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Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina has agreed to buy expensive electricity from India in spite of a power glut in Bangladesh, according to a report in the Washington Post. The newspaper quotes B.D. Rahmatullah, a former director general of Bangladesh’s power regulator, as saying, "Hasina cannot afford to anger India, even if the deal appears unfavorable." “She knows what is bad and what is good,” he said. “But she knows, ‘If I satisfy (Gautam) Adani, Modi will be happy.’ Bangladesh now is not even a state of India. It is below that.” The Washington Post report says: "Facing a looming power glut, Bangladesh in 2021 canceled 10 out of 18 planned coal power projects. Mohammad Hossain, a senior power official, told reporters that there was “concern globally” about coal and that renewables were cheaper".
|Gautam Adani (L) and Narendra Modi
|India Ranks High on Crony Capitalism Index. Source: Economist|
Hasina recently visited New Delhi to seek political and economic assistance from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This summit was preceded by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen's trip to India where he said, "I've requested Modi government to do whatever is necessary to sustain Sheikh Hasina's government". Upon her return from India, Sheikh Hasina told the news media in Dhaka, "They (India) have shown much sincerity and I have not returned empty handed". It has long been an open secret that Indian intelligence agency RAW helped install Shaikh Hasina as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and her Awami League party rely on New Delhi's support to stay in power. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has described India-Bangladesh as one between husband and wife. In an interview with Indian newspaper 'Ajkal,' he said, "Relation between the both countries is very cordial. It's much like the relationship between husband and wife. Though some differences often arise, these are resolved quickly." Both Bangladeshi and Indian officials have reportedly said that Sheikh Hasina "has built a house of cards".
|Shaikh Hasina (L) with Narendra Modi|
The Washington Post reports that the Modi government has changed laws to help Adani’s coal-related businesses and save him at least $1 billion. After a senior Indian official opposed supplying coal at a discount to Adani and other business tycoons, he was removed from his job by the Modi administration, according to the paper. Modi has continued to support Adani's business with discounted coal even after telling the United Nations he would tax coal and ramp up renewable energy. India is the world's third largest carbon emitter.
|World's Top 5 Carbon Emitters. Source: Our World in Data|
While the coal prices have declined to the level before the start of the Ukraine War, Adani’s power would still cost Bangladesh 33% more per kilowatt-hour than the publicly disclosed cost of running Bangladesh’s domestic coal-fired plant, according to Tim Buckley, a Sydney-based energy finance analyst.
|India's Crony Capitalism: Adani Enterprises Stock Up 56,000% on Modi's Watch|
Gautam Adani has become India's richest and the world's second richest person (after Elon Musk) since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. Financial Times calls Adani "Modi's Rockefeller". Adani's rise owes itself to India's crony capitalism, according to France's Le Monde. Here's an excerpt of a Le Monde story on Adani:
"Adani has not invented some revolutionary technology or disruptive business model. His meteoric success cannot be attributed to innovation. In each sphere of activity among his conglomerates – airports, ports, mining, aerospace, defense industry – the Indian state plays a significant role, whether in allocating licenses or signing contracts. He is known as a close friend of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also hails from Gujarat, a state in western India".
Adani has lent his personal airplanes to Modi for BJP's election campaigns. Adani has also recently taken over NDTV, the only Indian major TV channel known for its independence from the BJP government. This takeover has forced Prannoy and Radhika Roythe, the channel's founding couple, to step down. It has also forced out Ravish Kumar, a harsh critic of the Modi regime who hosted a number of popular shows like Hum Log, Ravish ki Report, Des Ki Baat, and Prime Time.
|Income Inequality Map. Source: World Inequality Report 2022
India is one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the World Inequality Report 2022. There is rising poverty and hunger. Nearly 230 million middle class Indians have slipped below the poverty line, constituting a 15 to 20% increase in poverty. India ranks 94th among 107 nations ranked by World Hunger Index in 2020. Other South Asians have fared better: Pakistan (88), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (75), Sri Lanka (64) and Myanmar (78) – and only Afghanistan has fared worse at 99th place. Meanwhile, the wealth of Indian billionaires jumped by 35% during the pandemic.
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India’s weighting in MSCI’s emerging-market benchmark has dropped after the brutal selloff in Adani Group’s stocks, giving away its second spot to Taiwan after a rally in the latter’s market.
