India at 75: Indian I was born; Indian I shall die

India of 2022 is spectacularly different from the India of 1947. There is one vital element that has remained active, unchanged—democracy. I am 18 years older than Independent India. I remember vividly keeping awake till midnight of 14/15 August 1947


Democracy under Scrutiny: Unveiling the Dynamics of Contemporary India under Modi

The invitation extended to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose country is threatened with a nuclear conflict, by Japan to attend the G-7 Summit that was held in Hiroshima was perhaps with the objective of reminding the world of the greatest tragedies suffered by humanity.

However, the motive behind the invitation of Indian Premier Narendra Modi is not as clear because India, though recording a very high economic growth rate and becoming the most populous country in the world last month, is far away from reaching the economic standards of the world’s seven richest countries.

The growing relations between India and Japan have been going on for over one and a half decades but not commented on very much in the world media but for geopolitical reasons the two countries are drawing together.

The Economist (UK) in its issue of March 25-31 (2023) in an article headlined ‘Under a bodhi tree’ states: “This closening relationship is based more on shared fears than common values. Both countries have long-standing territorial disputes with an increasingly aggressive China — India along its northern land border, and Japan over the uninhabited islands of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Both are wary of growing Chinese influence in their wider region, and what it means for the maritime lines of communication each relies on. Each sees the other as central to functioning the security challenge that China poses.”

Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister who was assassinated last year was, the first to propose that the Indian and Pacific Oceans be considered as ‘one strategic space’ and for Japan and India to recognise their shared interests. Abe made this proposal in an address to India’s parliament in 2007, the Economist notes.

Fumio Kishida, Abe’s successor, endorses Abe’s views. In March this year, during a two-day visit to Delhi, he said: India is the place where the Free and Open Indo-Pacific came into being.

Asia’s biggest democracy and its richest one were on opposite sides in the cold war. But over the past decade and a half, they have dramatically improved their diplomatic, economic and security ties. Their aim is to forge a democratic counterweight to China. And their right progress, as Kishida and Narendra Modi also stressed in Delhi, will be conspicuous in international diplomacy this year with Japan chairing the G7 and India the G20, The Economist said.

A striking aspect of Indo-Japanese cooperation is the conduct of the first fighter jet exercises in January in the airspace of Japan’s self-defence forces Hyakuri and Iruna air bases in the Ibaraki prefecture, as reported in the Japan Times.

Drills continue to deepen defence and security ties between Japan and India amid China’s growing capabilities in the Indo-Pacific regions, according to some Chinese media reports.

This growing Indo-Japanese shared ‘strategic space’ may make navigation in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean safer for Japan and make India happy for reasons of its own but what does it imply to smaller countries in and around the Indian sub-continent like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan?

Japan, Sri Lanka’s all-weather friend, is now involved in the efforts at Indo-Pacific cooperation but also is a member of the Quad–Quadrilateral Security Dialogue–that includes itself with India, the United States and Australia as a countervailing force to the growing superpower China.

Will India be the proxy power of these strategic unions in the South Asian region? Many of the countries of South Asia have had contentious relations with their giant neighbour and this resulted in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation becoming dysfunctional.

Do Western nations look at India’s market potential of 1.1 billion people, the remarkable economic growth, being the biggest English-speaking nation and ‘the biggest democracy in the world’ as a nation that can be trusted as a proxy power to safeguard the interests of its smaller neighbours?

Has not India attempted to rescue Sri Lanka with massive loans amounting to $ 4 billion and extended support in the IMF to assist Sri Lanka in the current financial crisis?

If India did not make such a move, would China have gone easy on reimbursement terms of its billion-dollar loans to win back Lanka’s confidence?

All these queries are not as relevant to the basic question: Is India under Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a democracy, never mind being ‘the biggest democracy in the world’?

If so, why are most Indian opposition parties attempting to unite and defeat Modi and the BJP at the next general election with the main objective of saving Indian democracy? They united in the state of Karnataka this month and won convincingly, despite Modi abusing state power as ruling parties usually do.

If Modi is not considered a democrat by a vast section of Indian people, can smaller countries in the region accept fair and democratic treatment from his regime? The breakup of the state of Jammu and Kashmir ignoring the special status accorded to it in the Indian constitution is the most devastating example of autocratic Hindutva chauvinism.

