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    ISAS Briefs

    ISAS publishes a regular series of briefs which provides quick analytical responses to developments and occurrences in South Asia.​​​

    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: A Chinese Perspective on its Impact on China-Sri Lanka Relations

    Ren Yuanzhe

    3 December, 2019

    Following his election victory, much is expected of the new Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. While domestic issues will feature significantly on his reform agenda, his foreign policy orientation, particularly Colombo’s relations with Beijing, will also come under close scrutiny. This paper examines Sri Lanka-China ties.

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    Briefs: The Courts, the Army and the Government: The Tangled Triangle of Turmoil in Pakistan

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

    3 December, 2019

    The Judiciary in Pakistan is becoming increasingly interventionist. It is now impacting on both the elected political authority and the military brass. The paper examines its implications for Pakistan’s democracy and governance.

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    Briefs: The Judiciary in Pakistan: Asserting its Autonomy and Importance

    Iqbal Singh Sevea

    29 November, 2019

    The Pakistani government’s extension of the army chief’s term and intervention in juridical proceedings against General Pervez Musharraf have raised questions about the role of the military, the government’s commitment to democratic institutions and the position of the judiciary.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: Structural Reforms Key to Higher Economic Growth

    Amitendu Palit

    28 November, 2019

    Sri Lanka’s economic prospects are unlikely to improve till it is able to raise its rate of gross domestic product growth from the current low of 3.2 per cent. This calls for deep structural reforms. Completing reforms under the International Monetary Fund’s ongoing Extended Fund Facility might help in significantly improving long-term prospects.

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    Briefs: Rajnath Singh’s Visit to Singapore: Cementing Bilateral Defence Relations

    Yogesh Joshi

    27 November, 2019

    Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s to Singapore visit from 18 to 20 November 2019 has, once again, underscored the value of the bilateral defence relationship. For Singapore, India presents a unique opportunity to advance its defence policy based on twin pillars of “deterrence” and “diplomacy”. For Singaporean defence forces, a friendly power like India can help build its operational and tactical capabilities, adding to the overall deterrence vis-à-vis potential adversaries. In terms of diplomacy, both states want to avoid entanglements in any alliance relationship, reposing their faith in internal balancing. Their diplomatic posturing allows them to pursue strategic autonomy while cooperating and collaborating on shared threats and concerns.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: How India can Work with Gotabaya

    S Narayan

    25 November, 2019

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory in the recent presidential election in Sri Lanka has been welcomed cautiously in India. As the person responsible for the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Gotabaya has won on the strong plank of Sinhala vote, without conceding to any of the requests of the minority Tamils or Muslims. There is also concern about the pro-China tilt of the earlier Mahindra Rajapaksa regime. Indian and Tamil Nadu politicians need to deal with Gotabaya and suggest ways in which there can be better integration within the groups in Sri Lanka. More importantly, India can play a role in the economic revival in Sri Lanka.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: Managing External Debt a Top Priority

    Amitendu Palit

    23 November, 2019

    The new government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka must address serious macroeconomic problems. These include high external debt, mounting debt service obligations, low gross domestic product growth and falling savings. Increasing foreign direct investment, discouraging easy corporate access to external borrowing and enhancing exports should be the immediate priorities.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: India, Sri Lanka and the Politics of Proximity

    C Raja Mohan

    22 November, 2019

    The international discourse on the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president of Sri Lanka has focused too narrowly on the deepening Sino-Indian rivalry in the Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean. That perspective, however, misreads the power dynamic involving Beijing, Delhi and Colombo. It also ignores the fact that the relationships of the two Asian giants with the island nation is not symmetric.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: Analysing Past and Present Voting Patterns

    Chulanee Attanayake

    16 November, 2019

    Sri Lanka’s eighth presidential election is just around the corner. Campaigning has come to a close and people are now processing the policies and action plans, and weighing the strengths and the weaknesses of the candidates. Amidst this backdrop, this paper analyses past and present voting patterns in Sri Lanka.

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    Briefs: Moody’s Downgrades India’s Credit Rating Outlook

    Dipinder S Randhawa

    16 November, 2019

    On 7 November 2019, Moody’s lowered the outlook on the Indian government debt from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’. What does this suggest about the Indian economy?

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    Briefs: India’s New Cybersecurity Institution: Ensuring a Robust Cybersecurity Posture

    Karthik Nachiappan

    15 November, 2019

    The recent cyber-attack on the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has compelled the Indian government to restructure institutional structures managing cybersecurity. A unified cybersecurity agency is expected to be unveiled soon to manage and deter rising cyberattacks against Indian ministries and private firms. A centralised institution focused on thwarting cyberattacks could add coherence to India’s positions with respect to global cyberspace rules and norms that is diffident and vague.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019: A ‘Wait and See’ Approach by Tamil Nadu Parties

    S Narayan

    14 November, 2019

    With the Sri Lankan Presidential election being just a few days away, there is still not much visible excitement and momentum in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The main political parties in the state have adopted a similar approach as the central government – wait and see.

