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Nirmala’s husband says BJP in ‘denial mode’ about slowdown & Sandipan Deb slams Thunberg

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

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Xi’s 100-year promise 

Sanjaya Baru | Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi
The Indian Express

Baru writes that each prime minister since Rajiv Gandhi has tried to bridge the “trust deficit” between India and China after the 1962 war but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “mastered the art of in-your-face diplomatic engagement” in the world of instant media.

The border issue and China’s proximity to Pakistan have contributed to trust and bilateral trade deficits, respectively. The trade deficit has also become a point of contention. India supported China’s WTO  membership, but it feels China has acquired access to India’s market without providing equal access to its own. China’s lack of support for India’s membership of the United Nations Security Council and Nuclear Suppliers Group is also a concern. Making a friend out of Chinese President Xi Jinping could change this.

The ‘hundred year plan’ articulated by Jinping signifies two things. It highlights the longer history of “civilisational engagement” between the countries, and underlines the time required to achieve a balanced relationship given the differences in power due to “China’s spectacular rise”. The next decade will be “crucial for India” in regaining “economic momentum” and strengthening its “human and strategic capabilities”, says Baru.

The Limits of Informality

Harsh Pant | Professor of international relations, King’s College London, UK
Economic Times

In his piece, Pant is skeptical of Chinese President Xi Jinping and PM Modi’s ‘informal summit’ in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, last Friday. Though it was a chance for India to discuss issues with China without the pressure of “deliverables”, the promises made “should be taken with a pinch of salt”, he writes, be it China’s talk of defence cooperation or India’s announcement of five-year tourist e-visa for Chinese travellers.

As seen in last year’s Wuhan summit, there are limits to such engagements, explains Pant, and their “pomp” can’t hide structural realities underneath Sino-Indian ties such as the Dokalam issue, India’s opposition to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and China’s support to Pakistan on Kashmir.

Pant identifies China as India’s most “significant foreign policy challenge” and calls for “tangible movement on key issues” between the two countries before the enthusiasm generated last Friday dies down.

Civilizational Chennai connect

Srikanth Kondapalli | Professor in Chinese Studies, JNU
The Times of India

Kondapalli writes that the Modi-Xi meeting in a UNESCO heritage site will be historic in reminding China of its “continuous civilizational resilience”, and he lists six takeaways from this visit.

First, the meeting at the Mamallapuram temple complex was meant to send China a “subtle message”. The rulers of the region, the Pallavas and Cholas, had expanded their empires into Southeast Asia, but no land in the region was claimed by Indian rulers, unlike the large portion of the South China Sea that China’s military has occupied by citing “historical claims”.

Second, Modi highlighted the long tradition of cultural and trade exchange between India and the east, while China is occupying a portion of Kashmir and dividing India’s civilizational map” through its Pakistan ties.

Third, China has been supportive of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir, and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China just before Xi’s Chennai visit reiterated that friendship.

Fourth, choosing the maritime city of Chennai was in keeping with the 2015 ‘Act East’ policy and the summit was instrumental in establishing maritime links between the two countries.

Fifth, the meeting, along with Modi’s show in Houston, showed that India is “comfortable in projecting its cultural heritage abroad”, and there will be renewed cultural linkages with Indian Ocean states under Project Mausam and the Sagarmala initiative.

Sixth, as there is a relocation of manufacturing units to new regions due to Indo-US tariff wars, India might benefit in the coming years, concludes Kondapalli.

Preserve nature. It’s our best bet for the future

Madhav Gadgil | Emeritus Scientist, National Centre for Cell Science, SP Pune University
Hindustan Times

Gadgil writes about the Aarey Milk Colony issue and points out that trees have been cut there before without protests. But the “mood of the people has changed” now, says Gadgil, as increasing natural disasters have made people believe that the world has reached a “tipping point”.

Gadgil counters claims that the cutting of 2,000 trees from Mithi river’s catchment areas in Mumbai can be compensated by planting 20,000 trees elsewhere, or that cutting down mangroves that “protect the sea coast, and serve as nurseries for fish” can be compensated by planting exotic species like Glyrecidia in dry tracts. He also challenges the claim that the metro rail solves the problem of air pollution, citing the example of the Bengaluru metro and how it proved otherwise.