The speech made on Thursday by Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi on his return to the country after strutting through countries — Japan, Papua New Guinea and Australia, can be viewed as a classic example of his demagoguery. He is quoted in the Indian media as saying: ‘The world listens to me, the world agrees with me, when I say that attacks on pilgrim sites are not acceptable’. He was reiterating what he had said in Australia about Hindu religious sites being attacked there.

It is obvious to a normal human being that the world will agree with anyone, particularly the leader of any country, declaring that ‘religious sites being attacked is not acceptable’. Is his inclusion of the words: ‘The world agrees with me’ a sign of megalomania, in assuming that this is an original thought of his that he is proclaiming to the world?

They relaxed the happy ways of ignoring his dark days as chief Minister of Gujrat, his insouciance over a-1000 people (mostly Muslims) being killed in riots although his role in it as the chief minister was raised and questioned in India and the world over. The United States soon after did not issue him a visa to enter the country although today Modi is recognised not only by America but the Western world as an emergent world leader and the leader of ‘the biggest democracy in the world’.

Will Indian Government’s Withdrawal of 2000 Note Root Out Corruption?


After demonetisation in 2016, cash circulation in India by value came down significantly . However, subsequently , for whatever reasons , the cash circulation was gradually increased by the Government of India by printing more currency notes of various denominations . As a result, present currency circulation in the country by value is as high as Rs.32 lakh crore.

It is well known that all corrupt dealings take place by cash transactions and black money in cash which is generated by tax evasion. Such cash in the form of black money is used for several corrupt and nefarious practices, ,resulting in development and growth of parallel economy.

Government of India under Prime Minister Modi has been taking special efforts to promote digitalisation and direct transfer of funds through electronic media. It is gratifying that in the last four years or so, the digitalisation of economy have forged ahead at an impressive rate and by and large , people have responded to such digitalisation exercise favourably. These days, it is seen that even small traders and even street vendors accept payment electronically by what is popularly known as google pay or payment by card.

In such conditions, Government of India has done well to take steps to withdraw Rs.2000 currency notes, amounting to more than Rs.3 lakh crore from circulation with the deadline being 30th September,2023. This positive move will certainly bring out the hoarded money by politicians and businessmen or others and dilute the black money circulation in the country to a considerable extent.

What is very important now is that having taken steps to withdraw Rs.2000 notes amounting to the value of more than Rs.3 lakh crore, Government of India should not undo the benefit by replacing the withdrawn Rs.2000 currency by printing lower denomination notes. This will undo the benefit of withdrawing the Rs.2000 currency notes.

India has to move steadily towards cash less economy which is a gradual process and it is showing healthy signs of happening now. The emergence of cashless economy is the ultimate strategy to root out political and administrative corruption in India, which lead to business corruption.

The lesser cash in currency circulation will inevitably force or persuade people to resort to money transaction for business , trade or personal purposes by digital mode.

Of course, with the withdrawal of Rs.2000 currency notes, some critics may find fault with the move ,by stating that there would be shortage of notes of lesser denomination to be exchanged for Rs.2000 currency notes, when submitted by the people to the bank. This complaint would be largely made by the black money holders with concealed cash bundles , as they would not like to use the option of depositing the Rs.2000 currency notes in their bank account.

It is necessary that Government of India should be careful in explaining the merits of the present move to withdraw Rs.2000 currency notes , so that the gullible people would not be misled by false and motivated criticisms. . It is also necessary that enlightened and knowledgeable economists should voice their views in various forums, so that a heathy and forward looking national discussions on the subject can take place, that will contribute to prepare mindset of the people in favour of cashless economy.

The Anticipations of Indians as Prime Minister Modi Embarks on His Tenth Year


The critics of India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, may say various things about his administration, but the ground reality is that both Indians living across the country and observers abroad believe that India has experienced positive changes in multiple aspects during his nine-year tenure. Numerous international expert groups and even the United Nations have praised India for its robust economic growth, particularly as many other countries face recessionary trends.

Recent opinion surveys have consistently shown that Mr. Modi is the most popular and charismatic leader in India, surpassing any opposition political figures. Some global agencies have also recognized him as an important and popular world leader.

However, the recent election results in Karnataka, where Mr. Modi’s party failed to retain power and lost to the opposition, have come as a surprise. There is now intense debate across India regarding the reasons behind this outcome. While critics argue that this election signifies the beginning of the end for Mr. Modi’s leadership, discerning observers dismiss this view. One credible perspective suggests that the BJP party, which held power in Karnataka, failed to provide the expected quality of governance, potentially leading to instances of corruption within the government machinery. This disappointment could be heightened by the fact that the ultimate leader of the BJP is Mr. Modi himself.

