prime minister of Pakistan at a breakfast meeting. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi used his talk to praise the rapidly expanding Chinese investments in his country, including to build power stations and a large port.

One of the best-attended speeches at the forum was that of Liu He, a member of China's ruling Politburo, who promoted the Belt and Road initiative, also known as One Belt, One Road. Participants here said the Chinese initiative was already rivaling more established, traditionally American-led, international institutions.

"The China One Belt, One Road is going to be the new WTO - like it or not," said Joe Kaeser, chief executive of Siemens, the German industrial giant, referring to the World Trade Organisation.

Belt and Road takes its name from the idea that Beijing is spreading its influence along the ancient Silk Road that once linked imperial China to the Roman Empire and to the medieval Europe of Marco Polo. But that was not the only push to extend its presence abroad that Beijing was trying to showcase.

On Friday, the Chinese government used a policy document issued in Beijing to call for a "Polar Silk Road" that would link China to Europe and the Atlantic via a shipping route past the melting Arctic ice cap.

Belt and Road has been a centrepiece of the foreign policy of President Xi Jinping, and his promises of a "China Dream" of restoring his nation to past greatness. Unveiled in Kazakhstan in 2013, Belt and Road started as a plan to revive economic, investment and diplomatic links across Central Asia.

The plan gradually extended to include the Mideast, Europe and eastern Africa, with Beijing promising hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in highways, rail lines, ports, power stations and other infrastructure, much of it through loans from Chinese state-owned banks.

Critics have been sceptical that projects bankrolled through the initiative will bury the recipients in debt and cause considerable environmental damage. It has also been criticised as an easy line of financing for authoritarian regimes. China says its projects will be environmentally and financially sound, and that it does not seek a say in how other countries are governed.

While Davos was underway, China was making other efforts to stretch the geographical ambitions of its Belt and Road initiative even further.

At a summit meeting for Latin American and Caribbean foreign ministers in Santiago, Chile, Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China called for close cooperation and participation by the region's countries, although he stopped short of formally including them in the initiative.

In Davos, Temer of Brazil said that he was not concerned about the rising influence in South America of China, which has increased investments in his country and extended enormous loans to Venezuela and Ecuador.

Riaz Haq said...

Why has the Reserve Bank of #India Killed the #Indian #Economy? #Modi #India #Achhedin #BJP https://thewire.in/223474/reserve-bank-of-india-killing-indian-economy/ … via @thewire_in

The RBI’s relentless high interest rates are killing the new entrepreneurial class and has forced India’s growth rate to fall below the average of the past 30 years.

In an interview Kaushik Basu gave to The Hindu on January 24, the former chief economic adviser to the government of India pointed out that when all the recent massaging of India’s growth statistics is filtered out, India’s growth rate has now fallen below the average of the past 30 years. Quite obviously far from bringing back ‘achhe din’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the Indian economy back to something that is beginning to look dangerously like the “Hindu rate of growth” in a new saffron avatar.

What is responsible for this? The short, blunt answer is the exorbitantly high interest rate regime imposed by the Reserve Bank of India almost eight years ago to curb a short spasm of inflation, which was then maintained relentlessly by a succession of its governors in the face of a pusillanimous finance minister irrespective of how much inflation has fallen.

This has killed Indian industry.

Today, the sum total of non-performing loans has reached the terrifying figure of Rs 9,50,000 crore, or $1.4 trillion. Worse still, Rs 1,140,000 crore of capital has been wasted on what the government euphemistically calls ’stalled’, but which are in reality abandoned projects. And worst of all, no fewer than 500 companies that had invested this money are now facing bankruptcy proceedings, and will have their remaining assets sold off at a fraction of their value in the next few years.

Indian industry is dead. Demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have killed off a large part of the unorganised sector. This will gradually revive, but the RBI’s relentless high interest rates are killing the new entrepreneurial class that had come into being economic liberalisation in the 1990s and 2000s.