As of the end of January, Taiwan’s weighting in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index rose to 14.2%, behind leader China’s 31.2%, while India’s fell to the third spot with 13%, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. India captured the second spot from Taiwan in August.
#Adani Crisis Tests #India's Investability. India's biggest conglomerate meltdown has cost Adani group companies some $118 billion loss in #market cap. It's overshadowing #Modi's #G20 summit pitch for foreign #investment in India. #Fraud #Scam #Hindutva https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2023-02-07/adani-crisis-tests...
Gautam #Adani’s woes will spur ‘democratic revival in India’, George Soros says. #Modi will ‘have to answer questions’ over #fraud allegations targeting his business ally. #India #BJP #Hindutva #Fascism #Islamophobia
George Soros has predicted India’s prime minister Narendra Modi will be weakened by the woes of business tycoon and close ally Gautam Adani, “opening the door” to a democratic revival in the country.
The 92-year-old billionaire philanthropist said in a speech on Thursday that Modi would “have to answer questions” from foreign investors and parliament on allegations of fraud and stock manipulation at Adani’s industrial empire, noting that Modi had been “silent” on the topic.
Adani Group has come under fierce scrutiny since US short seller Hindenburg accused the company of engaging in “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud” over decades.
The power-to-port conglomerate was forced to pull a $2.4bn share sale, after its stock losses mounted to more than $100bn following the report.
Adani Group has denied the claims.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Soros said: “Modi and business tycoon Adani are close allies; their fate is intertwined.
“Adani Enterprises tried to raise funds in the stock market, but he failed. Adani is accused of stock manipulation and his stock collapsed like a house of cards. Modi is silent on the subject, but he will have to answer questions from foreign investors and in parliament.”
Soros, who has become a standard bearer for liberal democracy, warned that Adani’s woes will “significantly weaken Modi’s stranglehold on India’s federal government” and “open the door to push for much needed institutional reforms”.
Soros, who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager, added: “I may be naive, but I expect a democratic revival in India.”
Adani, who was the richest man in Asia until his empire’s shares tumbled, has been a longtime ally of Modi. The tycoon’s wealth has increased since the prime minister came to office in 2014.
In parliament, opposition MPs have seized on Adani’s association with Modi stretching back to the prime minister’s days as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.
In recent parliamentary sessions, opposition members have disrupted speeches with taunting chants of Modi Adani bhai bhai (“Modi and Adani are brothers”). Some Modi opponents have raised questions over the exposure of taxpayer funds to the conglomerate through the state-owned groups that are lenders or investors.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party will face voters in 2024 as the prime minister seeks re-election to a third term.
The crisis engulfing the Indian group is shaping up as a test for the country’s regulators and institutions, including the media. Adani’s business portfolio stretches from ports and airports to power and renewables, and it has foreign projects in about a dozen countries ranging from Israel to Bangladesh.
Soros also said at the conference that “two systems of governance are engaged in a fight for global domination” just as “civilisation is in danger of collapsing because of the inexorable advance of climate change”.
The Hungarian-American businessman, who established the Open Society Foundations to promote democratic governance, said Modi “is no democrat”, noting that “inciting violence against Muslims was an important factor in his meteoric rise”. He added that India “buys a lot of Russian oil at a steep discount and makes a lot of money on it”.
Soros also said Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “has mismanaged the Turkish economy”, while in China, president Xi Jinping’s “close association with [Russian president] Putin would hurt him”.
He added that “Xi will not remain in office for life, and while he is in office, China will not become the dominant military and political force that Xi is aiming for.”
The Adani group had no immediate comment on Soros’s remarks and a government spokesperson declined to comment.
Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | BBC-Adani | Is Indian diplomacy on the defensive? - By Suhasini Haider
1. BBC- Britain’s public broadcaster, that works under the Government’s Department of Media, but is independent, aired a 2 part documentary last month, that raised questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role as CM of Gujarat, virtually accusing him of being complicit in the killings of 2000 in the Gujarat riots of 2002. The second part looked at the actions of the Modi government at the centre since 2019, and accused it of instigating and condoning majoritarian violence.
Neither parts of the documentary were made available by the BBC to viewers in India.
- The government banned part 1 of the documentary, but did not ban part 2
- The MEA issued a strong statement, accusing the BBC of a colonial mindset
- On February 14 th however, the government began a series of raids on BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai- confiscating cell phones and computers and looking into the financial records of the company in India. No official has spoken on the record, but sources have alleged financial wrongdoing, non-compliance, and even a link to BBC sponsorship by Chinese companies.