When Mr. Modi was elected as Prime Minister nine years ago, people recognized him as a strong and dedicated political leader with unwavering convictions and a high standard of personal integrity. Naturally, they expected him to launch and implement various development projects in the industrial, commercial, and social sectors, which he has done to the satisfaction of the people. Simultaneously, the public anticipated a comprehensive eradication of corruption at all levels throughout the country.

However, the reality is that the expectation of completely rooting out corruption has not been adequately met during Mr. Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, particularly in some state governments. Nevertheless, people believe that as a national leader with a strong mandate, it remains Mr. Modi’s responsibility to eliminate corruption even at the state level.

With only around 12 months remaining before the next parliamentary election, Mr. Modi has limited time to fulfill the people’s expectations regarding the eradication of corruption. While development projects are progressing well, and a climate of growth has been established and is likely to be sustained, Mr. Modi’s primary focus for the next twelve months should be his determined crusade against corruption. Despite anticipated resistance and attribution of ulterior motives, he must persevere in identifying and punishing corrupt forces through all possible means. This will instill confidence in the people that corruption will be eradicated soon.

The success of Mr. Modi’s anti-corruption drive will serve as a crucial test during the upcoming parliamentary election.

Many Indians believe that the root cause of political corruption and subsequent administrative corruption in the country lies in the fact that almost all political parties, except the BJP and Communist/Marxist parties, are controlled by families with vested interests. People view such family control of political parties with disdain. Perhaps, the precondition for eliminating corruption is to eradicate family control and vested interests within political parties.

As part of Mr. Modi’s anti-corruption campaign, he should also launch a strong movement to denounce dynasty politics in India. Speaking forcefully about this issue would resonate well with the people and capture their imagination.

India’s Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Suffers Blow in Karnataka State Elections


India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost a key election in the state of Karnataka on May 10. The opposition Indian National Congress (INC) won a decisive victory in the southern state, securing 135 seats in the 234-member legislative assembly. The BJP won 65 seats, while the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] won 19 seats.

The BJP had been in power in Karnataka, having formed the government in July 2019 under controversial circumstances. The BJP toppled a coalition of the INC and JD(S) by having legislators of the two parties defect.

The BJP conducted a high-octane campaign in the state in 2023, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his second-in-command Home Minister Amit Shah. The party resorted to its usual strategies of religious polarization. However, in the run-up to the campaign, analysts pointed out that there was deep dissatisfaction with the BJP government in Karnataka.

Newsclick analyst Subodh Varma noted that a pre-poll survey had found that “68 percent of those surveyed identified corruption, 47 percent said price rise and 34 percent said unemployment were important factors in deciding which way to vote… The survey found that among poorer sections, price rise becomes an even bigger issue with about 51 percent of respondents reporting it as a major factor.” He added that these issues, along with unemployment and the crisis faced by farmers, were “[overriding the] caste and regional divisions” in the state. 

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

India’s Karnataka Verdict: Opposition Parties Must Capitalize on Momentum

The Karnataka mandate changes both the arithmetic and the chemistry for anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the year leading up to the 2024 national elections. That’s when Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be seeking a third term and the Karnataka result shows that he can indeed be defeated.
The BJP/Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leadership in all its wisdom chose to make Modi the centrepiece of a state campaign. This intense campaign has failed to prevent a decisive defeat for the BJP in its only holding in South India.

It’s a serious setback for the BJP as the gains for the Congress are phenomenal, and will work at multiple levels. First, the party has come back to power in a resource-rich state that should give both practical support and momentum to its 2024 campaign. Second, the Gandhi family performed as a good support structure to state leaders without seeking to over-stage them; that’s an important balance the BJP did not maintain.

Priyanka Gandhi was both combative and charismatic in her campaign outings. Many of the places where the party did well were on the route of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (unlike places where Modi campaigned). The win in Karnataka does enhance Rahul Gandhi’s profile, yet it can be argued that the party could benefit even more were it to clarify that he does not seek public office (after all, he is technically disqualified as an MP). It would then make a virtue out of a necessity.

Most significantly, it was during the Karnataka campaign that Rahul Gandhi and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge pitched for the social justice plank that is an article of faith with their alliance partners in Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Both demanded that the 50 percent cap on reservation be removed and a caste census be conducted even as they came with the slogan ‘jitni abaadi/utna haq’ (rights should reflect the population numbers).