Why is the RBI doing this? What model of banking is it aspiring to emulate? To understand this, it is necessary to understand the history of the RBI. A recent, racily written, book by well-known economic journalist TCA Srinivasaraghavan gives insights that help understand its motivation. TCA points out that banking grew out of the need of the rulers to finance war. This gave bankers an early ascendancy over the State that they misused for two centuries before the Wall Street crash of 1929. That, and the Great Recession that followed, forced the United States and European governments to create a lender of the last resort, i.e a central bank that would not only backstop, but also control, all other banks but itself be controlled by the government.

Therein lay the rub. For governments were no less capable of abusing their power to create money than the banks that they set out to tame. This sowed the seeds of a conflict between central banks and governments that ended in Britain, with the Bank of England wresting full control of money supply from the treasury after the ‘Black Monday’ financial crash in 1992, but has still not ended in India.

Riaz Haq said...

A wave of #religious intolerance is hitting big business in #India. A wave of religious intolerance as India heads toward elections is emerging as a new risk for its top companies. #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Modi #BJP https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-01/online-bigotry-is-becoming-a-risk-for-india-s-biggest-companies via @bpolitics


Over the past weeks, a telecom giant, the Indian lender led by Asia’s richest banker, and the local rival of Uber Technologies Inc. have been roiled by controversies linked to comments on Facebook and Twitter involving a minority community in the Hindu-dominated nation. All these started as social media posts, then gained a life of their own as people backed or vilified the comments, eventually forcing the companies to react to contain any damage.

Tensions on social media are mounting as the world’s largest democracy approaches elections early next year that will pit the Hindu nationalist beliefs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party against the main opposition, which often spotlights secularism and rising religious intolerance. Risk consultancy Kroll Inc. says it’s seeing an “exponential increase” in questions from corporate clients on how to manage the fallout from incidents on social media.

“It doesn’t just carry reputational and business risk, it can snowball into business continuity risks that can spread faster than a forest fire,” said Tarun Bhatia, a Mumbai-based managing director at Kroll. “Companies can’t choose their customers or control what they say. So it comes down to how companies manage these incidents, how quickly they react.”

Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s biggest telecommunications provider thanks to its 304 million subscribers, was tested on that recently. This is how it began: Around noon on June 18, Twitter user Pooja Singh complained about an Airtel customer service representative. An Airtel employee replied, promising to get back with more information, and signed off as “Shoaib.”

This is a recognizable Muslim name in a country currently riven by passionate teams of social media trolls, akin to the U.S. experience where political discourse often degenerates into hate-filled accusations.

“Dear Shohaib, as you’re a Muslim and I have no faith in your working ethics... requesting you to assign a Hindu representative for my request. Thanks,” Singh responded. Soon after, another Airtel rep named Gaganjot -- a clearly non-Muslim name -- promised to resolve Singh’s concern.

On the morning of June 20, Airtel published a statement on twitter refuting accusations that it gave in to Singh’s alleged discriminatory demand, something that had already attracted severe criticism of the carrier and threats to discontinue its services, including from opposition lawmakers. The statement said that both Shoaib and Gaganjot were just following established workflow processes that “got read as ‘bowing down to bigotry.”’

“Airtel has been resolute for 23 years” and “our training manuals will never carry instructions to pause and check one’s identity before serving a query,” the statement read. The company didn’t reply to an email from Bloomberg seeking further comment.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #India does not deserve to be Permanent Member of #UNSC. #Delhi can’t see that the 12 state ‘United for Consensus’ group, headed by Italy and includes Pakistan, which opposes any reconfiguring of the UNSC, is not primarily to blame
https://bharatkarnad.com/2018/11/23/why-india-does-not-deserve-to-be-permanent-member-of-the-un-security-council/ via @BharatKarnad

The principal hurdle specifically to India’s entry, however, are the two countries the Indian government in the new Century, helmed by both the BJP and the Congress party, has bent over backwards to appease — the United States and China. The Trump Administration has made it plain it supports only a “modest” increase in permanent seats. This by way of saying that Washington would happily countenance its treaty allies, Japan and Germany, in the UNSC but not India or Brazil — though to the Indian PM’s face US functionaries have assured support. China, on its part, has declared it is against “arbitrarily launching text-based negotiations” in IGN as demanded by India; the larger reason, of course, is to deny both its Asian rivals a leg up. Again, Beijing does not say it’s not for India at the high table but hints at its unwillingness to see Japan in the Council, knowing fully well that no move will ever be made to just ease India’s entry into UNSC.