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    Briefs: The Indian Supreme Court’s Ayodhya Verdict: Aiming to Strike a Balance

    Ronojoy Sen

    13 November, 2019

    On 9 November 2019, the Indian Supreme Court delivered its verdict on a seven-decade long legal battle over a disputed site in the north Indian city of Ayodhya. The 2.77-acre site is believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Ram and was also where a mosque once stood which was demolished in 1992. The five-judge bench, in a unanimous ruling, handed the disputed land to a trust to build a temple. The Muslim litigants were awarded a separate piece of land for a mosque. This paper examines the judgment and some of the questions that it raises.

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    Briefs: Elections in Haryana and Maharashtra: The BJP in Decline or Business as Usual?

    Diego Maiorano

    12 November, 2019

    The recent election results for the state assemblies of Haryana and Maharashtra were disappointing for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) despite the fact that it emerged as the single largest party in both states. Analysts saw this poor performance as a sign that the party’s fortunes might be starting to decline. However, the BJP’s dominance over India’s political system is not really in question.

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    Briefs: The Ayodhya Dispute in India: Understanding the Supreme Court’s Verdict

    Vinod Rai

    11 November, 2019

    In a landmark unanimous judgment delivered by a bench of five judges on 9 November 2019, the Indian Supreme Court settled the centuries-old conflict between the Hindu and Muslim communities by granting the stretch of 2.77 acre disputed land to the juristic deity of Ram Lalla. The court also directed the central government to frame a scheme to set up a Trust within three months to whom the land could be entrusted. The court also decreed the allotment of five acres of land to the Muslims in a suitable area in Ayodhya to construct a mosque.

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    Briefs: India and Britain in the Western Indian Ocean

    C Raja Mohan

    7 November, 2019

    Britain has been the missing link in India’s expansive engagement with key actors in the IndoPacific. Given the deep historic association between the navies of the two countries and the shared interests in a stable global maritime order, Delhi and London can quickly construct an ambitious agenda for regional security cooperation in various sub-regions of the Indo-Pacific, especially in the Western Indian Ocean. Overcoming their differences on subcontinental issues will pave the way for long-term maritime partnership between the two nations.

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    Briefs: Understanding Delhi’s Toxic Haze

    Dipinder S Randhawa

    7 November, 2019

    Delhi has been shrouded in a thick dark haze over the past week, with harsh consequences for public health. Why does this phenomenon recur every year? What are the consequences?

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    Briefs: The ‘Azadi March’: Thousands Protest in Islamabad

    Iqbal Singh Sevea

    7 November, 2019

    On 31 October 2019, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters converged on Islamabad and have staged a sit-in protest since. It remains to be seen how the government and the military will respond to the protest. The ‘Azadi March’ is also a test of the opposition’s ability to pose a concerted challenge to the government.

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    Briefs: India and the RCEP: Separated for Good?

    Amitendu Palit

    6 November, 2019

    The negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership were concluded at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Bangkok on 4 November 2019. India stayed out of the deal due to significant outstanding concerns. This paper reflects on the implications of India’s decisions and argues India still might return to the deal if it able to work with other members in resolving its issues. Much of this though will depend on India’s strategic appeal to the rest of the group.

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    Briefs: India and France in the Vanilla Islands

    C Raja Mohan

    29 October, 2019

    In inviting India to a recent conference with the leaders of island nations in the South West Indian Ocean, French President Emmanuel Macron has elevated the ambitions for strategic maritime cooperation between Paris and Delhi. The long neglected synergies between India and France may now help both nations to secure their own interests as well as promote public goods in a very important sub-region of the Indian Ocean.

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    Briefs: Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2019 – History in the Making

    Chulanee Attanayake

    23 October, 2019

    The 2019 presidential election in Sri Lanka will make history for being the first in the country not to have a serving president, prime minister or opposition leader contest as a candidate. It is the first time in which the Sri Lanka Freedom Party is not fielding its own candidate or leading a coalition. This paper looks at the new developments on the election scene since the nominations were accepted. It also explores the reasons for the first-three citizens of the country opting out of the contest.

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    Briefs: RCEP and India: High Stakes and Costs

    Amitendu Palit

    14 October, 2019

    As the RCEP braces for a finish at the Bangkok Ministerial, all eyes are on India. The Modi-Xi Summit might have assuaged Indian concerns over RCEP perpetrating more imports and a wider trade deficit. But domestic opposition remains unabated. By joining the RCEP, the Modi government might antagonize some of its own constituencies. The stakes are high as India searches ‘win-win’ outcomes.

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    Briefs: Modi-Xi Meeting – Why in Mahabalipuram?

    S. Narayan

    9 October, 2019

    The Modi-Xi meeting in Mahabalipuram is intended to showcase the archaeological importance of the site as well as the ancient links between South India and China. It is also a message to Tamil Nadu that it is important from a cultural as well as historical point of view to the whole of India.

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    Briefs: India’s Russian Option in Eurasia

    C Raja Mohan

    8 October, 2019

    Although India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embraced the Indo-Pacific construct promoted by the United States and has actively engaged with the Quadrilateral mechanism involving Japan and Australia, New Delhi is not hostile to the idea of Eurasia. It is determined to carve out a role for itself in Eurasia in partnership with Russia.

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    Briefs: Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics in India: Will it Work?

    Amit Ranjan

    8 October, 2019

    More than a blanket ban on the use of single-use plastics in India, mass awareness about its devastating effects on environment is effective in stamping out plastic products from the country.

