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India Briefing: April-May 2015

Snapshot Summary

One year into the rule of the National Democratic Alliance government, Indian politics is poised at an unusual point. The forces represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi continue to be popular, but there is also a strong perception that they have reached the limits of their influence - and hence "politics as usual" is coming back. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. Some of the key trends include:

  • Internal and external criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party has become much more focused and coherent. It revolves around three themes: this is a "government for the rich"; it is a government overly concerned about its image; and it is too centralised, both internally and externally.
  • Indeed, a distance from the economic concerns of the majority of Indians is apparent in the kind of policymaking that is being followed.
  • Simultaneously image concerns continue to severely impact the coherence of economic policy.
  • In sharp contrast, a coherent and focused agenda by Hindu chauvinist forces seems underway.

In this briefing, we'll explore these trends in more depth.

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India Briefing: February 2015

Snapshot Summary

In the run up to the Union Budget, the constraints on the National Democratic Alliance government are becoming clearer - even as earlier trends continue. The constraints were made dramatically visible by the sweeping victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections, which occurred just as we were going to press. The continuing trends include:

  • The government's focus on projecting an image, at the cost of coherent policy making.
  • Continued insecurity of livelihoods and employment for the majority of Indians, despite a recent fall in inflation following the fall in international oil prices.
  • Economic policy that appears focused on the interests of a narrow section of big business and at sending "signals" to this section.
  • A continued environment of chauvinism and violence, notwithstanding some very recent statements by the Prime Minister against such politics - the first such statements during his tenure.

The new political environment after the Delhi elections is, as yet, difficult to read.

In this briefing we touch upon the following key developments:

  • The impact of the Delhi elections, in brief.
  • The mixed signals around economic policy - particularly the use of ordinances, which reflect a combination of a lack of political coherence and a very narrow set of policy priorities.
  • The visit of President Obama and the manner in which it reflected certain key contradictions in the present regime.

We hope you find the briefing useful.

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India Briefing: September 2014

Snapshot Summary

India Gate

The India Briefing is a new effort to capture, in broad but sharp strokes, what is happening in the world's largest democracy. Every month, we'll be issuing a general briefing and a thematic note on a particular subject. In this first issue of the general briefing, we discuss India's new government - which elements of its actions mark continuity with the old, and which are major changes. We focus on likely upcoming problems. In this briefing we highlight:

  • How most Indians are likely to face increased volatility and insecurity, in both income and expenditure, as a result of ongoing policy changes;
  • How these policies may increase the risk of financial instability and of cronyism;
  • How administrative measures and the rapid growth of chauvinistic organisations are leading to greater violence, both now and in the future.

We also flag some key danger trends:

  • Bad loans and the ongoing relaxation of regulatory requirements, as well as possible government bailouts (see below).
  • Changes in natural resource regulations that are likely to increase conflict around project sites.
  • Continued campaigns by RSS-affiliated groups aimed at exclusion, discrimination and violence against Muslims and other minorities.

We hope the briefing is useful to you.

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India Briefing: November 2014

Snapshot Summary

Modi on the road...

All the warning signs we noted in the last issue of the India Briefing have continued to intensify, including:

  • Economic insecurity and instability for the majority of Indians, with the partial exception of a fall in inflation rates (linked to oil prices);
  • Increasing risk of cronyism and financial instability, including some high profile examples;
  • An increase in hate politics, violence and administrative measures targeting minorities - particularly Muslims.

In this issue, we describe developments on these issues, and also look at two further subject areas: changes in electoral politics and foreign policy initiatives. What we find is that:

  • Foreign policy initiatives since May have largely continued with the same substantive principles as under the previous government, excepting accommodating the United States on some issues.
  • The primary target of most foreign policy actions, however, appears to be domestic audiences rather than other nations. This may lead to increased incoherence in foreign policy.
  • Finally, in electoral politics the BJP is the undisputed central pole, around which all other forces are arranging themselves. This situation is likely to lead to an intensification of polarisation and, given developments so far, political violence.

Finally, we reiterate the warning signs we noted in the previous briefing, along with a new one:

  • Financial instability and increased stress on banks.
  • Changes in natural resource regulations that are likely to increase speculation, cronyism and social conflict.
  • Exclusion of minorities from public spaces and discourse, and violations of their rights.
  • Possible increases in violence and social conflict in some States, such as Delhi and Kashmir.

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