India’s Competitive Ranking Surges on the Back of Modi Momentum – India Real Time – WSJ

India leapt 16 places to 55th position in the latest ranking of economies’ competitiveness released by the World Economic Forum Wednesday.

The Geneva-based think tank says India is a “bright spot” among larger emerging markets, which have shown a broader trend of either a decline or stagnation. It attributes the country’s big rise–which comes after five years of decline–to the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, which ignited optimism about the country’s limping policy changes.

“This dramatic reversal is largely attributable to the momentum initiated by the election of Narendra Modi, whose pro-business, pro-growth, and anti-corruption stance has improved the business community’s sentiment toward the government,” the WEF says in the report, which includes the Global Competitiveness Index 2015–2016 Rankings.

The ranking is based on the assessment of 140 countries on 12 parameters such as infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, institutions, health and education, among others.

The report says the quality of India’s institutions was judged more favorably in the latest ranking while its macro-economic stability has improved, with easing inflation and a gradual drop in the government’s budget deficit since its 2008 peak. Infrastructure has also improved, the report said.

“The fact that the most notable improvements are in the basic drivers of competitiveness bodes well for the future, especially the development of the manufacturing sector,” the report said.

However, India needs to improve its technological readiness: it is one of the least digitally connected countries in the world.Fewer than one in five Indians use the Internet regularly, and fewer than two in five own even a basic cell phone, according to the report.

The ranking of regional rival China has barely budged in the past six years as it has been dealing with rising production costs, an aging population and diminishing returns on the massive capital investments of the past three decades.

However, its 28th position–unchanged  from the previous year–is still much higher than India’s.

China remains by far the most competitive among larger emerging economies. “However, its lack of progress moving up the ranking shows the challenges it faces in transitioning its economy,” the report said.

Switzerland, Singapore and the U.S. were the top three ranked, unchanged from the previous year.

In Asia, Malaysia ranked 18th, up two places, Indonesia ranked 37th, down three notches while Thailand ranked 32nd, down one position.

Among the remaining BRICS group of countries, Brazil was at number 75, plummeting from 57 last year. The Russian Federation was at number 45, up from 53 and South Africa was at 49, better than 56 last year.

Source: India’s Competitive Ranking Surges on the Back of Modi Momentum – India Real Time – WSJ


U.K.’s Marks & Spencer Is Aiming to Double India Store Count – India Real Time – WSJ

Marks & Spencer Group PLC said it is on track to double its store count in India in the next 15 months, an ambition that poses both risks and opportunities for the British retailer.

M&S has recently struggled in troubled markets such as Russia, Ukraine and Turkey and was forced to reconfigure its footprint in China, but India has emerged as a relative bright spot. Revenue climbed 23% last fiscal year.

“I think there is an instinctive understanding of M&S in India,” said the company’s head of international business, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne.

M&S is in 21 cities in India so far, with a focus on large cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Now, M&S is looking to deepen its exposure to India. It plans to open stores in less-developed cities, such as Vijayawada, Jalandhar and Vizag, during the current fiscal year ending in March, while also beefing up its footprint in larger cities.

The company—which operates in India through a joint venture with Reliance Industries Ltd., one of India’s largest companies—in early October will open its 50th store in India, in Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport.

Source: U.K.’s Marks & Spencer Is Aiming to Double India Store Count – India Real Time – WSJ


China’s Xi says to commit 8,000 troops for U.N. peacekeeping force | Reuters

China will contribute 8,000 troops for a United Nations peacekeeping standby force, China’s President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, a move that could make it one of the largest players in U.N. peacekeeping efforts.

Xi’s pledge comes as China is trying to show it is a responsible international player amid concern over its growing military might and territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region. During a state visit to Washington on Friday, Xi agreed with U.S. President Barack Obama that both countries would increase their “robust” peacekeeping commitments. They are among leaders from more than 50 countries who pledged some 40,000 troops and police, as well as equipment or training for U.N. peacekeeping missions during a U.N. summit chaired on Monday by Obama.

“China will join the new U.N. peacekeeping capability readiness system, and has thus decided to lead in setting up a permanent peacekeeping police squad and build a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops,” Xi said. He also said China would provide $100 million in military assistance to the African Union in the next five years to support the establishment of an African standby force and to boost its capacity for crisis response.

At the later summit, Xi said part of a new 10-year, $1 billion China-U.N. peace and development fund set up by China would be used for peacekeeping operations. China would give “favorable consideration” to future U.N. requests for more Chinese engineering, transport and medical staff, but operations’ “exit strategies need to be timely formulated and executed”, Xi said.

