Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Indo- Japan Bilateral Relations: A Brief Assessment.

The first exchanges between India and Japan were cultural, due to indirect spread of Buddhism from India to Japan via China & Korean peninsula, gradually culminating into trade and economic ties, a classic example of how soft-power can be a crucial pivot in international relations. However, direct exchanges, began only during the Meiji Revolution (1868-1912) when Japan started its modernisation. From then on, bilateral relations developed around Japanese purchase of the Indian cotton and after the World War II on import of iron ore. Trade helped in solidifying relations which were once initiated by a great religion.

Since 1952, Japan and India have maintained diplomatic relations and enjoyed cordial relations based on trade, economic and technical cooperation. Relations developed steadily as Japan's imports of ore and exports of manufactured products increased. Following Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi's visit to India in 1957, yen loans to India began in 1958, as the first loan aid extended by Japan. In 1958 Japan participated in the Consortium Meeting of India's creditor countries hosted by the World Bank and embarked on the full-scale assistance to India that has continued to the present. Since fiscal 1986 Japan has been India's largest aid donor.

Till 2010, cumulatively, Japan had given India 3,600 billion yen in ODA, 89.56 billion yen in Grant Aid and 29.35 billion yen in Technical Cooperation. Japanese cooperation has focused on upgrading of economic infrastructure, alleviation of poverty through public health and medical care, agricultural and rural development and population and AIDS countermeasures support for small business, environmental conservation and technical up gradation.

In 2010-11 bilateral trade between Japan and India, hovered around 13 billion USD. Principal commodities of exports from India to Japan are garments, iron ore and chemicals, while imports include machinery, mechanical parts, auto components and chemicals. A recent CII study on Indo-Japanese economic relation concluded that, “The trade between the two countries is expanding rapidly. India and Japan are expected to achieve the trade target of $25 billion by 2014”. The potential areas for economic cooperation include capital goods, auto parts, iron, steel and chemicals, it added.

India has actively pursued economic reforms and market oriented economy since 1991 and Japan is an integral part of India’s growth story. India providing high profitability has become a lucrative destination for Japanese investment. Japanese giants like Sony, Nissan and Suzuki already have manufacturing facilities in India and Maruti-Suzuki is a household automobile brand in India. High domestic demand, availability of skilled manpower and healthy markets are the major drivers of Japanese investment in India. Major chunk of these investments are focused in transportation, telecommunications, fuel, chemicals and trading sector. Many Japanese investors feel that India still has ground level hassles like labour laws, overall infrastructure, and taxes, legal and regulatory framework. Japan proves to be an alluring destination for Indian investors due to its skilled human resources, cutting edge technological innovations and excellent infrastructure.

India wants the focus of Indo-Japan bilateral trade to be on FDI rather than ODA. In a recent development, Japan has planned to explore natural gas jointly with India; the joint exploration will be led by the private sector. Japan wants to diversify its sources of natural gas as it currently relies on imports for 97% of its needs with Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia being the major suppliers.

India and Japan’s bilateral ties have strategic implications. Japan’s strengthened ties with India can be viewed as an effort to contain the increasing (often aggressive) presence of China in western Asia. Moreover, both India and Japan are legitimate contenders for a permanent seat of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and prospective tie-up between the two on this issue can increase their collective bargaining power for the same.

While Japan is implementing structural economic reforms, India is in the process basic economic reforms. The Japan-India Joint Declaration of December 10, 2001 has set the ball rolling for things to shape up in Indo-Japanese relationship in the 21st century. To raise the bilateral relationship to a “qualitatively new level" is the ultimate of the Joint Declaration. Broader and deeper economic relations between the countries would form the cornerstone of this bilateral relationship.

Both the countries are strongly committed to an "open and non-discriminatory rule-based multilateral trading system". Indo-Japanese trade relations and economic cooperation is going stronger by the years, though, if compared with neighbouring China's trade with Japan, India's share in Japan's total trade does not give any impressive look. So also in the field of foreign direct investment. Japan, which is the fourth largest investor in India itself, is not happy with this rate. India has to do a lot to create an investor-friendly environment through speedier economic reforms and freeing the country from clutches of deregulation at the earliest.

The paragons of Indo-Japanese relations are transcending the realm of economy and trade. Japan is considered as a key partner in India’s “look east” policy. These close relations have culminated into the Delhi Metro Project, Yamuna River project, Joint Defence & Naval exercises, Agreements on Civil Nuclear Energy and most recently Japan has also supported the reconstruction of Nalanda University, an ancient Buddhist centre of learning and has agreed to provide financial assistance for the same. Not only are Indo-Japanese bilateral relations mutually beneficial and integral to growth of both nations, but also are crucial for prosperity and balance of power in Asia.  

- Sudhanshu Sharma

@SSharma2217 on Twitter

The Writer is currently working at Standard and Poor's and is pursuing his Masters course in International Business.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Open Letter To All...

Dear Friends, 

Change is inevitable & change is the only thing constant.
Tharoorians for Change too undergoes a change today!

It has been brought to our notice by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, MP himself that "Tharoorians For Change" has been misconstrued as a Fan club blog, largely undermining the seriousness of the issues being taken up via this medium.

The Inspiration behind this blog, Dr. Tharoor has been instrumental in shaping our thoughts for a Better and Brighter Future for India and it would be unfair to undermine his support and encouragement and belittle the writers efforts by terming Tharoorians For Change as a mere Fan club blog.

After much reflection however, it has been decided in consultation with Dr.Tharoor, that the blog be renamed as 'Progressive Indians for Change' instead. 

