Indian economy starts looking up, says FM
The Indian economy is looking up, the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, told a press conference in the capital. The latest data reveals that the country’s economy has registered a 5.7% growth in the first quarter (April to June). This has been the fastest rate of growth in over two years. The FM assured, “With the long-term impact of all the initiatives we have taken, I am sure, the impact in the coming quarters will be much larger”.
The NaMo administration has been promising the people Ache Din during the elections and it came to power with an overwhelming majority. It is indeed heartening to find that the confidence of investors has improved and inflation is showing signs of being tamed. The impetus to manufacturing and relaxation in FDI norms, key policy changes effected by the NDA government, seem to have reversed the trend of a slowing growth rate and turned the GDP graph upward. On this parameter at least, the NDA government which is fast approaching its 100th day at the Centre, scores high. Jaitley also said that the government is contemplating to make land acquisition laws more flexible.
PM unlikely to secure USD 1700 billion Japan fund
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Japan on a 5-day visit intended to improve bilateral ties, it has become clear that India shall not be able to secure the USD 1700 billion fund that the NaMo administration had been gunning for. The fund was to come as Japan’s support to the Indian economy. In the run-up to Modi’s Japan visit, the Government of India had initiated negotiations with Japan to secure a USD 1700 billion fund to finance mega projects back home. The fund was to be financed over a period of five years. Japan has, however, discouraged creation of such a fund and has instead asked the government for a list of specific projects that it may consider funding.
India’s ties with Japan are precariously perched even as the latter’s animosity with China continues to grow over the East China Sea islands. The civil nuclear deal has also shown no signs of materializing. The only major success as of now is Japan’s partnership in building Indian smart cities, bagged by Modi. In his first round of talks, the Prime Minister has enlisted Japan’s partnership in a number of areas including infrastructure and technology.
India to acquire USD 2.5 billion worth Boeing helicopters
In a major boost to Indo-US ties, just ahead of PM Modi’s visit to the United States, the Indian Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) has agreed to conclude a USD 2.5 billion deal with Boeing. The Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer shall be supplying India Chinook and Apache helicopters. Earlier this week, the Central government also approved the acquisition of 16 Sikorsky multi-role helicopters.
India is the world’s largest arms importer. The nation is likely to spend US 250 billion spread across the next ten years in an effort to upgrade its military equipment. The NDA government increased FDI in defence to 49% and committed to maintaining India’s leading role in the subcontinent. With intrusions by Pakistan and China increasing in frequency, the Modi administration is gearing up to meet the challenge.
Indigenous capabilities are also being tested to the hilt. The government has redirected a USD 991.65 million tender slotted for the purchase of 197 light-utility helicopters from foreign sellers. Indigenous manufacturers will now be producing 400 such helicopters for the use of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. India’s military spends currently amount to USD 38.35 billion, while China spends about USD 120 billion. Pakistan’s military spend is estimated at about USD 7 billion.
Government contemplates ban on e-cigarettes
The Central government is mulling over a complete ban on the sale of e-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes. The device is now very popular in other countries and is known as a no-smoke electronic nicotine delivery system. A panel consisting primarily of health department officials and leading oncologists recommended its total ban. Currently, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products are regulated by the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) of 2003. Manufacture, marketing, and sale of e-cigarettes is, however, unchartered territory and new legislation dealing with this needs to be introduced.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised a red flag over the growth of e-cigarettes in India. According to the WHO, consumers in India are not informed of the ill-effects of e-cigarettes. Besides, these are attractively marketed and easily available. The USD 3 billion market for e-cigarettes is likely to grow by 17 times by the end of the decade. A blanket ban on the sales of e-cigarettes could adversely affect the interests of companies like ITC which have announced an entry into the business but could be a much needed decision to ensure health standards in the country.
India warns Pakistan against cease-fire violations
India warned Pakistan that repeated ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LOC) are likely to be considered “serious and provocative” threats and were “not very conducive” for warm bilateral ties. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley commented on the raging crossfire in Kupwara district (Jammu & Kashmir) which has claimed the lives of four jawans in the past week.
Jaitley said, “Incursions at both the Line of Control and the International Border are serious and they are provocative … these incidents are creating an environment which is not very conducive for relationship between the two countries”.
India’s stand on the Jammu and Kashmir issue has been strengthening since the NDA government took charge. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated that meaningful dialogue would only be initiated when the environment is free of any threat of terrorism and violence. With over 24 ceasefire violations in this month, hostilities continue on both sides of the LOC and IB. It remains to be seen how the Indian administration reacts in the weeks to come.