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CWA # 69, 16 December 2018

South Asia Monthly Brief (Nov 2018)
India

  Harini Madhusudan
Research Associate, ISSSP, NIAS

RBI vs Central Government

The main point of friction between the RBI, led by Governor Urjit Patel, and the government is clearly the issue of how many reserves should the central bank keep locked in its safe. The people sent to the RBI board by the government want the centre to have access to surplus reserves the RBI has built up -- money that could be used for populist programmes including boosts to rural wages, fuel subsidies and buying crops at a guaranteed minimum price. ‘Ideal sum of reserves’ RBI board member S Gurumurthy, has said the centre does not want to take the RBI's reserves. How many reserves should maintain, however, needs to be discussed, he has said, adding no central bank in the world maintains such high levels of surplus at Rs. 9.6 lakh crore. But some allege that this could be a BJP move to raise funds for the upcoming elections.

 

Ayodhya: Fear and Anxiety prevails

A sense of uneasiness has settled amongst the Muslim community in Ayodhya, two weeks before the demolition anniversary of Babri mosque, as a large number of Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) members have reached the town to attend a Dharm Sabha, scheduled on 25 November. Observing the influx of right-wing workers in Ayodhya, local residents have been struck by fear of a repetition of 1992 when the Babri mosque was demolished by Karsevaks and Shiv Sena workers. Several families have already moved out of the town towards safer spaces, while others have sent their children and women away out of fear of violence.

India’s obsession with Renaming Cities

The Centre has given consent to the renaming of at least 25 towns and villages across India in the past one year and among the pending proposals is one for the state of West Bengal, according to officials. Allahabad and Faizabad are the latest additions to the growing list of places that have been renamed. Several proposals, including the renaming of West Bengal as 'Bangla', are pending with the central government. The process is a long-drawn one with the involvement of multiple central ministries and departments. The proposals to change the names of Allahabad to Prayagraj and Faizabad to Ayodhya are yet to be received by the ministry from the Uttar Pradesh government, the official said. It represents the divisive politics and the BJPs need to appease the majority Hindu population in the country. What they do not seem to realise is that, with the failures in other promises, this renaming of cities coupled with elaborate statues are indeed counterproductive to their ambitions. And has the potential to cause issues before the 2019 elections.

 

India, Russia conducts joint military exercise

India and Russia conducted joint military exercise, Indra 2018 in Uttar Pradesh's Jhansi. In this joint exercise, the fifth Army of the Russian Federation and the Indian Army's Mechanized Infantry Battalion took part. As many as 500 soldiers from both sides took part in the exercise, which was conducted at the Babina field firing range here. The exercise was held to provide training to soldiers as well as to understand the arms and ammunition of the two countries. This comes amid Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lamba's 3-day visit to Russia.

 

The highway in Punjab, visa-free Kharathpur corridor

The corridor will link Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district to facilitate visa-free movement of pilgrims from both the countries. The 4 km corridor is expected to be completed by next year. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had first proposed the opening of the corridor when he visited Lahore as part of the bus yatra which was launched by him during a peace initiative. In 1999 the Gurudwara was opened for the public after restoration work was carried out by the government of Pakistan.

 

The Maldives rejects reports of Indian military base

The Maldives foreign ministry has categorically denied media reports suggesting that India had offered a billion dollars in assistance for a military base in the archipelago nation. This comes just days after the new Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid, along with two other cabinet ministers, visited India on his first official trip. In a formal statement, the Maldivian MFA said, “The Government of Maldives categorically refutes media reports alleging that it is planning to allow the establishment of an Indian military base in the Maldives, in exchange for financial assistance or other material benefits. The allegations are baseless and aimed at discrediting the efforts of the government as it starts to rebuild good relations with its neighbours and the rest of the international community.” “The government assures the Maldivian people that it will always act in the national interest of the Maldives and will not undertake any international engagement that will compromise the sovereignty and independence of the country.” The newly elected government seems to be reassuring to their population before the new leaders’ official visit to India on December 17, amid rumors that they have agreed for India to post its military in the Maldives in exchange for financial benefits.

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