Indian PM visits Japan

I just recorded an interview with NITI Central on the PM’s visit to Japan. As soon as it is uploaded, shall update this post with the link. I think it is a mutually beneficial relationship. India needs order, quality, technology, infrastructure. Japan needs to find some source of growth. Regardless of whether the relationship is targeted at or against any one – it need not be – India and Japan have much to gain from each other. Whether we like it or not, the mere fact of them drawing closer will bring about stability in the region and moderate the behaviour of others. The Western media has a penchant to paint this as an adversarial combination against China. See this for an example. It does not have to be. The mere combination will suffice.

Amy Kazmin’s piece in FT is not a bad one. Pankaj Mishra’ piece in Bloomberg is an example of the kind of output that we get from people who neither know their economics nor studied history well and properly. In the interests of propriety, decency, decorum and dignity, we need to stop our comments on Mr. Mishra’s columns with those remarks.

Jairam Ramesh and the Indian PM

Late Sunday night, I had the (mis) fortune of coming across this piece by Mr. Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister in the UPA government. The following questions came to my head, after I finished reading that piece.

What is the point of this piece? What does one expect a former Cabinet Minister from a decimated political party to say? What new information is being conveyed here to the readers?

Did the PM really play the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine in Gujarat? He did not. He was consistent. He did not give room for fissiparous tendencies. Period. He shows no special favours. He does not pander to special interests nor does he engage in shameless, vote-grabbing minority populism.

Second, the PM has not choked access to the corporate sector. The personal access that leads to cronyism has been stopped. It is indeed supreme irony to see a former Minister whose Ministry was almost single-handedly responsible for stopping India’s Gross Fixed Capital Formation on its tracks shedding tears for the Indian corporate sector.

Further, on international matters, for a political party that governed without spine, it must be galling to see the PM being willing to be the last man standing on matters of principle.

The first 100 days of the government have been disturbing, indeed. But, not for the nation. But, for the Opposition who hoped that he would commit major faux pas. He has not. Hence, it is disturbing them.

Finally, it is the crowning irony of the piece that a Minister who, within days or weeks of assuming office in the previous UPA government, undermined the authority of the Prime Minister (and continued to do so throughout his tenure), should make a case for a Prime Minister with authority! (Read Sanjaya Baru’s ‘Accidental PM’ to know about Mr. Ramesh’ role in leaking a memo written by Ms. Sonia Gandhi to the PM, to the outside world).

Well, on second thoughts, I must admit I am wrong about the non-purpose of columns such as these. They do serve a purpose. They remind the rest of us as to what wretched governance that we had to endure for the last decade that set India back at least by three decades. For that, we should be grateful to the writer of this piece since human beings are prone to forgetting easily, even capable of forgetting the old adage that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

If Indian voters can so easily forget the sordid decade that ended in May 2014, they will have none but themselves to blame for it. One can then kiss India’s future and the very idea of India goodbye then.

China data

The burden of this article is that China under-reports consumption and understates growth in the Services sector. The conclusion is that China is growing and that it is more balanced than is given credit for. May be, what the author says is true and may be, it isn’t. The problem is that we simply do not know how wrong he is and in which direction. The same can be said of China’s statistics (or, for that matter, that of India’s). If consumption is under-reported, what is the guarantee that investment, high as it is, is still being reported accurately?

Plus, reporting GDP numbers within two weeks of the end of the quarter, with no breakdown and details and with the number bang in line with consensus estimates cannot inspire any confidence at all as to the reliability of the numbers.

To know more about the true state of the Chinese economy now, read Yu Yongding in ‘Project Syndicate’. He may be understating his conclusions. But, his facts tell their own story.

Future is history

The more one grows, the more one appreciates the importance of history. Somewhat unsurprising, I guess! But, I am not referring to nostalgia here but the importance of learning from history, especially for those who believe that life (and lives) is cyclical and not linear.

Rajamohan unconsciously/sub-consciously invokes that in his column on Indo-Japan talks:

For Modi and Abe, widely hailed and rebuked for their unabashed nationalism, the past is not really past. They are actively mobilising the past in pursuit of their current goals. [Link]

Larry Summers is thoughtful and hence insightful here in his remarks on the relevance of the past:

I’m a strong believer in the farther forward you want to look the farther back you need to look. [Link]

Price setter for copper no longer

This news-story in the South China Morning Post suggests that China might be no longer a price-setter for copper. That should actually be good news for China too, if only in the long run.

A good story in Washington post on the Burger King changing its corporate citizenship. How, on earth, does the US expect to revive its manufacturing glory with such tax rates and in a world where national loyalties take a distinct backseat to the bottomline as it feeds directly into valuation of executive stock options and overall compensation?

Once again, the US Treasury market has proven many pundits wrong. But, they would not mind because they have been wrong and not been hurt. Stocks have rallied too. But, what they fail to realise is the day the Treasury stops rallying and yields start rising steadily and sustainably, the days of stock rallies too will end. Of course, stock rallies can end even when Treasury yields start reaching for Japanese levels.

Must sound very familiar to most Indian city-dwellers:

Some vintners said the newer homes—many on multi-acre lots—were constructed with little planning for water availability, and that they, too, have had to drill more wells. “Everybody was pumping to their heart’s content, until they realized the basin isn’t that big,” said Jerry Reaugh, 68, a local grape grower. [Good story on Californian drought and ground wells running dry]

Who changed and why?

A good friend had forwarded this article by Shekhar Gupta, formerly of ‘Indian Express’ and now with ‘India Today’. The article is well written and is worth a read, regardless of what you are going to read below. You can find it here. I had the following thoughts, however:

The article is fine and dandy. IF the PM had been like this since 2007, I am not sure I saw them reflected in Shekhar Gupta’s Op.-eds in IE. We shall let that pass. Quite a few of us knew this trait of the PM – he will not go out of his way to pamper or pander and that he treats all his people equally. He had made that clear several times not just in the campaign, but well before that – in many Q&A in media organised conferences, etc.

The commentators just refused to see that image because it did not fit into their prism. Now, this is a tacit acknowledgement that the man had not changed but that their view of him has changed (because he is in power? – we shall let that one pass too) because they were wrong. They should be gracious in admitting it even if some of us would wonder if his being in office has anything to do with it.


A good friend had sent me the letter written by one Dr. Harish Dave in FT – a no-nonsense response to an all-too-familiar and predictable article from a FT journalist.  The journalist was one Victor Mallet and the article can be found here. I do not know if it is behind a subscription firewall.

In addition to what Dr. Dave had written, I added the following comments on the website:

It is an unfortunate article for one important reason, among others: the objectivity of the views and credibility of the only two commentators cited here are taken for granted. They and their views are presented to the readers as the only two authentic voices on what Indian students should learn about their history. Their own roles in the past and the rigour (or, the lack thereof) of their scholarship needed to be presented, so that readers could place their comments in perspective. Second, many other views complete the continuum of views on this matter. They offer a more nuanced treatment of the subject. The FT journalist has made no attempt to include them, for obvious reasons.