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    Briefs: India’s Stewardship of Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

    Karthik Nachiappan

    7 October, 2019

    At the United Nations General Assembly from 17-24 September 2019, a key issue on the agenda was health. Several UN member states, including India, participated at the UN high-level meeting on universal health coverage (UHC) to raise awareness for investing in accessible and affordable health systems. India’s leadership grew from the Modi government’s ambitious domestic health coverage program – Ayushman Bharat - that has just hit its one-year mark.

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    Briefs: Lotus Tower : Iconic Building Mired in Controversy

    Chulanee Attanayake

    7 October, 2019

    On 16 September 2019, Lotus Tower, currently the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia, was declared open in Colombo. An event which would otherwise have been a milestone was mired in corruption controversies following a shocking speech given by Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka.

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    Briefs: Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Sends a Clear Signal to Beijing

    Yogesh Joshi

    3 October, 2019

    The meeting of foreign ministers of the Quad countries during the 2019 United Nations General Assembly Session sends a clear signal that Beijing’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific will not go unchecked. Reticent for more than a decade due to the fear of ruffling Chinese sensitivities, the Quad has now started gaining significant momentum.

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    Briefs: Drones of Terror Expose India’s Defences

    Yogesh Joshi

    1 October, 2019

    The recent use of drones by terrorists to ship arms and ammunition across the international border exposes India’s under-preparedness in defending against such asymmetric warfare. New Delhi needs to think hard not only on the use of, but also on a defence against, drones.

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    Briefs: The Three Language Formula Revisited: ‘Hindi Imposition’ Stokes Protests

    John J. Vater and Ronojoy Sen

    30 September, 2019

    The release of the 2019 Draft National Education Policy on 31 May 2019, which recommended the compulsory learning of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states, foreshadows a key cultural element of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s nationalist agenda. There were immediate objections in South India, with Tamil Nadu-based Dravidian parties spotlighting the move as a blatant act of ‘Hindi imposition.’ The controversial reference was withdrawn, but the 2019 Union Budget has allocated Rs 50 crore (S$ 9.5 million) for the support of the appointment of Hindi teachers in non-Hindi states, demonstrating that the Hindi agenda of the BJP is very much alive. The recent statement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on 14 September 2019 that Hindi, as the most spoken language in India, should do the work of uniting India has only added fuel to the fire.

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    Briefs: The 2019 UN General Assembly – India’s Strategic Multilateralism

    Karthik Nachiappan

    27 September, 2019

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had a full plate at the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in New York in September 2019. Modi has covered a series of issues like climate change, trade, global health, infrastructure cooperation, counterterrorism and conflict while meeting world leaders, accepting awards, launching various causes and trying to sew up a bilateral trade agreement with the US. The UNGA meetings demonstrate that India’s multilateral agenda is broad but strategic and reflective of policy priorities and interests - not the other way around. More than ever, India’s multilateral instincts, interests and intentions are a pathway to fortify and advance domestic policy goals; simply put, Delhi’s multilateral focus is, and for three decades has been, strategic and rational, unburdened by lofty ideas concerning what India represents or should represent globally.

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    Briefs: It’s Development Versus Environment in Mumbai

    Amit Ranjan

    25 September, 2019

    At the time when the entire world is talking about climate emergency, the government of Maharashtra has supported the idea of cutting about 2700 trees in Aarey, Mumbai, for a Metro car shed project. This issue may influence the voters of Mumbai city in the upcoming Maharashtra assembly elections.

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    Briefs: Singapore, India and Thailand Trilateral Naval Exercise and Maritime Security in the Bay of Bengal

    Yogesh Joshi

    20 September, 2019

    As Singapore, India and Thailand embark upon their first ever joint naval exercise off the coast of India’s Andaman Islands this week, the larger geostrategic significance of the Bay of the Bengal is slowly becoming evident. These naval exercises, focussed on sub-regional naval cooperation among local participants, present an avenue to construct a new maritime security architecture in the Bay of Bengal.

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    Briefs: India-France: Forging a Cyber-partnership

    Archana Atmakuri and Karthik Nachiappan

    17 September, 2019

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France in August 2019 has expanded the India-France strategic partnership from issues like defence and security to technology, covering matters like the digital economy, data governance and protection, privacy and cybersecurity. Discussions on new technologies are driven by legacy of close strategic ties and bubbling domestic priorities. France’s importance and value stands to rise in New Delhi with the inclusion of cyber and digital issues to the bilateral agenda.

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    Briefs: India’s New Cybersecurity Policy

    Karthik Nachiappan

    6 September, 2019

    The Narendra Modi government is revamping India’s cybersecurity policy in early 2020. The new policy targets growing security and economic challenges posed by the internet, particularly cyberattacks on both government and businesses. The quickening pace of digitisation across the economy covering existing and new sectors makes this announcement timely. A new policy should improve institutional functioning around cyber issues, ironing out details related to cyber coordination and accountability.

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    Briefs: The Changing Dynamics in India-Nepal Relations

    Amit Ranjan

    5 September, 2019

    The memories of the economic blockade in 2015-16 which India allegedly carried out against Nepal are still fresh in the minds of the Nepalese. A key consequent of the blockade was that it opened the gates for China to move closer to Nepal. Currently, while India is active in Nepal, its efficacy to win the trust of the Nepalese has to be closely observed.

