Nitish and Modi’s love-hate relationship: Meet the frenemies in Indian politics

When Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi expressed his angst at Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar simply walking out of the mahagath bandhan or grand coalition, which he had so assiduously stitched together in the state ahead of the assembly elections in 2015, his pain was understandable – for the grand old party has of late being making overtures to all ‘secular’ parties to put up a united front against the BJP.

There can be no better example of this than the love-hate-love relationship shared by Nitish with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There relationship is best describes as that of a ‘frenemy’ or a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.

Once holding Modi in high esteem, Nitish changed his views in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots, even going so far as to end his 17-year alliance with the NDA after it chose Modi to lead its charge in the 2014 general elections and then becoming a bitter critic in the prime READ MORE

Modi’s strongman economics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has strong views on economics. Speaking to a big crowd of tycoons, investors and journalists in New Delhi, Mr. Modi once admitted that he is “not a big economist.” Yet he promptly set out an economic vision for India to be a global manufacturing power. Investors should rush to “make in India,” he said. He claimed that his strong leadership would usher in economic revival and 100 million new manufacturing jobs by 2022.
During the prime ministerial campaign in the 2014 national elections, Mr. Modi mocked the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, for supposedly presiding over economic failure. He jeered that Mr. Singh — who has a doctorate in economics from Oxford University and was the architect of the liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s — could not stop onion prices rising and that economic growth was jobless, both popular concerns.
Later, as prime minister, Mr. Modi told me that India’s economic performance had been embarrassing under Mr. Singh. (In fact, Mr. Singh’s record was pretty good: In his full decade as prime minister, economic growth was on average 7.8 percent a year.) The world, Mr. Modi told me, saw that “the ‘I’ in the BRICS had become a burden,” meaning India had fallen behind Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa. He bragged he was restoring India’s image.
Parts of India’s $2.3 trillion-strong economy are in better shape today than they were three years ago. Onion prices are down. Deficits are lower. Businesses face somewhat less red tape. Foreign investment has come — over $160 billion in the first three years, compared with just $38 billion in the first three years of Mr. Singh — even if Indian firms are reluctant to spend.
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Local business leaders quietly grumble there is no dynamism on the ground, little consumer demand. Much infrastructure, such as wobbly roads and slow freight trains, needs improving. Indebted banks — state-run and READ MORE

India-Israel relationship is plateauing. Can PM Modi’ visit change this?

Starting tomorrow, 4th of July, Prime Minister Modi will commence the first visit by any Indian Prime Minister to Israel. While the commentariat waxes eloquent on the relationship, it is important for us to have a reality check and understand the micro-dynamics of this marriage.
There are three main components of India’s cooperation with Israel that are deemed to hold the potential to “revolutionise” the relationship – water, agriculture and defence.

Given India’s increasing water problems, and dire predictions of further drop in precipitation over the next few decades, water cooperation between India and Israel is obviously critical. Israel has now transitioned from a water-deficit state to one with a significant water-surplus. It has managed this through pioneering water desalination techniques. All good then – why can’t India benefit from this? Several reasons. First is that the desalination plants themselves have a massive ground footprint and draw huge amounts of energy. Given how many problems even routine industrial land acquisitions face in India, there are limits to how much land can in fact be requisitioned for the building of coastal desalination plants. Moreover, the question remains how much energy can India’s already overdrawn energy sector spare for a desalination plant infrastructure to supplement the water requirements of 1.3 billion Indians. As it is, READ MORE