Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

The Modi breakpoint

Creating jobs so that India’s demographic dividend can be realised requires a focus on skills development. Here, too, there are hopes that the UK’s experience can be shared. Creating jobs so that India’s demographic dividend can be realised requires a focus on skills development. Here, too, there are hopes that the UK’s experience can be shared.
Written by Gareth Price | Posted: June 5, 2014 12:08 am | Updated: June 5, 2014 8:05 am

certifying skills, for instance, can be shared with India.

Despite the relatively positive mood of many in the UK that the new government will bring India potentially brighter economic prospects, questions remain. First, the new government seems likely to prioritise domestic issues. India’s foreign policy is likely to be focused on India’s neighbourhood. With Nawaz Sharif being the first Pakistani prime minister to attend the swearing in ceremony of an Indian prime minister, the initial signs are positive. China will be on Modi’s radar, both for the economic opportunities it presents and for strategic issues such as border disputes.

The new government is likely to follow the Gujarat model, seeking investment in infrastructure. Here, Modi is likely to look east, to countries such as Japan, Korea and Australia, and even China. Western Europe is unlikely to be a priority. If his first visit is to Japan, this would reinforce its growing importance to India — as a strategic partner and a significant investor.

What implications does this have for the West, and the UK in particular? Modi represents a break from the legacy of Congress rule. Unlike many Congress leaders, he was not educated in the UK. And while he may not bear a grudge, intuitively, he would seem less likely to prioritise those countries that refused to grant him a visa following the Gujarat riots.

In the UK, questions are also being asked about the social implications of a BJP-majority government and the ability of Modi to balance the agenda of good governance and social cohesion. Those concerns will only subside or worsen as the government’s actions unfold, particularly on events relating to communal tension or violence.

British observers of the Indian elections probably view Modi’s rise to power in much the same way as many Indians: an exciting prospect for the hope of economic reform, but with anxiety over the consequences of how that might be achieved. India had long been relegated to the “era of coalition politics” — now, for the first time in decades, there is potential for a different kind of decision-making.

The writer is senior research fellow, Asia Programme at Chatham House, London
express@expressindia.com

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