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    Briefs: 696: India’s National Register of Citizens: What’s Next for the Excluded

    Amit Ranjan

    4 September, 2019

    The fate of the 1.9 million people whose names are missing from the final list of the updated NRC hangs in the balance. They can now move to the Foreigners Tribunal and, if not satisfied, then to the High Court. However, the bigger question is- what will happen to those who will be finally declared as foreigners?

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    Briefs: Indian Banking Sector Reform: Right Move but Challenges Remain

    Vinod Rai

    2 September, 2019

    On 30 August 2019, the Indian government announced measures towards the long-awaited reform of state-owned banks by merging 10 banks into four larger entities. The move is also aimed at making their management accountable to their respective boards, and ensuring greater professionalism and longer tenures to higher executives. There are bound to be some short run challenges such as cultural differences among merging entities, manpower and branch redundancy and technological integration. It is very critical that urgent steps be taken in this direction to ensure the success of the merger exercise.

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    Briefs: Singapore Mediation Conference: Off to a Good Start

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

    27 August, 2019

    The Singapore Mediation Convention attracted 46 signatories in the signing ceremony in Singapore on 7 August 2019. It is likely to benefit all trading nations, including those from South Asia. Countries who have not signed it might find it useful and rewarding to do so.

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    Briefs: Modi Visits Bhutan to Strengthen Bilateral Ties

    Archana Atmakuri and Amit Ranjan

    27 August, 2019

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral visit to Bhutan from 17 to 18 August 2019 was largely to emphasise India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. During the visit, 10 memoranda of understanding were signed, including in new areas such as space, aviation, digital technology, power and education. The two countries not only agreed to cooperate in digital payments, but also strengthened their existing cooperation in hydropower. This paper examines India-Bhutan bilateral engagements in the context of Modi’s second visit.

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    Briefs: Kashmir – A Pakistani Perspective

    Touqir Hussain

    26 August, 2019

    Kashmir is no ordinary dispute. It is about a people, their history, culture and aspirations for freedom. Both India and Pakistan see the dispute differently. This paper will lay out Pakistan’s perspective.

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    Briefs: 691: India’s 2019 G7 Tryst: Taming Global Technologies

    Karthik Nachiappan

    23 August, 2019

    India has been invited by host country France to participate in the G7 Summit in Biarritz from 24-26 August 2019, which is an opportunity for it to highlight its global importance, particularly in the discussions around global technology issues where India’s contributions could be a game-changer for other developing countries.

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    Briefs: Modi’s Vision for the Present Tenure

    S Narayan

    19 August, 2019

    The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined the priorities for his government in his speech on the country’s Independence Day on 15 August 2019. They differ significantly from earlier patterns of development.

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    Briefs: South Asia Growth Prospects Amid Global Uncertainty

    Diego Maiorano

    15 August, 2019

    Despite a slowdown of the global economy due to escalating trade tensions between the United States and China, South Asia as a region continues to grow fast and steadily. However, two diverging trends are noticed: on the one hand, India and Bangladesh are among the fastest growing economies in the world and are expected to remain on the high-growth track. On the other hand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s economies have been slowing down, mainly because of domestic economic and political uncertainty.

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    Briefs: Why the BJP Could Change the Status of Jammu and Kashmir in One Stroke

    Ronojoy Sen

    9 August, 2019

    The Indian government’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) grew out of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP)’s deep commitment to abrogate Article 370, which gave special privileges to J&K. It was able to do so due to the changed make-up of the Indian parliament and a more receptive political environment.

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    Briefs: Article 370 – A Chinese Perspective

    Ren Yuanzhe

    8 August, 2019

    Beginning 5 August 2019, India’s parliament passed a bill proposing the state of Jammu and Kashmir – which includes the Kashmir Valley and the Ladakh area – be split into two federal territories. Jammu and Kashmir will have a state legislature, and Ladakh – which includes Aksai Chin, a Chinese-claimed and disputed territory – will be ruled directly by New Delhi.

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    Briefs: Revoking Article 370 – The Kashmiri Perspective

    Iqbal Singh Sevea

    8 August, 2019

    On 5 August 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and bifurcated the Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. Jammu and Kashmir thus lost its status as a full state. It is clear from protests that have already erupted and from statements that are emerging that there is a general sense of humiliation and betrayal amongst Kashmiris.

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    Briefs: Article 370 – What, Why and How?

    Malminderjit Singh and Roshni Kapur

    8 August, 2019

    On 5 August 2019, the Indian government announced that it is seeking to dilute the special status of autonomy given to Jammu and Kashmir guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution of India. Union Home Minister Amit Shah moved two bills and two resolutions pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir in the Lok Sabha, including the bill to repeal Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019 intended to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories (UTs):one combining Hindu-majority Jammu and Muslim-majority Kashmir into one federally administered territory and the other to carve out Buddhist-majority Ladakh into another territory.

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    Briefs: India Amends Article 370 – A Constitutional Perspective

    Vinod Rai

    8 August, 2019

    The government of India, through complex legal manoeuvring, has done away with the special status provided to the state of Jammu and Kashmir after the Instrument of Accession was signed in 1947. The government has amended Article 370, reconstituted the state in two union territories and ensured the state’s total integration with the Indian parliament and its laws.