There has been no formal response to the raids or the ban from the British government- officials said they were closely monitoring developments
2. The other big story was a report by an American financial research firm and short seller Hindenberg Research, who accused Adani Enterprises Limited of a number share market manipulations and false filings- the report was denied by AEL, but the company and its subsidiaries took a considerable hit on the stock exchanges, losing about $100 bn in value. The company also claimed the report was a hit-job aimed at damaging India and its economy, not just one company.
A senior minister also slammed a statement by American Investor George Soros, who had called for PM Modi to answer questions about his proximity to the Adani group chief- Minister Smriti Irani called Soros’s speech, and a conspiracy to break indian democracy
This week, Vice President Jagadeep Dhanakhar said in response to what he called attacks on India’s economy as well as the BBC documentary- He was speaking to India’s Information service officers
“We have to boldly neutralise it (the invasion). We cannot allow free fall of doctored narratives to run down our growth story on so-called reputations. “How come Indian mind immediately absorbs something and does not analyse. There is a vicious mechanism designed to afloat a narrative to run down the growth story of this country all in the name of freedom of expression.”
3. In the recent past as well, the government has reacted to International Reports that claim press freedoms in India, and democracy as a whole are under attack.
“We don’t need to be told what to do on democracy. India is perhaps the most ancient civilization in the world as all of you know. In India, democracy had roots going back to 2500 years, we were always a democracy”, Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said.
4. Also last month, when India came under criticism for increasing its imports of Russian oil- EAM Jaishankar called it western hypocrisy
Dr. Jaishankar said, “ Europe has managed to reduce its imports while doing it in a manner that is comfortable. If at a (per capita income) of €60,000, you are so caring about your population, I have a population of $2,000. I also need energy, and I am not in a position to pay high prices for oil.”
5. In the past years, you may recall, the MEA reacted to criticism from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau on police action against protestors- by freezing bilateral ties for several months. And also issued statements against Pop star Rihanna and Youth environmental activist Greta Thunberg
Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | BBC-Adani | Is Indian diplomacy on the defensive? - By Suhasini Haider
What are the major worries for the MEA/Government?
1. Larger trend of criticism in the year of G20
2. Will dent India’s image, and make diplomacy much more difficult
3. Will hurt India’s economic growth, which is just recovering from Covid, the Ukraine War and global recession
4. Come from a colonial mindset- and could lead to racist attacks on India and diaspora
5. Worry of other international mechanisms being used like the HRC, FATF, Media bodies, Democracy bodies etc. As well as sanctions - as they have been against countries like Turkey, Iran, Bangladesh – or worries about isolation
But the reality doesn’t back up these worries- just take a look at the past week
1. PM calls with Biden and Macron, statement by Sunak after Air India deals
2. NSA Doval to Washington UK Moscow- Many agreements on technology cooperation, strategic issues, Afghanistan
3. Jaishankar to Australia, Fiji
4. Upcoming visit of German Chancellor Scholz- NSA , Climate Change envoy visits
5. G20 Foreign Ministers meeting preparations- March 1-2, followed by Raisina Dialogue
6. SCO FM in May, SCO Summit in June, G20 Summit in September
7. State visit invite, Officials say clearly there will be no sanctions against India
There is, therefore little to indicate that Western countries – atleast officially are at all trying to target India in any way or isolate it. Even so, this does take up much of our diplomats time.
How does Defensive diplomacy work?
1. Public statements- of the kind we have seen in the past few weeks
2. Engaging media in foreign countries- interviews, press conferences, editorials
3. Embassies lobbying with Parliamentarians or hiring lobby firms
3. Visa Bans/ Deportations- India has refused visas for members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms on many occasions
4. Punitive actions: Legal action like with the BBC/ Visa cancellations
In addition, the government has restricted a number of foreign- mainly western NGOs from working or funding projects in India in a number of specific fields where it feels targetted
India’s economic activity cooled off at the start of the year as higher borrowing costs tempered demand at home and abroad, signaling more pain ahead as the global economy slows down.
The needle on a dial measuring so-called animal spirits moved left and was back where it was for six straight months before showing momentum in December. Falling exports and a slack in manufacturing and services drove the weakness in business activity, offsetting improvement in consumption drivers reflected by tax collections and job growth, according to eight high-frequency indicators tracked by Bloomberg.
