Intro: Modi has given a mantra of ‘Quiet Execution’ which matters in a country with too much talk and too little action.
Bouquets and brickbats keep getting hurled at Narendra Modi, but that, one supposes, is par for the course.
Gurcharan Das has some nice things to say about Modi in The Times of India (August 3). According to him where he expected discontinuity “there is surprising continuity.” To quote him: “Those who expected big bang reforms are disappointed and those who feared an intolerant autocracy are re-assured. The most palpable change is an upbeat mood in the central bureaucracy. No straggling in at 11 a.m. There are reports of quick appointments to the public; the same arrogant officer comes on the phone line and is more helpful. Another change is the quiet way that infrastructure projects have got going and begun to create jobs…. The noiseless shift to self-attestation is a major administrative reform… Three archaic labour laws are about to be scrapped, enhancing employee benefits and making it easier to do business… New rules on inspections have also struck a quiet blow against the dreaded inspector raj… Merely the announcement that five to ten million tons of grain from the FCI stockpile will be sold has reduced grain prices… There is more praise of this kind.” But there are people who still criticise Modi for sake of criticism.
Now some reference to the World Trade Organisation's Trade Facilitation Agreement. According to The Indian Express (August 4) “India has done well not to buckle under pressure from the US” on that issue. The paper said US Secretary of State John Kerry “was neither diplomatic nor truthful when he said India's refusal to sign the trade deal has undermined its image.” “As President Barack Obama gets ready to receive Modi, he should realise that India will hereafter follow a ‘India First Policy’ in both foreign affairs and trade. Reciprocity and respect for each other's strategic interests alone will guide India-US ties” the paper added.
The Hindu (August 4) had a different view. It said: “Politically speaking, no government can afford to be seen as compromising either the interests of the 270 million people who live below the poverty line or its farmers…. The main grouse India has is that there has been little forward movement on discussing the issue…. Clearly, both sides are guilty of brinkmanship. Yet all is not lost.”
Deccan Herald (August 4) was not all that supportive of the Indian stand. “India” it said, “was wrong to block the long-awaited Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the WTO meeting in Geneva.” Concluding, the paper said: “There is time and there are alternatives to ensure that farmers and poor consumers are protected. Therefore India should drop its inflexible stand and pave the way to an agreement at the next WTO meeting, possibly next month.” The Asian Age (July 27) practically welcomed the Cabinet's clearance for a hike in foreign direct investment in Insurance to 49 per cent from 26 per cent. Insurance, it said, “is a necessity, more for the unemployed, unorganised labour, including farmers and agricultural labourers. The paper conceded that it has to be seen whether hiking FDI in this sector will fill this necessity significantly. However it added: “There is expectation that foreign companies will bring in more than just funds – best practices, risk management techniques, innovatively designed products and services and technology. The industry is in for exciting times.”
Modi meanwhile received bouquets for his visit to Nepal. The Indian Express (August 5) said that Modi’s visit to Nepal “marks a turning point in Indo-Nepal relations” and “seen in the backdrop of increasing Chinese influence in India's immediate neighbourhood, this was a deft move of strategic diplomacy… This is the right approach.” The paper said that “India must step up its diplomatic over-reach to these neighbours by expanding all-round cooperation with them” adding: “It must enlarge its strategic footprints in these countries without overly taking on China.”
The Times of India (August 3) warned that “Modi should unequivocally assert that Nepal's evolving democratic process is an internal matter for that country” and “doing so would also allay fears in Kathmandu that BJP supports a return of the Nepali monarchy.” “Modi's visit” the paper said “has triggered a wave of optimism in Nepal over Delhi-Kathmandu relations.”
(The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)