Siddaramaiah, arguably the biggest mass leader in Karnataka currently and a frontrunner for the post of Chief Minister, draws his strength from the social justice plank and had pitched for upping reservation to 75 percent. It would be interesting if after the Karnataka results, the Congress concludes that a pro-poor image and the social justice pitch is the most effective counter to Hindutva in future poll battles.
The party would be hoping there will be a spill-over in other state elections due in the second half of the year. A direct contest with the BJP takes place in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan. But what’s also intriguing is the impact on Telangana that is ruled by a regional party, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and will have assembly elections in late 2023.

The Congress has done well in the Hyderabad Karnataka region that borders Telangana. Reports from Telangana indicate a gradual revival of the Congress; not enough to unseat the BRS, but there are apparently chances of emerging as a strong Opposition in the state. There has been media hype about the BJP fancying its prospects in Telangana, but the impact of the Karnataka verdict could change equations in the neighbouring state.

Such calculations also highlight the contradictions in creating a combined Opposition for 2024. It is not a clean arrangement in states where the Congress is competing with regional forces, yet it works nicely in states such as Bihar and Tamil Nadu where the national party is a junior partner in the ruling alliances. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been the most pro-active in seeking to forge a broad Opposition consensus before 2024.

The Congress stock will also rise in neighbouring Maharashtra — another wealthy state — where the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) is believed to be losing ground. It is in states where the Congress could be seen as potentially improving its fortunes that there will be problems in the nitty-gritty of seat allocation and power sharing with allies.

Yet, there is also no denying that even ruling parties that are deeply hostile to the Congress, such as the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi and Punjab, have also changed position in recent times and called for Opposition unity.

Source: Deccan Herald

India: Namo’s Politi Crushes in Karnataka


In a shocking turn of events, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a crushing defeat in Karnataka, the only state in South India where the party has a significant presence. Despite running a polarised campaign based on its traditional Hindutva plank, featuring a Bollywood film and a Hindu god, and promising a “double engine” government with 75 new faces, the party was unable to secure victory.

According to leaders of the state unit, the party’s campaign failed to connect with voters due to a lack of strong local faces or local issues as part of the narrative. Instead, the campaign focused on rallies by national leaders, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ( Namo) holding over 20 rallies and Home Minister Amit Shah holding as many as 30 rallies.

During his rallies, PM Modi had urged voters to watch the Bollywood film, The Kerala Story, and highlighted the Congress’s plan to ban Bajrang Dal, which he portrayed as an insult to Bajrang Bali, the Hindu god Hanuman. However, these efforts were not enough to convince voters amid mounting anti-incumbency against the party’s state leadership.

The BJP’s defeat in Karnataka is a significant setback for the party, which had hoped to build on its previous success in the state. It also highlights the party’s need to focus on local issues and candidates, rather than relying solely on national leaders to drive its campaign. With important state elections coming up, including in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, the BJP will need to re-evaluate its campaign strategy if it hopes to retain power in these crucial states.

Further analysis of the BJP’s campaign strategy reveals that messaging focused on national issues failed to resonate with voters in Karnataka. According to a parliamentarian from the party who spoke to local media, the Congress party had successfully employed the Amul vs Nandini plank, but the BJP failed to follow suit.

The BJP’s attempt to raise issues like the proposed ban on Bajrang Dal also failed to help the party, with the exception of a few seats in the Udupi-Mangalore region.

The party’s efforts to replicate its success in states like Gujarat by fielding 75 new faces and changing the chief minister mid-term also fell short. Over 60 of the new faces the party fielded lost their elections, highlighting the BJP’s failure to select strong candidates.

Furthermore, the party’s failure to highlight the sitting Chief Minister during its campaign showed a lack of confidence in its own leadership.

The BJP’s crushing defeat in Karnataka serves as a wake-up call for the party, which will need to re-evaluate its campaign strategy if it hopes to succeed in upcoming state elections. The party will need to focus on local issues and candidates, and avoid relying solely on national leaders to drive its campaign.

Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka: Forging Partnerships for a Resilient Future


by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

The Sixth edition of the Indian Ocean Conference commenced today in Dhaka with over 250 participants representing more than 40 countries, predominantly from the Asia-Pacific region. Since its inception in 2016, this regional conference has been held in various countries from Sri Lanka to Vietnam.

Organizing Secretary and Director of India Foundation, Capt. Alok Bansal, speaking to the Sri Lanka Guardian from Dhaka, stated that the conference aims to promote mutual growth, prosperity, and international community strengthening, and to bring together stakeholder nations to discuss and deliberate on the theme of “Peace, Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future.”