Domestic recovery, that has been driving momentum so far, is getting wobbly. The Reserve Bank of India, which has raised borrowing costs six times since May to 6.50 per cent, is seen increasing interest rates again in its April review amid inflation topping estimates and further tightening by global central banks.
Bloomberg’s animal spirits barometer uses a three-month weighted average to smooth out volatility in single-month readings:
Purchasing managers’ surveys indicated activity in both manufacturing and services slacked in January. Output and new orders grew at softer paces, and dragged the composite index lower from an 11-year high in December.
“Although manufacturers received new orders from international markets, the increase was slight at best and moderated considerably to a ten-month low,” said Pollyanna De Lima, economics associate director at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Exports fell 6.58 per cent in January from a year ago to US$32.9 billion (S$43.9 billion), data released by the Trade Ministry showed, indicating lower demand for goods abroad. Imports dropped 3.63 per cent from a year earlier and that pushed the trade gap to the lowest in a year, fueling hopes of a significantly narrower current account deficit.
The sharp fall in imports reflects the moderation in discretionary demand in the goods sector and the decline in commodity prices, said Garima Kapoor, economist at Elara Capital.
Liquidity in the banking system tightened, but credit growth picked up again, rising 16.33% in January, from 14.87 per cent in December, Reserve Bank of India data show.
Goods and services tax collections, which help measure consumption in the economy, rose 10.5 per cent from a year earlier to 1.56 trillion rupees – a feat achieved only once before in the history of the levy introduced in 2017. New vehicle registrations surged 14 per cent in the month, with passenger vehicle sales growing 22 per cent year-on-year, according to data from the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations.
Electricity consumption, a widely used proxy to gauge demand in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, held steady, with the peak requirement last month rising to 173 gigawatt from 171 gigawatt in December due to increased heating requirements. India’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.14 per cent, from a 16-month high of 8.30 per cent a month ago, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. BLOOMBERG
Other countries’ view of India is influenced by calculations and hopes that it can help counter Chinese expansionism in Asia
Written by Christophe Jaffrelot , Pratinav Anil
Today, the international media echo indices of democracy and freedom of expression prepared by institutions like Varieties of Democracy, Freedom House, and Reporters without Borders which are often comparing the evolution of India’s regime to the Emergency.
Researching our book on the Emergency, India’s First Dictatorship (HarperCollins, 2021), we found that the change in regime did not change the way Western democracies perceived New Delhi. Trade was one reason why they looked the other way. India bought Jaguar fighters from the UK, and the two countries set up the Indo-British Economic Committee in January 1976; the trade talks that took place in London in April were well attended, and not only by arms dealers. British support for the Indian government, moreover, was bipartisan, from Labour Left to Tory Right, as Rudra Chaudhuri shows in “Re-reading the Indian Emergency”. Michael Foot suggested that it was a “monstrous lie” that Mrs Gandhi “wanted to be a dictator”. Margaret Thatcher believed the Emergency served the Indians well in “tackling problems like world recession and inflation”. The FCO concurred: “An authoritarian regime is better equipped than a democracy to force through the reforms which are needed to make India less of a burden on the world.” Following this logic, in 1976, the Overseas Development Ministry increased aid to India by over 30 per cent.
On India, say nothing
No matter how many opportunities the Biden administration gets, officials just can’t get themselves to criticize India.
The latest example comes from Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN, who in New Delhi today dodged a question about human rights abuses committed by Prime Minister NARENDRA MODI’s government.
“We have to continue to hold ourselves to our core values, including respect for universal human rights, like freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly — which makes our democracy stronger,” Blinken said in restrained language while stressing the U.S. isn’t perfect, either. He did, however, insist that he raises such topics with his Indian counterpart.
Blinken’s answer was illustrative of how carefully President JOE BIDEN’s team treads when it comes to India. That’s despite the Indian government’s amply documented crackdowns on minorities, the media and civil society. And it has persisted even amid India’s surge in trade with Russia that undermines U.S. sanctions designed to end the war in Ukraine.
The Biden administration considers India a critical counterweight to China. So the U.S. is often reluctant to publicly say anything that might undermine this convenient alliance, even if it harms the administration’s narrative of standing up for human rights and democracy worldwide, human rights advocates say.