We need to think “out of the box”, he says, and advocates no more disturbance in water courses, natural vegetation, growth of urban heat islands — and no more aerosols either.

A lodestar to steer the economy

Parakala Prabhakar | Former Communications Adviser to the Government of Andhra Pradesh & Managing Director of RightFOLIO, a knowledge enterprise in Hyderabad
The Hindu

Prabhakar, who is Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s husband, writes that there is widespread anxiety about the country’s economic slowdown, but the government seems to be in a “denial mode” and has failed to show a “strategic vision” to address the challenge.

The issue, writes Prabhakar, is that the BJP has been reluctant to develop coherent ideas about the economy. It advocates a “capitalist, free-market framework”, but this remains untested. It has not really put forth an “economic roadmap” since its rise to power, but has instead focused on a “muscular political, nationalist, security platform”.

The Nehruvian policy that the BJP “continues to critique” was replaced a long time ago by policies of former prime ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. The BJP should realise that attacking the Nehruvian framework is a “political assault” not an “economic critique”.

Rao, the author says, was actually a Congressman who was “detested and humiliated by the dynasty”. The BJP has not rejected, nor approved of Rao’s policy since 1991. Embracing it now could provide a “lodestar to steer the economy out of choppy waters”, concludes Prabhakar.

Time to TOP up 

Ashok Gulati | Infosys chair professor for agriculture and Harsh Wardhan | Consultant at ICRIER
The Indian Express

Gulati and Wardhan write that “knee-jerk reactions” to rising vegetable prices, such as export ban or stocking limits on traders, only show “the hollowness of our policies”.

Tomatoes-onions-potatoes (TOP) experience the most price volatility and the government is often caught between “fulfilling its dual objectives of ensuring remunerative prices for farmers and affordable prices for consumers”.

To tackle this, the government had announced “Operation Green-TOP” based on the AMUL model to ensure that a “higher share of consumer’s rupee goes to farmers and stabilises their prices”.

However, milk does not have to go through something like the agricultural produce market committee (APMC) unlike the TOP vegetables. “With layers of mandi fees and commissions, and farmers get less than one-third of the consumer’s rupee,” they write.

Gulati and Wardhan recommend three major changes to stabilise TOP prices — one, creating ample storage for buffer stocks; two, increasing the processing units and propagating use of processed TOP products; and three, direct buying from farmer producing organisations instead of the mandi should be encouraged.

How to fix the PMC bank crisis

Debashis Basu | Editor of
Business Standard

In the wake of the PMC bank crisis, Basu writes that not a single “sensible move to fix the problem” has been taken since there is no “template for resolving such crises”. He recommends some ways in which this crisis can be tackled but warns that it will require the finance minister “and RBI to act fast and bend some rules, which…this government can easily do whenever it wants”.

Basu argues that foremost there’s a need to “protect the value of tangible and intangible assets”. He recommends constituting a panel with a short finite life. The panel should have the power to put the assets of PMC bank and HDIL Ltd in an escrow account to protect it from the revenue department.

The shortfall must come from the government, writes Basu. Bank depositors should not “suffer any loss when the ministry, the state government concerned and the RBI are jointly responsible for the failures of cooperative banks”.

In the long-term, Basu recommends giving RBI the sole responsibility of all “deposit-taking organisations” and making all cooperative banks small finance banks.

Greta-fication is not going to help us fight climate change

Sandipan Deb | Former editor of Financial Express

Similar to his earlier piece on 29 September, Deb criticises young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg for spreading panic about the climate crisis by blaming economic growth and wealth. Instead, the climate crisis requires “reason and rationality”, writes Deb.

He compares the UN’s `Special Report On The Ocean And Cryosphere In A Changing Climate’ (SROCC) last month with the press release of the same to suggest that the media, having relied only on the press release, has deviated from facts. Deb not only doubts the report’s basic methodology but also implies that it is “alarmist guesswork”.

Thunberg’s “global no-fossil-fuels-from-tonight dictatorship” reeks of communism, he writes, and she is being exploited by the hard left and “pedophrasts” — amoral activists who “prey on our parental instincts”. By quoting a twitter thread by a father of a child with Asperger’s, Deb suggests that Thunberg’s caretakers should be tending to her autism and anxiety instead of subjecting her to high-stress situations and using her as a “‘automatia’ prop”.

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