Obama, who held tense summit talks with Xi last week in Washington, shook his hand vigorously as he left the podium on Monday.


The U.S. military told dozens of U.N. ambassadors and military advisers in New York in July that the U.N. needed rapid response forces, equipment and training. Washington pays more than 28 percent of the $8.2 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget, but Beijing says it contributes more personnel to peacekeeping missions than each of the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom.

The top five troop- and police-contributing countries are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda, according to August data from the U.N. website. China now provides around 3,000 of the more than 106,500 U.N. troops, police and advisers deployed by all countries, making it the ninth biggest contributor of peacekeeping personnel. Its largest contingent is in South Sudan, where it has played a growing diplomatic role and is a major investor in the oil industry.

Experts have noted that China’s expanding peacekeeping role in recent years parallels its desire to expand its military’s capabilities farther abroad and could provide logistical and operational experience. “They clearly want to create a more international armed force so they can operate in more challenging environments,” said Douglas Paal, director of the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

During his earlier address to the General Assembly, Xi tried to allay concerns that his country’s growing influence was a threat. “We are committed to peaceful development. No matter how the international landscape may evolve and how strong China may become, China will never pursue hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence,” he said.

Source: China’s Xi says to commit 8,000 troops for U.N. peacekeeping force | Reuters

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Cisco joins flurry of U.S.-China tech partnerships | Reuters

Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) said Thursday it would form a joint-venture with Chinese server maker Inspur to sell networking and cloud computing products in China, where the Silicon Valley firm faces political pressure and declining sales.

Chuck Robbins, incoming CEO of Cisco, listens a question from media during a news conference in New Delhi, India, June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Cisco and Inspur said they would invest $100 million in the project, although they offered few other details.

The partnership is one of a growing number of tie-ups between Chinese and U.S. technology firms announced during or ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States this week.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) said on Thursday it would partner with Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) and Chinese state-owned private investment firm Tsinghua Unigroup on cloud technology, while Dell Inc announced last week it would invest $125 billion over five years in China.

Earlier this year, IBM (IBM.N) pledged to help develop China’s advanced chip industry with a “Made with China” strategy, while chipmakers Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) are developing chips with smaller Chinese companies.

Similar to its dealings with the foreign auto industry in decades past, Chinese officials have made clear to foreign technology firms that market access depends on their sharing technology and cooperating with Chinese industry.

Like many of its peers, Cisco’s market share has retreated in recent quarters in China, where its products have been labeled a cybersecurity threat by state media and government-affiliated experts.

U.S. business lobbies have said the Chinese allegations amount to protectionism, while China has pointed to the experience of Cisco’s Shenzhen-based rival Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], which faced similar accusations from Capitol Hill when it sought to enter the United States.

Source: Cisco joins flurry of U.S.-China tech partnerships | Reuters


Google’s Sundar Pichai Welcomes India’s Modi to Silicon Valley – India Real Time – WSJ

Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi touches down in Silicon Valley at the weekend, one of his country’s most-successful sons has welcomed him to the U.S. tech hub.

Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born Google CEO, says in a video message that “there is tremendous excitement” about Mr. Modi’s arrival in the valley “among all Googlers” a shorthand for people who work at the search engine giant.

Mr. Modi will meet with Mr. Pichai and other Indian-born CEOs, including Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp., during his valley visit and tour Google’s headquarters where he will look at inventions in healthcare and smartgrid technology. His visit comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping held a roundtable in Seattle with U.S. and Chinese CEOs including Tim Cook of Apple Inc. and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com on Wednesday.

“The bond between India and Silicon Valley is strong. India has long been an exporter of talent to tech companies,” Mr. Pichai says in the two minute clip.

Raised in the southern city of Chennai and attending the legendary Indian Institute of Technology, Mr. Pichai became CEO of Google in August having started out at the company in 2004 as a semiconductor engineer after gaining a graduate degree from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. More In Google Who Is Google’s Sundar Pichai? Why Indian Managers Are Succeeding in Tech’s C-Suite Sundar Pichai to Lead Google, Now a Subsidiary of Alphabet, After Restructuring Tech Giants Help Track Nepal Earthquake Survivors as Communications Are Hit Google Executive Dan Fredinburg Killed in Everest Avalanche After Nepal Earthquake

“The products built by Indian graduates from IIT and other institutions have helped to revolutionize the world,” the Google chief adds.

