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India In The World

Global tailwinds suggest fresh opportunities for 2014, given the right Indian policies
The global economy is showing signs of an uptick. Many European economies are out of recession. The US has started tapering its vast quantitative easing programme because its now on course for faster growth. In Japan, Abenomics may be jolting a moribund economy to life. The outlook on China is optimistic too, on the back of reforms and a rise in consumer spending. All this is reason for India to cheer going into 2014. Global recovery strengthens the odds of a domestic bounce-back. There is good news on the energy horizon as well where high prices of imports have been sitting heavy on the rupee. Even discounting recent Australian discoveries estimated to rival the quantum of black gold in Saudi Arabia, the US shale gas revolution has redrawn the energy map. This will have startling geopolitical consequences, as are already being suggested by historic nuclear talks with Iran. More immediately from Indias point of view, these energetic rearrangements indicate that the price outlook on energy imports is tending towards sensible rather than scary. Can Indias policy environment make the best of encouraging global tailwinds? In our immediate neighbourhood, signs are worrying. We have not delivered on commitments to Bangladesh, neither have we been able to play an effective mediating role as political instability grips the country and large-scale clashes between rival factions grow. Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan found he cant depend on us either, to help him with weapons against the great unknown that looms upon US withdrawal. While the bottoms falling out of both Indias growth story as well as its foreign policy, Devyani Khobragades arrest and strip-search shows how indifferent the US has grown to Indian interests and voices, strategic partnership notwithstanding. Whichever government assumes power later this year,

rejuvenating t his moribund policy environment must be a priority. Only a robust foreign policy can make the best of global trends to pump up domestic growth and expand Indias space to manoeuvre. As an example, rising wages in China offer India a great opportunity to become an alternative centre for global manufacturing. Similarly, Indias IT industry needs to face up to the impact of GenZ apps. As one expert says, chasing disappearing outsourcing deals instead of higher-margin business is like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Lets become swimming maestros instead, and make up for a lost decade of foreign policy.

SEC O N D O P I N I O N
Foreign to policy
After the Devyani fiasco, we should disband the MEA and our missions abroad
Jug Suraiya Does India have a foreign policy? Or is any kind of policy foreign to it when it comes to dealing with the international community? In the wake of the Devyani Khobragade fiasco, these questions might well be raised yet again. What might literally be called a domestic tiff the domestic being the Indian diplomats maid, Sangeeta Richards overnight turned into a full-blown, noholds-barred row between Washington and New Delhi, who till the other day had been slapping each other on the back and exchanging mutual congratulations on their blossoming romance which began with the signing of the historic nuclear deal under the aegis of UPA-I and the Bush administration. How did smiles overnight turn into snarls? The humiliating treatment meted out to the diplomat was certainly offensive. But surely the matter could have been dealt without turning it into a barroom brawl with no punches pulled?

A minor though offensive incident was allowed by both sides to be blown up out of all proportions. The US is only too well known for its reputation as the big bully on the global scene. Equally, India is equally well known for its tendency alternatively to shake hands with and shake fists at other countries, be it the US, Pakistan, China or its Saarc neighbours. New Delhi seems to have very little, if any, coherent longterm policy which dictates its relations and responses to other countries. The result is that India appears to react to situations in an ad hoc, kneejerk manner, rather than pursuing predetermined and clearly perceived goals. When it comes to foreign affairs, India tends to behave like an emotionally unstable teenager who switches from buddy-buddy bonhomie to temper tantrums in a trice. President Obama throws a Diwali party in the White House, or his wife wears a sari, and India feels so puffed up with national pride that its ready to burst. Then some Indian VIP is strip-searched, or suffers some other real or imagined indignity in the US, and effigies of Uncle Sam are burnt in public bonfires. Our yo-yo responses up one moment, down the next are not restricted to our relations with America. They are even more marked in the case of Pakistan, the country we most love to hate. One day were loudly and vehemently denouncing Paksponsored terrorism from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and the day after were in raptures about Lahores famous Food Street and the large-hearted hospitality that it extends to Indian visitors. In the absence of a clear-cut foreign policy, what purpose do our overseas diplomatic missions serve? Much the same purpose which that other expensive white elephant Air India serves: providing freebies to junketing netas, babus and their families. The national carrier gives them free flights, and our embassies and consulates give them free boarding and lodging. If we were to disband the ministry of external affairs and our foreign missions then wed save enough money to wipe out the fiscal deficit. Whod look after our foreign affairs? Who else but the most neutral and well-regarded country in the world: Switzerland. How would we pay Switzerland for this service?

By telling it to take all the money that Indians have stashed in Swiss bank accounts. How else? secondopinion@timesgroup.com http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/jugglebandhi/