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    Briefs: India’s Kashmir Strategy under the Afghan Shadow

    C Raja Mohan

    8 August, 2019

    India’s bold and controversial decision to dispense with the special status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the part of the state under Indian control has been driven by a number of factors, including the ruling BJP’s long standing ideological commitment to alter the nature of the relationship between Delhi and Kashmir.

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    Briefs: India’s Future in Water Security

    Nathanael Lee and Diego Maiorano

    1 August, 2019

    This article look at how the newly established Indian government plans to tackle one of the most challenging governance reforms that India faces: water security. The government launched the Jal Shakti programme, which aims at providing every household with piped water, interlinking India’s rivers, cleaning the Ganges and ensuring the sustainability of the country’s water sources. The task is monumental and it is only partially addressing India’s pressing water needs.

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    Briefs: Air India Privatisation: India’s Aviation Sector at Crossroads

    Deeparghya Mukherjee

    30 July, 2019

    The Indian government has been trying to privatise the national airlines Air India. While there has been an unsuccessful attempt to this effect last year, the recent budget announced by the new government announced a possible move towards privatisation of the airline by October 2019. This paper analyses the standing of Air India in terms of its market share in domestic and international markets, debt positions etc. It reflects on the possibilities that may arise in the Indian aviation sector with opportunities for Air India against the backdrop of the shutdown of Jet airways and the presence of Singapore Airlines in a joint venture with Tata in the Vistara airline.

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    Briefs: India’s Budget 2019: The Proposal to Issue US Dollar Bonds

    Dipinder S Randhawa

    29 July, 2019

    The proposal in the Indian Budget to issue foreign currency bonds as a means of alleviating fiscal pressures has elicited considerable interest. Is the timing for such a bond issue ideal? What are the merits of the proposal?

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    Briefs: India-Pakistan Relations and the Building of the Kartarpur Corridor

    Iqbal Singh Sevea

    16 July, 2019

    Representatives from India and Pakistan met for the second time on 14 July 2019 to discuss the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor. A number of issues have threatened to derail its completion. These include differing opinions over infrastructure and modalities of travel as well as concerns over Pakistan’s support for Sikh separatism. Statements issued after the meeting indicate that both sides are close to agreeing on most points of contention. Aside from the symbolic value of the Corridor, the modalities being agreed to may lay the basis for a new regime regulating cross-border travel.

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    Briefs: Indian Budget 2019: A Change from the Normal

    S Narayan

    8 July, 2019

    On 5 July 2019, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first full Budget of the second term of the Narendra Modi government. There are several new ideas in the budget, especially for the financial sector and for new technology which are welcome. The concern is whether the old economy has received sufficient attention in the budget.

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    Briefs: A Less Relevant WTO: Implications for South Asia

    Rahul Choudhury

    5 July, 2019

    There is an increasing fear among nations about the waning relevance of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A group of nations also fears the possible collapse of the WTO. Many past incidences have created uncertainty about the future of the WTO. In this context, this paper attempts to examine if the WTO is losing its relevance in the present world order and the possible implications for the South Asian region.

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    Briefs: India ducks Digital Trade Rules at G20

    Amitendu Palit

    3 July, 2019

    India stayed away from the Osaka Declaration on Digital Economy adopted by most of the members at the G20 summit on 28 and 29 June 2019. By distancing itself from efforts on global rule-making on digital trade, India is losing the opportunity of contributing to these rules in a manner that would benefit it.

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    Briefs: Solih Visits Singapore to Boost Bilateral Ties

    Amit Ranjan

    3 July, 2019

    The visit of the President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, to Singapore on 1 July 2019 was aimed at enhancing bilateral cooperation. An Open Skies Agreement, signed between the two countries, will help the Maldivian tourism sector and facilitate people-to-people links. Singapore also agreed to train more Maldivians in areas such as sustainable development and governance.

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    Briefs: The Rural Vote in the 2019 Indian General Elections

    Vani Swarupa Murali and Diego Maiorano

    24 June, 2019

    The 2019 Indian general elections returned the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government to power with a larger majority. In this election, the BJP managed to expand its voter base into rural areas, in spite of severe agrarian distress and farmers’ protests. The paper looks into this paradox to understand how the BJP was able to exceed its previous win.

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    Briefs: India’s Impending Water Crisis

    Amit Ranjan

    20 June, 2019

    In June 2019 a part of India has been facing severe water scarcity. Many of the reservoirs across the country do not have adequate water to satisfy the basic demands of the people, and a part of India is experiencing a drought like situation. This situation also affects India’s growth.

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    Briefs: India and Pakistan: Modi Persists with Hardline on Terror

    John J. Vater and C. Raja Mohan

    20 June, 2019

    In the weeks leading up to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from 13-14 June 2019, many had hoped there would be a “pull-aside” meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resuscitate dialogues for peace. This meeting did not happen, however—only a handshake and exchange of pleasantries—suggesting that for now, India will push forward on its policy of using multilateral forums to isolate Pakistan for state-sponsored terror.