But it is India that is now undergoing its own revolution, he continues. Mr. Pichai touches on Mr. Modi’s plans to digitize India and get 600 million people in remote areas connected to the Internet.

“We at Google as well as many others around the world are passionate about playing our part, there is no more important role for tech companies today than helping to connect the next billion Internet users,” he adds.

The prime minister’s Digital India plan is stuttering however. Up to June only 1% of the villages in the program had been connected to broadband via fiber optic cables.

The slow pace of the rollout of the Internet in India is among the main subjects raised for Mr. Modi in his upcoming Q&A at Facebook Inc. on Sunday.

Meghna Agarwal has asked how Facebook can help India in reaching remote areas “so that each one of the Indians has a voice of their own thus promoting equality and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor?”

Sumit Dhawan asked what Mr. Modi is doing to bring high speed broadband Internet to India.

In Mr. Pichai’s video, the CEO predicts that in the next few years, 50 million women and 20 million small businesses will get online for the first time. He promises Google will help India with products that work on low bandwidth and even offline as well as with investments in core infrastructure to help the Indians among them.

Source: Google’s Sundar Pichai Welcomes India’s Modi to Silicon Valley – India Real Time – WSJ


Boeing to sell 300 jets to China firms, set up China plant: Xinhua | Reuters

Boeing Co has signed deals to sell 300 aircraft to three Chinese firms and set up an aircraft plant in China, becoming the first U.S. firm to clinch a business tie-up in the country since Chinese president Xi Jinping began a U.S. state visit, the official Xinhua news agency said.


The aircraft deals, potentially worth tens of billions of dollars in total, are collectively the largest order the aerospace firm has received from Chinese companies.

China’s ICBC Financial Leasing Co, a unit of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, on Wednesday separately confirmed it will buy 30 of Boeing’s 737-800 jets, worth $2.88 billion at list prices.

China Aviation Supplies Holding Company and China Development Bank Leasing are the other two customers for the aircraft, said Xinhua.

Boeing, which is locked in a fierce battle for plane orders with European rival Airbus, will build its first aircraft completion plant outside the United States in China in order to gain a foothold in that important market, say industry observers. Boeing raised its forecast for China’s aircraft demand by 5 percent in August, saying that the country will need 6,330 planes over the next 20 years.

It signed a cooperation document with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) to build the aircraft completion center for its 737 passenger jet in China, added Xinhua. The agency didn’t disclose further details.

An aircraft’s interiors and some systems are usually installed, and the plane is painted in the customer’s livery, at completion centers. The final flight trials are then completed before the aircraft is delivered to the customer.

Boeing executives and officials from the Chinese firms could not immediately be reached for comment. Xi, who arrived in Seattle on Tuesday, is set to visit Boeing on Wednesday.

The number of air passengers traveling to, from and within China is set to nearly triple by 2034 to some 1.3 billion, surpassing an expected 1.2 billion for the United States, according to official estimates.

State-owned airlines like Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, and privately-owned budget carrier Spring Airlines, are growing fast and adding new planes to meet this demand for both short and long haul air travel.

Boeing’s plans for an aircraft completion center comes after Airbus signed an agreement in July to set up its second Chinese plant.

Source: Boeing to sell 300 jets to China firms, set up China plant: Xinhua | Reuters


Prime Minister Popularity and Voter Optimism Have Soared in India Under Modi, U.S. Think-Tank Survey Shows – India Real Time – WSJ

In the sixteen months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a landslide victory in national elections, he has faced policy setbacks, parliamentary roadblocks and electoral failure. These appear to have had little impact on support for him.

A new report by the U.S.-based think tank Pew Research Center says Mr. Modi remains overwhelmingly popular among Indians. Among those surveyed, 87% said they have a favorable opinion of Mr. Modi. Unpacking that statistic gives Mr. Modi greater reason to celebrate. His popularity is the highest among two crucial demographic groups: 18 to 29 year olds and rural Indians. Nine out of 10 people in each category gave the leader of the world’s largest democracy a thumbs up.

Mr. Modi’s undented approval ratings come at a time when his appeal among investors and analysts has lost some of its sheen. India-watchers complain big policy pronouncements have been few and slow to come, limiting India’s growth potential. Far from sharing that pessimism, a majority of Indians are upbeat about their country’ economic prospects, the survey showed. More than half of the respondents said they were happy with the direction of their country, up from 29% in 2013, toward the end of the Congress party’s decade-long tenure when the economic was stuttering and corruption scandals dogged the government. More than 90% of those surveyed by Pew said they had faith in government, up from 70% two years ago. These findings raise key political questions.