As a vital member of the Indian Ocean, Dhaka’s hosting of the conference this year is a landmark event for future maritime engagement and expanding partnerships, and to strengthen peaceful engagement in the region. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has infinite potential, but its vast expanse can also lead to damages of unfathomable scale. Today, the region faces not only traditional security challenges but also non-traditional challenges of bio-hazards, cyber warfare, and maritime piracy, the after-effects of which are unimaginable.

Therefore, “maintaining peace in the region is of paramount importance to ensure the rise of a resilient future. The rise of a peaceful IOR based on the principles of a rules-based order will chart a new agenda for prosperity and greater partnership in the region and beyond,” added Capt. Bansal, a former Indian Navy veteran.

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has immense potential to become the most economically prosperous region of the century, given its scale, consumer market, and technical capabilities for sustainable development. India and Bangladesh, as two stakeholder nations in the region, prioritize responsible growth and development in harmony with nature. In light of the pandemic, collaborative partnerships in the IOR are vital for carbon planning, green financing, technological innovation, and public healthcare and education, particularly for managing the uninterrupted supply chain.

The IOR’s potential for economic prosperity and sustainable development, along with India and Bangladesh’s advocacy for responsible growth, make the region an ideal candidate for global leadership in the 21st century. Collaborative partnerships will be essential to address the pandemic-induced supply chain disruption and navigate emerging challenges in carbon planning, green financing, technological innovation, and public healthcare and education. By building reliable partnerships, the IOR can become a resilient and prosperous region that leads the world towards sustainable development.

“The IOR is no longer just an idea based on the arithmetic of contemporary power equations, but a natural construct based on principles of inclusivity, camaraderie, and multi-stakeholderism. As two responsible powers, India and Bangladesh, too, are committed to ensuring the rise of a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based IOR,” concluded Capt. Bansal. The conference will continue tomorrow.

Indo-Pak Enmity: A Petty Swipe at a Smaller Neighbour


India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar is a small man. Just how small one realised when he stood next to his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at the SCO summit in Goa recently.

Dr. Jaishankar is also a petty man. In a statement crafted for his domestic audience, he said that “as a foreign minister of an SCO member state, Mr. Bhutto Zardari was treated accordingly,’’ then added: ‘’As a promoter, justifier and spokesperson of a terrorism industry which is the mainstay of Pakistan, his positions were called out, including at the SCO meetings itself.”

It may have made Dr. Jaishankar ‘a hero in his own mind’, but as the host at a multilateral moot, it was an unbecoming swipe at a smaller neighbor by a giant nation, within whom hides an insecure pygmy. Inevitably, his remarks reduced the tenor of the high-level SCO gathering to the level of another SAARC boxing bout.

The six member countries in the SCO (which include China and Russia) like the SAARC Six must have been disappointed to find themselves participating in multilateral meetings that degenerate every time into a custody battle over Jammu & Kashmir.

FM Bilawal’s visit was a first in many ways: his first to India; the first by a Pakistani Foreign Minister in 12 years; and the first Bhutto after his grandfather’s trip to Shimla in 1972. It could have been an opportunity for side-door diplomacy, for noiseless bridge-building between two countries.

He could have spoken of his mother’s gracious welcome as hostess to PM Rajiv Gandhi and Smt. Sonia Gandhi in July 1989 in Islamabad. He chose to make only one allusion to his mother, when he referred to her as herself being a victim of terrorism. Tactfully, he refrained from mentioning that both Rajiv Gandhi and his mother Smt. Indira Gandhi had been casualties of Indian home-grown terrorism.       

This year, at Goa, power watchers noticed that the Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov met FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari with exaggerated cordiality, while the Chinese maintained a diplomatic reticence. Since the 1960s, after FM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s tilt towards China, everyone knows whose side they remain on.

Anyone with eyes can see through Asif Zardari’s strategy to make Bilawal serve his apprenticeship through the Foreign Office before aspiring to a higher position. That was the route used by his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and for a briefer period by Benazir Bhutto. Both in time graduated to the prime minister-ship.

When will Bilawal reach the top of that ‘greasy pole’? In the present mayhem in Islamabad, that is anyone’s guess, except Asif Zardari’s. He is adept at snatching victory from the jaws of another’s defeat.

In a few days, the sacred deadline of May 15 for the holding of provincial elections will have passed. No one knows when elections will be held, and even if they are, how workable or stable their outcome will be.