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    Briefs: Modi’s Visit to Sri Lanka

    Chulanee Attanayake

    19 June, 2019

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a tour of the Maldives and Sri Lanka on 8-9 June 2019, indicating the priorities of foreign policy for his new government. The visit is Modi’s first foreign visit after his swearing-in for the second time as the Prime Minister of India. It is also the first visit by an international leader to Sri Lanka after the deadly Easter bombing in April.

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    Briefs: India Elections 2019: The Farmers’ Vote for the BJP

    Nathanael Lee and Diego Maiorano

    12 June, 2019

    With a significant agrarian community, the famers’ vote was crucial to the 2019 Indian General Elections. However, despite distress in the farming community, the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to increase its mandate, with this divergence in expectations explained through the different perceptions of the state and central governments among the farming community.

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    Briefs: Resignation of Muslim Politicians: A Socio-political Setback in Sri Lanka

    Roshni Kapur and Mustafa Izzuddin

    12 June, 2019

    The mass resignations of Muslim politicians have cast a spotlight on the fragility of inter-communal relations in Sri Lanka. Healing from the Easter Sunday attacks has suffered a socio-political setback.

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    Briefs: Modi’s Forthcoming Visit to Maldives and Sri Lanka

    Amit Ranjan

    7 June, 2019

    Like in his first term (2014-2019), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making his first foreign visit to a neighbouring South Asian country in his second term. He will be in Maldives on 8-9 June 2019 and stops over in Colombo while returning to India. This visit will strengthen India’s relationships with the two strategically located island countries.

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    Briefs: India Elections 2019 – The New Cabinet and its Challenges

    Ronojoy Sen

    3 June, 2019

    India’s new 57-member Council of Ministers, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has 24 new faces. Despite having won a resounding mandate, the Modi government will have to hit the ground running.

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    Briefs: Indian Elections 2019: Why the BJP Won Big

    Ronojoy Sen

    1 June, 2019

    The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) landslide victory in the 2019 Indian general elections owed largely to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and popularity. There were, however, other factors that helped the BJP. These included the organisational skills of the BJP and its president Amit Shah; the ability to stitch together winning caste coalitions; a media campaign that could not be matched by the opposition; targeted welfare schemes; and a nationalist narrative following the Pulwama attack and the Balakot airstrike.

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    Briefs: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Eastward Tilt Remaps India’s Neighbourhood

    C Raja Mohan

    29 May, 2019

    New Delhi’s decision to invite the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation forum to the inauguration ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the end of May 2019 marks the continuing tilt in India’s foreign policy towards the eastern subcontinent. The unwillingness to invite Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to the inauguration, however, does not mean Modi will turn his back on Pakistan. What it does show is the new understanding in New Delhi that Pakistan and the North Western subcontinent is a problem that must be managed, while the eastern subcontinent that extends into Southeast Asia is an opportunity that must be nurtured.

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    Briefs: Social Media and the Indian Elections: The Good, the Bad and (How to Rein In) the Ugly

    Anuradha Rao

    28 May, 2019

    Social media played a prominent role during the recent Indian general elections. Now, it is time for India’s policymakers to discuss actions and policies that will rein in its harmful effects.

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    Briefs: India’s Northeast and its Connectivity with Southeast Asia

    Rupakjyoti Borah

    22 May, 2019

    Following its decision not to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India is now busy working on its own connectivity initiatives in the region, especially those involving Southeast Asia. For a long time, the infrastructure sector in Northeast India received little attention. However, in the wake of India’s ‘Act-East’ policy, this region has seen a rapid transformation in recent times. One of the major reasons for this is that Northeast India is critical to New Delhi’s connectivity efforts with Southeast Asia.

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    Briefs: Indian Elections and their Economic Impact

    Amitendu Palit

    16 May, 2019

    Indian elections generate significant economic activity. This has been increasing along with rise in electoral expenses and proliferation of rich candidates. With elections happening all round the year, their role in generating income and sustaining consumption is hardly noticed. They are the undiscussed actors in keeping the economy going.

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    Briefs: Indian Election 2019: The Bitter Battle for Bengal

    Ronojoy Sen

    16 May, 2019

    West Bengal, where a seven-phase poll is underway, has seen the most violence in the 2019 Indian general election. The Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to make inroads into the Trinamul Congress citadel through religious polarisation and charges of misgovernance. While this is likely to reap electoral dividends, the cycle of violence in the state will continue.

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    Briefs: Bangladesh and Free Trade Agreements: A Potential Partner in Singapore

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

    15 May, 2019

    Bangladesh’s preferential treatment from trading partners will erode with its impending graduation from the list of Least Developed Countries. The time has, therefore, come for it to enter into bilateral free trade agreements with those among them who are key. There are compelling reasons to begin such negotiations with Singapore, even though the road to the finish may be long and arduous.

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    Briefs: Lahore Suicide Bombing Signals Emergence of a New Militant Organisation

    Iqbal Singh Sevea

    13 May, 2019

    Ten people were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide attack outside a Sufi shrine in Lahore on 8 May 2019. If the Hizbul Ahrar’s claim to have carried out the attack is true, we have to look beyond mere religious motivations at the wider political and symbolic significance of the attack.