India’s yearning for a permanent seat in the Security Council raises the pertinent question whether India deserves it. Because the five current permanent members (P-5) — US, Russia, China, UK and France are great powers and have traits in common (including the last two which are long into the imperial dusk). They all have hefty nuclear forces, modern militaries to reckon with, are security providers with extra-territorial military presence, with France even in the Indian Ocean (on Reunion Island in the French Indian Ocean Territories and the Heron base in Djibouti), generate advanced technologies in all fields and are frontline technology innovators, have a whole bunch of Third and Fourth World states the world as arms dependencies, courtesy vigorous arms sales schemes, are large foreign aid donors with extensive and tested development and infrastructure assistance programmes, high volumes of global trade and extremely strong and active economies, and relatively high standards of living. So, does India, other than possession of simple, low yield, nuclear weapons (that in quality, perhaps, lags behind a lowly Pakistani arsenal), meet any of these metrics?

Our case rests on the following arguments: that India (1) boasts of a large fraction of the world population, (2) is a “responsible state”, (3) is a longstanding democracy and an exemplar of liberal values (4) contributes disproportionately to UN peacekeeping missions, (5) shaped the post-WWII international system by championing anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and anti-racism, (6) is a steadying influence in a disordered world, (7) has always taken taken the lead role in furthering universal good — disarmament, climate accord, solar alliance, etc., (8) has never been expansionist or coveted foreign territories, but has no neighbour at peace with it, and (9) is a trillion dollar economy, except 40% of its population is below the poverty line.


But India, alas, has no Dengxiaoping, no leader to challenge the world and motivate the Indian people to work for the nation’s cause, only gasbags furthering their advantage in domestic politics while using India’s democracy as an excuse for the country remaining a perennial also-ran.

Surely then such a country cannot credibly ask in good faith for a permanent seat in UNSC to preside over a world it had no role in making, and has even less of a role in running. The P-5 have to feel sorry enough for a “flailing” India to accommodate it, which won’t ever happen. So India is fated to remain on the outside, like a beggar with face pressed to the windows of a posh eatery.

Riaz Haq said...

The Cost of a Modi Victory
A compliant central bank might bolster the Indian prime minister’s reelection chances, but at the expense of the country’s long-term prospects.

By Mihir Sharma


Many of us have long argued that, whatever its problems, India is one of the best long-term bets in the world for one simple reason: It has the sort of world-class institutions that can help build and sustain a genuine market economy. Sadly, many of those same institutions are being undermined by the country’s own leaders — most recently the Reserve Bank of India, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi appear intent on subjugating as part of his bid for reelection. Of all people, Modi should recognize that no election victory is worth giving up on India’s best chance at becoming a world-beating economy.

For Indians who share that ambition, it’s been a sobering week. Late on Monday night, news broke that central bank governor Urjit Patel had quit. The news was particularly shocking because it followed a lengthy campaign by the government to bend India’s independent central bank to its will. The Finance Ministry had demanded a series of concessions from the governor – that the RBI stop forcing state-controlled banks to crack down on some big delinquent borrowers, for example. It believed that the central bank was also being too sparing with liquidity: Recent GDP numbers suggest a slowdown in demand, partly caused by a seize-up in India’s shadow banking sector. These “non-banking financial companies,” to use the official Indian term, are crucial lenders to infrastructure and to the small- and medium-sized enterprises Modi hopes will create jobs for his voters.


It’s the sort of institutional regression that we haven’t seen for decades. No RBI governor has had to quit in the two-and-a-half decades since India began to liberalize its economy; the history of India’s central bank has been one of ever-increasing autonomy. This is particularly important given that India’s a noisy democracy, with a half-dozen elections a year and politicians who want to win each of them. The RBI’s long-term view and evidence-based policymaking provided a crucial counterweight.