Parliament continues to be locked in a battle with the Supreme Court over supremacy. The political parties cannot stop clawing at each other. And now, the Pakistan Army has entered the fray with an unprecedented challenge to the leader of a political party.

The ISPR explicitly warned the PTI leader Imran Khan in words that even Dr. Jaishankar might have thought over twice before uttering. It advised ‘the political leader concerned to make a recourse to legal avenues and stop making false allegations.’  Failing that, ’the institution reserves the right to take legal course of action against patently false and mala fide statements and propaganda.’   

Imran Khan retorted that his accusations targeted individuals, not the institution per se. This clarification was not nearly enough. Orders were issued, presumably at the highest level within the powers that be and are, to arrest Imran Khan. On 9th May, the Pakistani public witnessed for the umpteenth time the unedifying spectacle of yet another political leader being manhandled into a Black Maria for incarceration.  

The backlash this time has been fierce. Images are being circulated on the social media of attacks on the GHQ and the house of Lahore Corps Commander in flames. Both appeared unguarded. Their gates opened at the sight of a mob.

A country of 230 million people expects all organs of state responsible for its safe governance to behave with circumspection and mature self-control. Have they forgotten that such riots are the seeds of a revolution?      

Whom can the public turn to for relief from the current idiocy? Who can persuade all those wielding power – irate parliamentarians, vengeful politicians, a divided judiciary, and a prickly establishment – that they cannot condemn the rest of us unwilling lemmings to a senseless suicide?

They should heed Macduff’s warning: ‘Bleed, bleed, poor country!/Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure,/For goodness dare not check thee.’


India’s Coal Policy Ignores Zero Emission Target: But Little Choice


During the Glasgow Climate Meet, the Indian Prime Minister announced with much fanfare that India would achieve zero net emission target by the year 2070.

The pre-condition to reach zero emission level is that the use of fossil fuel namely crude oil and coal and to some extent natural gas too (as it is known natural gas results in methane emission during handling and transportation) should be totally eliminated.

At present, India consumes more than 250 million tonne per annum of crude oil and around 80% of its requirement is met by import. In the case of natural gas, India imports around 35 billion cubic metre per annum, which is nearly half of India’s requirement.

India’s coal production hit a milestone of 892 million tonne during F Y 2023, which is an year on year growth of 14.7%. In addition to the domestic production of coal, India’s import of coal surged by 26.18% year on year to 237.93 million tonne during April,2022 to February,2023, with non coking coal accounting for 65% of the import.

The question is whether India can achieve the net zero emission target by the year 2070, considering the present usage level of fossil fuel and considering that the present pattern of energy mix would largely remain the same and that the usage level has to increase at the level of around 8 to 9% per annum in the coming years, if India were to maintain GDP growth rate of 6 to 7% per annum.

The ground reality is that India in all probability, may have to ignore the net zero emission target by the year 2070 with whatever consequences to global climate scenario.

Ground reality:

India and China account for about 80% of all active coal projects in the world, even as most nations take steps to reduce coal project capacity to meet climate targets. China plans to build some 100 new coal-fired power plants to back up wind and solar capacity, which goes against China’s stated intention to reduce the role of coal.

As of January 2023, only 20 countries have more than one coal project planned, according to E3G, an independent climate think tank.

India, whose proposed coal power capacity is the highest after China, has repeatedly refused to set a timeline to phase out coal, citing low per-capita emission and the need for inexpensive fuel sources.

India’s comparative emission level

India and China are the world’s two biggest CO2 emitters from coal.

However, Australia and South Korea lead the world in emissions from the world’s fossil fuel when adjusted for population size, according to energy and climate research organization Ember.

Data calculated since the Paris Agreement on climate in 2015 show that some of the richest countries in the world have the most work to do in moving away from coal to cleaner energy sources.

Coal power emissions in selected countries – per capita, G20

Name of the countryAnnual average from 2015-2020,
in tonne CO2
S Korea3.81
S. Africa3.19

World average                            1.06

India’s per capita average emission is much lower compared to developed countries ,. However, the fact is that India is one of the largest emitters in quantitative term. This is a weak argument to defend India stating that India’s per capita emission is lower than several other developed countries and perhaps implying that India should be considered less guilty with regard to emission level

India’s coal policy – Confusion galore

A number of pronouncements have been made in recent years by Govt. of India about India’s coal policy and utilisation of coal as fossil fuel. Several committees have been set up and a number of them appear to be providing what appear to be contradictory recommendations. It is not clear as to whether India’s coal policy has been finally arrived at and framed

In a draft proposal, which is India’s first attempt at revising its National Electricity Policy (NEP) enacted in 2005, it was recommended that the retirement of old coal-fired however plants should be delayed, until energy storage for renewable power would become financially viable.