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    Briefs: Differences between Election Commissioners: No Cause for Alarm but Need for Transparency

    Vinod Rai

    13 May, 2019

    The election body in India has suddenly come in for adverse attention. There have been delays in taking decisions in complaints against India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and president of the ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah. The Supreme Court had to nudge the Election Commission (EC) into taking decisions. The decision, when taken, seems to favour the Prime Minister. There are also reports of divided opinions within the EC. There is no cause for any disquiet in such differences. All that is required in the best traditions of such constitutional bodies is for the opinions expressed by Election Commissioners to be made public. This will serve to preserve the transparency and independence of the institution.

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    Briefs: New Lows in the Indian General Election Campaign

    Ronojoy Sen

    13 May, 2019

    The ongoing Indian general election campaign has been marked by personal attacks and inflammatory remarks. While India’s Election Commission (EC) has penalised some political leaders, the EC and its Model Code of Conduct have looked increasingly impotent in checking the coarseness of the election campaign.

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    Briefs: The Changing Narrative of India’s General Elections

    Ronojoy Sen

    30 April, 2019

    National security and terror threats have dominated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ongoing election campaign. The Congress and the regional opposition parties, in contrast, have tried to steer the electoral narrative to jobs and rural distress. As the issue of national security could be waning in the voters’ minds, the BJP is likely to recalibrate its campaign. Above all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue to be central to the BJP’s presidential-style campaign and its chances of returning to power.

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    Briefs: Easter Attacks in Sri Lanka

    Chulanee Attanayake, Nazneen Mohsina, and Roshni Kapur

    26 April, 2019

    A series of ghastly attacks took place in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019. As developments unfold, this brief aims to provide an initial analysis of what we know so far.

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    Briefs: India’s Successes and Challenges in the Indo-Pacific

    Rupakjyoti Borah

    24 April, 2019

    The last few years have seen a significant growth in India’s role and influence in what is now being increasingly referred to as the Indo-Pacific region. A series of factors has led to New Delhi acquiring a greater profile in the region, but there also lie many challenges ahead for India.

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    Briefs: The Impact of the Hambantota Oil Refinery on Sri Lankan Politics

    Chulanee Attanayake

    18 April, 2019

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe laid the foundation stone to build an oil refinery in the Mirijjawila Export Processing Zone (EPZ). The project is a joint venture between Singapore-registered Silver Park International and the Oman Oil Company. Soon after the project was announced by the Board of Investment (BOI) in Sri Lanka, it has been mired in controversies. The paper examines these controversies and their impact.

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    Briefs: Bangladesh: A Prognosis for Economic Potentials and Pitfalls

    Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

    15 April, 2019

    The rate of Bangladesh’s economic success is rapidly altering the country’s image in the region and in the world. The country and the partners should initiate mutually rewarding measures to benefit from these developments.

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    Briefs: Is India becoming less democratic?

    Diego Maiorano

    15 April, 2019

    India’s democracy has been deteriorating in recent years, particularly since the current National Democratic Alliance came into power in 2014. The erosion of democracy is captured by the recently released V-Dem dataset, one of the most rigorous ways of measuring democratic quality. In this paper, we analyse recent trends in key aspects of India’s democracy. We conclude by pointing out that this is unlikely to have a significant impact on the forthcoming general elections.

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    Briefs: Swacch Social Media: Cleaning Up Online Spaces During India’s General Elections

    Anuradha Rao

    15 April, 2019

    Political parties need to step up and join hands with other stakeholders to clean up social media spaces during the Indian general elections.

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    Briefs: 649 : Bangladesh among the Five Fastest Growing Economies

    Rahul Choudhury

    15 April, 2019

    The World Bank ranked Bangladesh among the top five fastest growing economies in the world. This paper examines some the major factors that helped Bangladesh achieve this position and identifies a few challenges that remain.

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    Briefs: 648 : An Assessment of the PM-Kisan and the NYAY

    Vani Swarupa Murali and S Narayan

    15 April, 2019

    The Indian National Congress launched its minimum income support scheme, the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), on 25 March 2019. This came almost two months after the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-Kisan) by the Bharatiya Janata Party during the interim budget on 1 February 2019. Both the schemes involve direct cash transfers with different criteria to farmers and the similar nature of both of these schemes has brought them into direct comparison with each other.

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    Briefs: 647 : The BJP in Rural Areas: Insights from the 2014 Elections

    Diego Maiorano

    10 April, 2019

    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) performed exceptionally well at the 2014 general elections in areas with a large proportion of voters who depend directly on agriculture. However, the rural economy is in a deep crisis, five years after the BJP was voted into power. Millions of farmers took to the streets in recent years, expressing deep agrarian distress. Having won a high number of seats in rural areas, the BJP has a lot to lose and very little to gain at the forthcoming general elections.

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    Briefs: 646 : Can BJP sustain the bounce from Pulwama and Balakot?

    Ronojoy Sen

    9 April, 2019

    The terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir and the subsequent Indian air strike on a terrorist camp inside Pakistan have given the BJP a boost before the Indian general election. Though the impact of the terror attack and India’s response might be waning, the BJP has made them the centrepiece of its electoral campaign.

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    Briefs: 645 : Australia and Sri Lanka Deepen Naval Cooperation

    Roshni Kapur and C Raja Mohan

    5 April, 2019

    Australia’s biggest ever defence engagement with Sri Lanka in March 2019 marks the steady expansion of intra-regional security cooperation in the Indian Ocean. It also brings into bold relief Australia’s widening naval footprint in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka’s critical location at the heart of the littoral and Colombo’s growing value as a maritime partner.