Some strategists wonder why, given his once-in-a-generation mandate, Mr. Modi hasn’t pushed for tougher, more-disruptive measures to accelerate growth. His government recently backtracked on a policy that would have made it easier to acquire land for infrastructure and industry because of protests by opponents in Parliament and fear of a backlash from rural voters.

Others argue Mr. Modi is playing the long game, seeking to build on his popularity to consolidate more political power at state and local levels rather than risking it at an early stage on controversial policies. Leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party say they are planning for at least two five-year terms under Mr. Modi’s premiership during which they hope their party, whose political authority has grown sporadically since its inception in 1980, will achieve the kind of dominance Congress enjoyed in the decades after India won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Such a strategy – and Pew’s data – explains why Mr. Modi is the BJP’s star campaigner. In the state of Bihar where elections are scheduled to begin next month, the BJP has not announced a candidate for chief minister, the person who would run the state if the party won. Instead, posters and hoardings are plastered with Mr. Modi’s face. To be sure, the Bihar polls won’t be easy. Caste allegiances play an important role in the vote and the incumbent regional leader, Nitish Kumar, is seen as an effective leader for development. A recent opinion poll by the Hindi-language ABP News channel and Nielsen showed the BJP and Janata Dal (United)-led alliances are neck and neck.

Source: Prime Minister Popularity and Voter Optimism Have Soared in India Under Modi, U.S. Think-Tank Survey Shows – India Real Time – WSJ


5 Things Modi Unpacks on Every Foreign Trip – WSJ

1 Be First (Sort Of)

People like to read about folks who come first, and Mr. Modi’s visits often claim this honor. Sometimes, such as his trip to Mongolia, because his visit is the first by an Indian prime minister. But in other cases, the firsts come with footnotes. For instance, Mr. Modi was the first Indian prime minister to visit Canada in 40 years on a “bilateral visit” in April, according to India’s foreign ministry.  Indian prime ministers have visited Canada in the past four decades, but on multi-lateral or other types of visit.  Another twist: Mr. Modi’s time in Australia in November followed a visit of Australia’s then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India a few months earlier. The exchange was thus described as the “first time Australian and Indian Prime Ministers have made reciprocal visits in the same year,” according to India’s Press Information Bureau. For his upcoming visit, expect Mr. Modi’s team to point out that he is the first Indian prime minister to visit Silicon Valley, because Mrs. Gandhi only went to Los Angeles.

2 Take Over a Stadium

In countries with a large Indian-origin population, Mr. Modi likes to make a big impression. Usually in a stadium packed with thousands of people and supported by a song-and-dance show. Mr. Modi has taken over such arenas in New York, Sydney and Toronto. In the upcoming visit, the big event will be at the SAP Center in San Jose, which is also nicknamed the “Shark Tank” because it hosts ice hockey team the San Jose Sharks. The SAP Center will host Madonna in October. The event’s organizers say they have received requests for around 45,000 passes, while SAP Center can seat only around 20,000 people.

3 Promise a Visa Freebie

One crowd-pleaser that Mr. Modi uses on trips abroad is to announce India will make it easier for foreigners to visit. In February 2014, before Mr. Modi came to power, India’s government pledged to give visas-on-arrival to people from 180 countries, up from 11 countries previously. The expanded list so far covers people traveling to India from the U.K., U.S. and China among others. Mr. Modi re-announced this step as evidence of India’s efforts to make it easier for people to visit. In New York, it got a lot of applause.  But, when some tourists tried to get a “visa-on-arrival”, they were asked to apply for it 72 hours in advance. This created confusion. In April, the Indian government changed the name to “e-tourist visas”, saying that tourists could apply for it online.

4 Snap a Selfie

During his overseas trips, Mr. Modi’s selfies with other leaders including Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, have received a lot of attention online. Most recently, Mr. Modi took a selfie with ministers of the United Arab Emirates . From the upcoming trip, look out for selfies with Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook Inc. who is meeting Mr. Modi, and other high-profile Silicon Valley execs.

5 Unveil or Visit a Gandhi Tribute

The icing on the cake of a good trip abroad for Mr. Modi is the unveiling of a bust or statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Modi unveiled the bust of Gandhi in Hannover, Germany, and in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat . He inaugurated a statue of Gandhi in Brisbane, Australia, and another in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In China, Mr. Modi inaugurated the Center for Gandhian & Indian Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University.  On his most-recent trip to the U.S. in September 2014, Mr. Modi visited a statue of Gandhi in Washington. Mr. Modi’s  U.S. hosts haven’t included a Gandhi unveiling for the upcoming trip however. The focus of the prime minister’s visit to Silicon Valley will be on technology, startups and innovation, said Khanderao Kand, convener of the Indo American Community of West Coast.