That was the sort of governance that many hoped Modi himself would provide when he won a landslide in 2014. Such political capital, they argued, would allow him to keep his eye on what really mattered instead of worrying about day-to-day survival in power. And perhaps that was true at first: The Modi government itself seemed to cap the RBI’s progression to true independence early in its term when it legislated an official inflation target for the bank, freeing it further from New Delhi’s control. In partnership with someone like Rajan, Modi could have provided the kind of sober and effective economic management that would have shifted India permanently to a high-growth trajectory.

Now, Modi’s India looks like a lot more like any other emerging economy, with a tame central bank and a profligate government that wants to ignore the laws of economics. Modi won once by promising world-class governance. Why does he think voters will reelect him for anything less?

Riaz Haq said...

Uncovering a ‘humble’ chaiwallah’s billion-dollar lifestyle
It could put every fat cat in Power Delhi and Khan Market to shame even as taxpayers foot Narendra Modi’s astronomical, wasteful bill.


For starters, if the country’s humble prime minister really wants to lead by living a life of humility and austerity—in deference to the millions of poor and impoverished people he constantly refers to with such touching sympathy—he could perhaps exit from his grand, five-house official residence in the intoxicating world of Lutyens’ Delhi, that not only takes up the entire road, but is spread over 12 acres, in the leafy boulevards of the Capital state. While the layout of the five-mansion residence is secret for security reasons, there are private quarters, guest rooms for visitors, and accommodation for family members, apart from salons to entertain. It’s all run efficiently by a staff of over 50 gardeners, chauffeurs, housekeepers, cooks, and electricians. There are barbers, hairdressers and tailors on call, apart from doctors and nurses on duty round the clock with a state-of-the-art fitted ambulance on stand-by. It’s a household expense that runs into crores of rupees.

Imagine if humble Modi had downsized his personal quarters to a functional minimum, not necessarily outside Lutyens’ zone but in a more modest house—hasn’t he tired of telling the world how he works a punishing 20-hour work schedule, barely sleeping for three-four hours? It would have sent a slap to the slothful and entitled Lutyens’-Khan Market gang he so reviles, and would have also revealed the prime minister’s true beginnings of not just being a chaiwallah’s son (the fable flip-flops from Modi being a tea-seller to being the son of one) but as an ascetic RSS pracharak too, brought up on a rigid and rigorous discipline of life.

I suppose it takes a lot of money to keep Modi humble and poor.

If there are five bullet-proof BMW sedans to ferry him around in the city—though he’s reportedly switched to Range Rovers—there’s Air India One, the plush Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which Modi uses whenever he flies on official visits abroad. It made sense to have the jumbo when prime ministers ferried officials, business delegations, and a sizeable media contingent on tours. But a media-averse Modi travels without them, and with only a bare minimum of officials. As RTI queries have revealed, Air India has sent a whopping bill of ₹443.4 crore for the PM’s trips abroad so far, on aircraft maintenance and setting up a secure hotline, though the airline is yet to calculate the expenses for Modi’s trips to five more countries stretching from Argentina to Japan. The Prime Minister’s Office has declined to give any calculation on Modi’s domestic trips, saying it does not keep an account of it.

Now, couldn’t the humble PM opt for a business jet, with less opulence and luxury, and save taxpayer’s money? Instead, the poor and humble PM has splashed out on his trips abroad with an astronomical bill of ₹2,021 crore in the last five years, which amounts to ₹400 crore a year. His fans say that previous prime ministers too blew up similar amounts of money, but aren’t we dealing with a frugal and ascetic RSS pracharak today?

But Modi’s vanity doesn’t end here: it’s in the publicity sweepstakes that expenses have blown through the roof. As RTI queries reveal, Modi spent nearly ₹4,400 crore on publicity alone (footed by the government and taxpayer) in just four years, until 2018, to bolster his image along with the schemes launched by him. Unfortunately, reports on the performance of the schemes fade in the blaze of Modi’s publicity blitzkrieg. In election year now, the mind boggles with the campaign bill, as reports say Modi’s BJP got 94 per cent of election bonds issued (running into ₹210 crore). Its Facebook and other social media is a multi-million dollar industry.