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    Briefs: 644 : New Dimensions to Malaysia-Pakistan Relations

    Iqbal Singh Sevea

    29 March, 2019

    Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, was the Guest-of-Honour at the Pakistan Day celebrations in Islamabad on 23 March 2019. His state visit could set the stage for a new economic and strategic engagement between the two countries.

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    Briefs: 643 : Social Media and Critical Digital Literacy in India’s General Elections

    Anuradha Rao

    29 March, 2019

    With the Indian general elections two weeks away, critical digital literacy, particularly at the digital fringes, is a key tool to fight fake news and uphold election integrity in a social media-saturated environment.

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    Briefs: 642 : Why India lost US GSP benefits

    Amitendu Palit

    19 March, 2019

    The US has terminated GSP benefits for India in spite of both countries engaging extensively on trade in recent months. The new US criteria for eligibility would have made India’s continuation as a beneficiary highly unlikely. The US’ frustration over some of India’s restrictive policies, like in e-commerce, also ensured this outcome. A bilateral trade package, while not impossible, will need major concessions by India and is not feasible before elections.

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    Briefs: 641 : Boost for India’s Realty Sector before the Elections

    Vinod Rai

    8 March, 2019

    The real estate sector is the largest employer of labour in India and provides downstream support to industries such as steel, cement, iron, bricks, and wood. It also helps boost consumption around construction sites. As a consequence of a slowdown of construction activity in the housing and commercial sectors, there was financial stress among developers with a fairly large number of dwelling units lying unsold. The budget for 2019-20 has introduced much-needed relief for buyers and developers. In addition, the government has announced a very substantial reduction in the rates of the Goods and Services Tax that this sector will attract. These moves are bound to provide acceleration in the construction activity across the country.

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    Briefs: 640 : Election Alliances in Tamil Nadu – Focus on Caste Equations

    S Narayan

    20 February, 2019

    The Bharatiya Janata Party unveiled its election strategy in Tamil Nadu by allying with regional parties with a strong caste-based support in an effort to meet the challenge of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its allies, who are hoping to cash in on anti-incumbency sentiments.

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    Briefs: 639 : Tracking Narendra Modis Popularity

    Ronojoy Sen

    14 February, 2019

    As in the 2014 Indian general election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s trump card in the 2019 election. This essay examines the changing trends in Modi’s popularity during his five-year tenure, by looking at opinion polls as well as his electoral impact during the Assembly elections held in end-2018. While Modi continues to be popular, his electoral impact seems to have diminished. At the same time, the popularity of the principal opposition leader, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, has increased over the last five years.

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    Briefs: 638 : India Budget 2019: Income Scheme for Farmers could Politically Backfire

    Amitendu Palit

    7 February, 2019

    On 1 February 2019, India’s interim Budget announced a direct income scheme for small farmers to address agrarian distress. Too little to make a difference to the economic conditions of the farmers and not covering the landless peasants, the scheme might be politically counterproductive for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

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    Briefs: 637: Modi’s Government Presents an Election-oriented Budget

    Vinod Rai

    4 February, 2019

    The Narendra Modi government’s final budget of this term has been presented. It has broken past traditions of presenting only a ‘vote on account’ ahead of the general elections and has distinct overtones of reaching out to the voter community. There are sops to the farmers, rural workers, and salaried low-middle income groups. The fiscal deficit slippage, despite sops, has been indicated to be minor, whereas disinvestment target seems ambitious. It remains to be seen how the March end figures will pan out as it will be for the incoming government.

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    Briefs: 636 : Ferment at the Reserve Bank of India: Resetting the Relationship with the Government

    Duvvuri Subbarao

    22 January, 2019

    A public spat between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Government of India that festered for over four months towards end 2018 culminated in the resignation of Governor Urjit Patel and the swift appointment of veteran civil servant Shaktikanta Das as his successor. Reportedly, the root cause of the differences was the RBI’s reluctance to accommodate the government’s plea for a softer regulatory and monetary policy stance that would have aided economic activity. Even as the dispute has gone to the background, there are continuing concerns about the extent to which the RBI’s prized autonomy has been eroded. Among the many challenges for Governor Das will be to remove misperceptions in this regard.

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    Briefs: 635 : The Economic and Security Dimensions of the Bogibeel Bridge in Assam

    Amit Ranjan

    9 January, 2019

    The opening of Bogibeel Bridge will improve connectivity and enhance the economic potential of the north eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in India. At the same time, the bridge will enhance India’s military infrastructure at its border with China. This paper examines the economic potential and security dimension of the bridge.

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    Briefs: 634 : The Debate on the Economic Capital Framework of the Reserve Bank of India

    Vinod Rai

    2 January, 2019

    There has been significant debate surrounding the decision of the Reserve Bank of India Board to constitute a panel to determine the reserves that the bank maintains and to decide on a suitable profit distribution policy. The panel has been formed. It is very well constituted with a balanced representation. It is hoped that the panel will take a long-term view and decide the parameters which will serve as guidance for the future. This paper analyses the issues that it will have to address.

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