In the first draft of the NEP in 2021, it was said that India might add new coal-fired capacity, though it proposed tighter technology standards to reduce pollution.

The Central Electricity Authority, an advisory body to the power ministry, had said last year that India might have to add as much as 28 GW of new coal-fired power in addition to the plants under construction to address surging power demand.

The report on Optimal Generation Capacity Mix for 2029-30, released by the Ministry in May 2023, also says that between 2023 and 2030, India will build 26.9 GW of coal power plants. The investment for that, at Rs.8.34 crore a MW, therefore, works out to Rs.2.25 lakh crore, or Rs.32,050 crore a year.

The report further says that essentially due to coal based power plants, India’s annual carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector are set to rise from 9.10 million tonne from 2,36,680 GW of coal power capacity today to 1.11 billion tonne in 2030. All this implies that coal power is both costly and harmful to the planet.

So far, old coal-fired power plants with a cumulative capacity of 13 GW have been earmarked for functioning post retirement deadline to meet high power demand

The latest news is that India plans to stop building new coal-fired power plants, apart from those already in the pipeline, by removing a key clause from the final draft of its National Electricity Policy (NEP). Obviously, the new policy, would not impact the 28 GW of coal-based power in various stages of construction.

However, the final draft of NEP, which will guide India’s policy making on energy over the next decade do not seem to have made reference to new coal fired power plants.

Will coal be the dominant fuel for all time to come in India?

Coal is expected to be the dominant fuel for generating electricity in India for decades.

Even as India has committed itself to achieve net zero emission by 2070, it has not made any efforts so far nor look like making any efforts in future to reduce steadily coal production in the country, which is a pre condition to reach zero emission target.

The Ministry of Coal has now announced that capacity for coal production would be increased by 885 million tonne per annum by the following coal projects and these projects are targeted to be completed by 2027 and India is expected to produce 1.3 billion tonne of coal by the year 2030.

Name of the companyNumber of  coal projects
Coal India Ltd          59
Singareni Colleries Company Ltd            5
NLC India Ltd (NLCL)            3
Total          67

Little choice for India: Likely fossil fuel-based energy mix in India Year 2023

CategoryInstalled generation capacity ( MW  )% of share in total
Total Fossil Fuel2,36,46957.4 %
Total Non-Fossil Fuel175,18042.5%
Total Installed Capacity(Fossil Fuel & Non-Fossil Fuel)4,11,649100%

The above figures clearly indicate that coal-based power projects would have the lion’s share of energy mix and the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

To reduce the dependence on import of fossil fuel and reduce the domestic consumption of fossil fuel , the Government of India has taken several steps, particularly keeping in view that the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas will not increase in India significantly and India has to depend heavily on domestic coal production for energy source.

Government strategy broadly consists of promoting electric vehicles , boosting the production of wind and solar power , blending of ethanol with petrol and promoting green hydrogen economy. Solar and wind power production depend on seasonal factors and capacity utilisation would be low. Green hydrogen technology for large scale commercial production at economic level is still in development stage. Whatever work that has been done so far to develop green hydrogen economy is in experimental stage and, at the present juncture, it would be difficult to predict about the ultimate development of green hydrogen economy at required level and economy of scale.

Obviously, the above strategies would not be adequate to reach the net zero emission target of Government of India and at best , these strategies can only contribute to reduce the growth rate in the consumption of fossil fuel in India.

Under the circumstances, achieving the zero net emission target by India can be justifiably termed as Utopian expectation.

Unlocking the Potential of Northeast India


A recently conducted study by Asian Confluence suggested that Northeast India and Bangladesh need to scale up their multi-modal connectivity, which would not only help the region to raise its competitiveness but also narrow the development gaps in the region. The study also suggested the creation of industrial value chains to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders in India and Bangladesh and Japanese companies in the region. That’s why Japan has proposed developing an industrial hub in Bangladesh with supply chains to the landlocked northeastern states of India. Bangladesh and India have already started to work together to bring synergy in trade facilitation and build express corridors for the transhipment and transit of goods from the Northeast Region to the Chattogram Port of Bangladesh. Tripura is set to become the ‘Gateway of North East’ with access to Chittagong port of Bangladesh, just 70 kilometres from Sabroom in the northeastern state.