Source: 5 Things Modi Unpacks on Every Foreign Trip – WSJ


Command and lack of control | The Economist

IF THE People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were a company, it would be about to lose its position as the world’s largest corporate employer. When troop cuts recently announced by Xi Jinping, China’s president, are completed in 2017, the ranks of China’s armed forces will have shrunk by 300,000 to 2m, putting it just behind Walmart, a retailer (see chart). It would still be by far the world’s largest military outfit.

When the downsizing was announced, at a big military parade on September 3rd, the cuts seemed no more significant than a round of corporate redundancies. Mr Xi’s own explanation—that they would help the PLA to “carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace”—also seemed to come straight from the gobbledygook of corporate obfuscation.

But recent commentary in China’s state media suggests that the reductions may presage something more: a long-overdue reform of the command structure of the PLA and a shift in the balance of the main military services. If so, one of the most important subsidiaries of the Chinese state is in for a shake-up.

The army has long been the senior service. Almost three quarters of active-duty personnel are soldiers. The navy and air-force chiefs did not have seats on the main institution for exercising civilian control over the armed forces, the Central Military Commission, until 2004. It was only in 2012 that an officer outside the ranks of the army became its most senior military figure. The army’s dominance is a problem at a time when China is expanding its influence in the South China Sea and naval strategy is looming larger.

Moreover, there has long been a split within the PLA between combat forces (which kill the enemy) and other operations (logistics, transport and so on) which are regarded as secondary. But in modern, high-tech warfare, non front-line services such as those responsible for cyberwarfare and electronic surveillance often matter more than tanks and infantry.

Embodying these outdated traditions is a top-heavy, ill-co-ordinated structure with four headquarters and seven regional commands. Many Chinese analysts argue that, as now constituted, the PLA would not be able to conduct modern information-intensive military operations which integrate all the services properly.

China has long talked about military reform. In late 2013 Mr Xi told fellow leaders that the command system for joint operations was “not strong enough”. It was duly announced that China would “optimise the size and structure” of the armed forces. China Daily, an English-language newspaper, said that a “joint operational command system” would be introduced “in due course”.

It now appears that these changes are under way. Mr Xi was recently quoted in PLA Daily, a newspaper, saying that “we have a rare window … to deepen [military] reform”. It is possible that Mr Xi’s anti-corruption purge, which has taken aim at two men (one now dead) who were once the country’s most powerful military figures, as well as 50 other generals, may have weakened opposition enough for change to begin.

The South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong, recently published what it described as a radical plan devised by military reformers. This would scrap three of the four headquarters, reduce the number of regional military commands to four and give a more prominent role to the navy. It remains to be seen whether Mr Xi will go that far. But there is no doubt that, in order to fulfil what he calls China’s “dream of a strong armed forces”, he wants a leaner, more efficient PLA. To China’s neighbours, that would make it even more frightening.

Source: Command and lack of control | The Economist


How Modi’s Win Helped Boost India’s Ranks of Millionaires – India Real Time – WSJ

The ranks of the millionaires grew at a faster rate in India than anywhere else around the globe in 2014 thanks to the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and falling oil prices, according to a report on worldwide wealth.

After only marginal growth in 2013, India’s tally of high-net-worth individuals increased by 26.3% in 2014 compared with the previous year and with 17.5% in China and 8.2% in the U.S. over the same period, the data from consultants Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management, said.

High-net-worth individuals are defined as those with investible assets of more than $1 million.

The report says that the election of “a popular reform-minded prime minister” in May 2014 “had a positive effect on the economy and equity markets, boosting [high-net-worth-individual] gains.” More In Narendra-Modi

Mr. Modi’s win “helped to boost investor confidence and contributed to strong performance in the stock market,” the report’s authors said.

“Lower oil prices helped reduce the country’s budget deficit and retail inflation fell considerably,” they added. Still, in absolute numbers of very wealthy, India continues to lag behind. It had 1,975,000 people with $1 million to invest in 2014, compared with 4,682,000 in the U.S. and Canada and 8,901,000 in China.

The Asia Pacific region as a whole though, including India and China, had a higher number of millionaires than North America in 2014.

Source: How Modi’s Win Helped Boost India’s Ranks of Millionaires – India Real Time – WSJ


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