Our sincerest thanks to Dr. Shashi Tharoor who so kindly acquiesced in our using his name on the blog and for his incessant encouragement on Twitter. Our best wishes to him as he moves forward in India's political arena as Change Maker! We eagerly look forward to his comments and compliments on our writers' works as we embark on this new journey.

Indeed we all remain ''Tharoorians" in spirit though the blog and our writers who grew rather fond of the name won't be carrying the name formally anymore. 

I take this opportunity to invite every Indian to take part in this quest for change. 

This is not the end, only a new beginning! 

Eagerly look forward to your participation!

Regards & Best,
Katherine. Abraham

Twitter Handle: @Indian4Progress


Sunday, 10 June 2012

“System Kharab hai yaar!”

From the poor and downtrodden slum dwellers to the uber social business class residents in Antillas, the rant is one and the same, “System Kharab hein yaar!” To mend the ‘Kharab’ system, post reform India has witnessed a flurry of activists drumming up support to further their cause promising a land flowing with milk and honey. But most of these movements have lost steam in the course of time or have been restricted to certain pockets in the country. Of late most hyped 'India Against Corruption' movement did have the right combo in principle to change the system in Indian context but it turned out to be a pathetic flop in its execution. For the youth bubbling with energy and are intellectually armed, socially oriented and have passion and conviction to make a change, the principles used in the movement shines forth as the ultimate reference point.

Here are the salient features of this well planned and meticulously thought out movement which fell from grace in the sight of the people because somewhere down the line even the people realised that the 'Purpose' had been deviated from. The knowledge of this is helpful in bringing about a change in the Indian ‘Kharab’ system.

Exploit the Context
To launch a movement the prevailing mood in the society plays a decisive role. The IAC movement took off from the 2G launch pad acquiring a 4G speed. Witnessing the country being plundered mercilessly by corrupt politicians and the memories of Arab spring still fresh, the people craved for an outlet to express their anger against the corrupt system. At this juncture ‘India Against Corruption’ pitched in as the outlet to channel peoples hatred against the government. 

The Mascot and Tagline
For any brand or mega event, a mascot or the brand ambassador symbolically represents and magnetically attracts people with their mass appeal. Even though India Against Corruption was the mastermind of a few renowned, the movement fizzled off rather quickly. The Gandhi topi became a ‘style quotient’ and Satyagraha venues became a popular hangout location for the virtually obsessed city bred generation. For the villagers it was a nostalgic moment in revisiting the ways of the man who knew them better than any other Indian leader. The tagline ‘I am Anna’ also became an instant hit.

Rural and Urban Connect
India Against Corruption adopted an inclusive advertising strategy that included pasting posters in the brick walls in villages to posting information in virtual walls in facebook. For the cost conscious Indians, the idea of a ‘missed call’ to extend support was a ‘What an Idea Sirji’ move that struck the chord among the masses quickly. Shrewdly botched up corruption figures coupled with shrewdly prepared one liners and messages posted in blogs, twitter and facbeook along with SMS hoaxes led the people out from the comforts of vituality to the streets of reality. 

The Men Behind
The people running the show under India Against Corruption banner were stalwarts in their field of activity. Very quickly they were successful in creating a division between politicians and civil society. The IPS, IIM, Lawyer tags associated with the key leaders and the ‘aam admi’ tag attached created a halo to pull people together. Thus they virtually declared themselves as the spokespersons of civil society proclaiming the mandate of 1.2 billion people.  

The Sun Set
So why did this plan fail when in principle all the above mentioned factors provide the best frame work to change the ‘Kharab’ system. 

The cause for failure of the Civil Society movement, is not the fundamental principles which it propagated but the mode and application

The men behind the movement were overambitious at the sight of thousands taking to the streets. The strong basics of the movement remained but they erred in the later build up. Even though the people gave thumbs up initially when the leaders of the moment started taking elected representatives head on and started ridiculing, the wanton targeting of few leaders triggered the landslide. India Against Corruption may have dreamed of a mass uprising like Jasmine revolution of sorts but the corruption issue apart, they failed to understand the strength of the proven grand old Indian democratic system. Also, the invisible partners demanding their share of credit, the controversies surrounding the top leaders and the irresponsible statements played a crucial role in weakening the movement. 

Let’s be the Change
Before dreaming of high profile acts like bringing government to the toes, the change makers should start with little things to change the ‘Kharab system.’  For the system to change, that attitude of the people has to change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. The dream of transforming the India with a movement that only calls for more trouble is foolishness. The change has to happen at the roots, only an organic growth will bring about a credible change. For anyone dreaming to change the ‘Kharab system,’ The principles of Civil Society movement has to be adopted from the root level, beginning with organizing like minded people, effectively using the online medium, being a contrasting presence at place of work and the like to bring about lasting change. 

The change makers need not hit the streets with massive uprisings. It’s the little drops of water that make the mighty ocean. For example, a responsible and consistent blogging initiative would turn out to be a little drop that would act as a catalyst in creating the mighty ocean of change. Let our aim be high and actions grounded and realistic!

It is essential to understand that stray movements hold the people’s attention and can possibly even attract them in this fast paced Information Technology driven world but what we need to understand is the fact that in any country, there is nothing better than to work concomitantly with the Government rather than against it. The Government is comprised of the Elected Representative of the People.

 Why can’t we place some more trust in the MPs we selected?

- Jeff Shawn

@jeffshawn on Twitter

The Writer is a Student of Philosophy and writes for the popular site