Along with the gateway, Tripura can become the key to creating an industrial hub in northeast India and its supply chain in Bangladesh. There are so many ongoing connectivity projects between Tripura and Bangladesh. The industrial value chain would be created on the completion of these projects.

 The Agartala-Akhaura International Railway Connectivity Project

The Agartala-Akhaura international railway connectivity project is one of India and Bangladesh’s most prominent connectivity projects. Akhaura used to be the railway link for Agartala before Independence. In 2013, India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to revive the railway link. Over 88 per cent of the work on the Agartala-Akhaura international railway connectivity project is complete, and the remaining work is expected to be finished in the next five to six months. The 15-kilometre-long railway line would link Bangladesh’s Akhaura through an international immigration station at Nischintapur along the India-Bangladesh border. With the completion of the project, the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka would reduce from 31 hours to 10 hours. When finished, it will run for 10.6 kilometres from Gangasagar, Bangladesh, to Nischintapur, India, and for 5.46 kilometres from Nischintapur to India’s Agartala railway station. The opening of the Agartala-Akhaura railway line would expand the range of economic contacts.

Moreover, India intends to build an integrated checkpoint and freight processing facility at Nischintapur, which serves as the Tripura junction for the Agartala-Akhaura train route. By using Dhaka as its hub instead of Guwahati, this train connection would cut the distance between Agartala and Kolkata travel time in half. As it would only cover 550 kilometres instead of 1,600, the 31-hour journey from Agartala to Kolkata will take just 10 hours. Four operational train connections between West Bengal and Western Bangladesh presently exist between India and Bangladesh: Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Radhikapur-Biral, and Singhabad-Rohanpur. The utilization of Nepali transit traffic is also informed by the final two. Those from Mizoram, which is 150 kilometres away, and those from Agartala will benefit from the current line.

Other Projects

In addition to the Agartala-Akhaura railway line, Tripura has a few more international connectivity projects linking it with Bangladesh, such as the Indo-Bangla Maitri Bridge in South Tripura and the inland waterways transport project in the Sepahijala district. A second Integrated Check Post (ICP) with Bangladesh is being set up at Sabroom in Tripura. After all the projects are commissioned, Tripura is expected to gain access to Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Mongla ports, opening up new avenues for trade and commerce.

There are several ongoing infrastructure projects connecting Bangladesh and Tripura. One of the historic initiatives connecting Tripura and Bangladesh was the opening of MaitriSetu across the Feni River. After Ramgarh in Bangladesh and Sabroom in India are bound by the Maitri Bridge, Tripura would become the entry point to Southeast Asia. Just 74 kilometres separate this bridge from Chittagong Port.

The Feni bridge linking Sabroom, Tripura, with Chittagong, Bangladesh, and the Agartala-Akhaura train line are two connectivity projects that, when finished, would transform Tripura from a “landlocked” state into one that is well-connected. Tripura will improve its relationships and connections by building roads linking it to Thailand, Myanmar, and India.

With the completion of its new terminal this year, Tripura’s Maharaja Bir Bikram airport will become the third international airport in the landlocked northeastern area. Once this airport is finished, flights will be between Agartala and Dhaka and other places like Chittagong and Sylhet. Pranay Verma, the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, has lately shown interest in investing in new airports in Bangladesh to improve connectivity between the northeastern regions. Aviation travel will improve connections not just between Bangladesh, the Indian subcontinent, and Tripura but also between India and ASEAN nations.

Moreover, the power department of India is planning to set up Northeast India’s first solar power storage facility in Tripura. In addition to meeting the needs of the state, plans are also being made to export pollution-free, environmentally friendly electricity from this storage as per the needs of Bangladesh. Ratan Lal Nath, Minister for Power, Government of Tripura, said this in a press conference on the evening of April 1, 2023. Initially, the state government selected the Sabrum area of the South District. Because a special economic zone is being built here, it will be possible to export surplus electricity to Bangladesh by meeting the region’s needs.

For Tripura’s benefit

None of the industries would work in Tripura if it didn’t create its supply chain in Bangladesh. And for creating supply chains, all those connectivity projects between Bangladesh and Tripura must get completed soon as Tripura is one of the main gateways to the northeastern region to India through Bangladesh. The dreams of people from Tripura to start business relations with Bangladesh will be bolstered after the completion of these projects. Tripura will reach a significant position in trade and commerce, and job opportunities will be created for unemployed youths and a new route for public and goods transport. 

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