The U.S. and India may “speak privately about human rights issues, but problematic governments don’t change their conduct unless they face public scrutiny, so, of course, that’s why it’s important to speak publicly,” said JOHN SIFTON, an advocacy director with Human Rights Watch.
The group sent Blinken a letter ahead of his India trip asking him to raise specific human rights concerns while he was there. The letter urged him to do so “including in your public comments.” (Yes, the italics were in the letter.)
The Indian government, meanwhile, is pursuing what it sees as its national interest. That means joining the United States against China, and buying cheap gas from a needy Russia. It’s easy to have it both ways when both countries need you.
The Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Indian officials have generally denied abusing human rights, often citing legal and security-related reasons for various crackdowns.
Inside the State Department, many diplomats are frustrated by the kid-glove treatment. The caution toward India isn’t just in public settings, they say, but also in internal, private documents.
A Feb. 17 State Department cable from the U.S. Embassy in India, for instance, recounted a 60-hour raid Indian authorities recently carried out at the BBC’s offices in New Delhi. Indian officials called it a “survey” to examine allegations of tax evasion. But it happened to follow Indian fury over a BBC documentary about Modi’s role in past anti-Muslim violence.
What was striking about the unclassified cable, a copy of which NatSec Daily obtained, was how it avoided any real analysis or direct conclusions from U.S. diplomats. Instead, it recited basic facts and relied on the voices of outsiders, such as opposition politicians or Indian journalists, to raise critical points.
“One senior journalist asked why Indian authorities confiscated phones of working level reporters when the alleged tax offenses would have been committed by BBC management,” the cable noted. There was no mention of U.S. officials raising the issue with the Indian government.
On India, say nothing
One State Department official said the language in the cable showed the challenges of reporting on the reality of India that Washington sometimes does not want to hear. A second State official was more blunt, saying the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was well-known among diplomats for having “clientitus” — meaning it tends to parrot a host country’s line or at least avoid looking at it through a critical lens.
“Delhi is terrible on any kind of human rights reporting,” the second official said of the embassy there. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the cable, but insisted that U.S. officials regularly engage with top Indian officials on human rights issues.
Hype over #India’s #economic boom is dangerous myth masking real problems. It’s built on a disingenuous numbers game.
No silver bullet that will fix weak job creation, a small, uncompetitive #manufacturing sector & gov’t schemes fattening corporate profits
by Ashoka Mody
Indian elites are giddy about their country’s economic prospects, and that optimism is mirrored abroad. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that India’s GDP will increase by 6.1 per cent this year and 6.8 per cent next year, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Other international commentators have offered even more effusive forecasts, declaring the arrival of an Indian decade or even an Indian century.
In fact, India is barrelling down a perilous path. All the cheerleading is based on a disingenuous numbers game. More so than other economies, India’s yo-yoed in the three calendar years from 2020 to 2022, falling sharply twice with the emergence of Covid-19 and then bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. Its annualised growth rate over these three years was 3.5 per cent, about the same as in the year preceding the pandemic.
Forecasts of higher future growth rates are extrapolating from the latest pandemic rebound. Yet, even with pandemic-related constraints largely in the past, the economy slowed in the second half of 2022, and that weakness has persisted this year. Describing India as a booming economy is wishful thinking clothed in bad economics.
Worse, the hype is masking a problem that has grown in the 75 years since independence: anaemic job creation. In the next decade, India will need hundreds of millions more jobs to employ those who are of working age and seeking work. This challenge is virtually insurmountable considering that the economy failed to add any net new jobs in the past decade, when 7 million to 9 million new jobseekers entered the market each year.
This demographic pressure often boils over, fuelling protests and episodic violence. In 2019, 12.5 million people applied for 35,000 job openings in the Indian railways – one job for every 357 applicants. In January 2022, railway authorities announced they were not ready to make the job offers. The applicants went on a rampage, burning train cars and vandalising railway stations.
With urban jobs scarce, tens of millions of workers returned during the pandemic to eking out meagre livelihoods in agriculture, and many have remained there. India’s already-distressed agriculture sector now employs 45 per cent of the country’s workforce.
Farming families suffer from stubbornly high underemployment, with many members sharing limited work on plots rendered steadily smaller through generational subdivision. The epidemic of farmer suicides persists. To those anxiously seeking support from rural employment-guarantee programmes, the government unconscionably delays wage payments, triggering protests.
For far too many Indians, the economy is broken. The problem lies in the country’s small and uncompetitive manufacturing sector.