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Former CEA lowers GDP to 4.5% in 2011-12 to 2016-17 period & Vivek Katju on Pakistan

The best of the day’s opinion, chosen and curated by ThePrint’s top editors.

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India’s GDP growth: New evidence for fresh beginnings

Arvind Subramanian | former Chief Economic Advisor
The Indian Express

Subramanian reveals that India’s growth may have been overestimated by 2.5 percentage points every year between 2011-12 and 2016-17 and that average growth may have been only 4.5 per cent.

Using real indicators such as electricity consumption, factory output data, railway freight and airline passenger traffic and imports and exports, Subramanian points out the divergence between the stated GDP and these datasets post 2011.

He points out that inaccurate statistics about the economy’s health can dampen the impetus for reform and adds that restoring growth must be the key policy objective. Going forward, there must be urgency in reform as growth that “has been tepid, not torrid” will not sustain the financial inclusion drive.

A farmer satyagraha for permission-less innovation

Shruti Rajagopalan| Assistant professor of Economics, Purchase College, State University of New York

Rajagopalan applauds the farmers’ group in Maharashtra which defied the government ban on genetically modified crops by planting Bt brinjal and HT cotton and says that farmers need to be given the right to choose and innovate to increase productivity, improve farm incomes and reduce food and nutrition insecurity.

She points out how governments have not cleared Bt Brinjal for commercial use despite safety clearances and attributes the delay to the well-organised lobby against GM crops. This includes the insecticides lobby which stands to lose out, the extreme Left that opposes corporatisation and the extreme right for protectionist reasons.

What’s a Right Fiscal Deficit?

C Rangarajan| Former RBI governor and
D K Srivastava | Chief Policy Adviser, EY India
The Economic Times

The authors point out that there is a limit to how long the fiscal deficit can be stretched and points out that the targets set in the fiscal responsibility and budget management act have been breached repeatedly.

They write that the budget to be presented next month will have to contend with falling tax revenues and calls for realistic budgeting from the levels presented in the interim budget. However, they also point out that the election manifesto and related commitments will have a bearing on expenditures. They urge Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to “try to keep the fiscal deficit close to 3.4 per cent of the GDP”.

Modi 2.0’s new clothes

Shreekant Sambrani | An economist
Business Standard

Sambrani writes that “hopes of radical approaches to some of the daunting problems of India…were belied by the choice of ministers heading some key tasks”. He refers to slow private consumption and investment, as well as slow infrastructure creation. He talks about how debutant FM Nirmala Sitharaman has to learn on the job but points out that “this not quite the time to do so”.

He also writes about lack of experience in Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and asks why PM Modi did not tap talented non-partisan people to head these crucial ministries like he did with the external affairs ministry.

Giving voice to Girish Karnad

Githa Hariharan | Founder member of the Indian Writers’ Forum
The Indian Express

Githa Hariharan, pays tribute to renowned playwright and actor Girish Karnad as “a man who packed the work of many lives into one life”. Despite his fragile health, Karnad participated in many events and campaigned for freedom of speech. To Hariharan, one event particularly stands out. It was in the backdrop of arrests of several human rights activists last year when Karnad was able to go to the “heart of the matter” at a meeting. He spoke about a new language, “the kind…that spawns strange, horrible or meaningless words… [It] distorts politics, the rights of citizens, and their everyday lives — because language and action are closely intertwined”.

He was also among the writers and intellectuals who issued an appeal to vote out hate politics. According to Hariharan, the best way to remember Karnad is through his literary and theatrical oeuvre. He intertwined myth with tales to arrive at an understanding of our present. She argues that Karnad invented his own narrative — he once said that “we must trust the narrative we have chosen for ourselves.”

After turning the heat on Pakistan, why is the government petitioning it for overflight permission to PM Modi?

Vivek Katju | Former secretary, Ministry of External Affairs
The Times of India

Katju is disappointed that the Indian government has requested Pakistan to allow PM Modi to fly over the neighbouring country’s airspace in order to reach Bishkek for the Shanghai Corporation Summit (SCO) on 13-14 June. He argues that it was made at a time when civilian flight operations to and from India remain suspended causing “immense hardship” to many travellers. It would have been “better” if the government showed solidarity with “common travellers”— “saving time cannot be used as an excuse”, he believes.

Katju also says that another reason why the Indian government must not seek “favours” from Pakistan is because the latter has a historical prejudice against India. Pakistani “decision-makers believe that India lacks stamina” and is willing to give in when “profit is at stake”. He argues that if “Modi makes concessions now”, the “resilience shown” in the past three years on Pakistan “sponsored cross-border terrorism”, will go to waste.

Foreign policy challenges five years later

Rakesh Sood | Former diplomat, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi
The Hindu

Sood discusses the foreign policy challenges the new Modi-government faces. Arguing that the world in 2019 looks “more disorderly” than in 2014, he believes that China remains India’s “principal foreign policy challenge”. Despite Modi government’s “new emphasis” on BIMSTEC countries, Pakistan will be hard to “ignore”. He suggests that India have an “ongoing dialogue” with it instead of outsourcing “crisis management to external players”. Sood says that India’s approach to its “neighbourhood organisations” should be in sync with “bilateralism”.

He highlights some sticking points in India’s relationship with China and the US. With the former, the Wuhan summit did not address the long-term consequences of the “growing gap” between India and China. With the US, there is an added threat of CAATSA (Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) apart from US-Iran tensions and GSP withdrawal. Sood thinks that India needs to expand its foreign policy establishment, strengthen coordination among different ministries and also renew attention on its “implementation projects”.

What the Kargil War teaches India about its national security

Gurmeet Kanwal | Former director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi
Hindustan Times

Kanwal writes on what India has learnt about its national security challenges via-a-vis Pakistan from the Kargil war. In a detailed detailed account of how the Indian Army defeated the Pakistan Army, the writer highlights the objectives behind Pakistan Army and ISI’s “organised intrusion” into India’s remote areas in Kargil district: it was to “provide a fresh impetus” to declining militancy in Kashmir and redirect the world’s attention to the Kashmir dispute.

Kanwal says that the single most important lesson from the Kargil episode for India was to not compromise its national security requirements because Islamabad’s attempts to “destablise” India are “unlikely” to change. He advises the new Modi government to let with the “Pakistani leadership” know that it won’t shy away from considering “harder options” if the Pakistan Army and the ISI continue to wage a “proxy war” from across the border.

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  1. By pulling the time frame back to 2011, Arvind Subramanian is trying to suggest that the practice of fudging had started right under Manmohan Singh’s eyes. MMS or the Congress may take serious note of this insinuation. I remember clearly that a “new method” of calculating GDP was announced in newspapers only AFTER Modi government had assumed office. I do not know if Arvind Subramanian had joined the administration by then, much less that the misleading method was introduced under his “advise”. It is heartening, however, that now it has come out from the horse’s mouth that Modi government had been misleading the country about our actual growth rate.

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