Good Stuff: For A Prosperous Tomorrow
There’s bad news everywhere around us – Rupee value on an all-time low, economy back to its sluggish days, increasing petrol prices and probably no end to this scenario in sight. But then, there are so many areas where we are doing well. For a sustainable and long-term growth, India is investing heavily in diverse international initiatives. We take you through a few of them, while contemplating on how exactly they will help our economy in near future.
Our economic growth rate continues to be better than most developing countries and although there’s a flight for Dollar’s shelter everywhere – leading to currency depreciations – Rupee is doing better than currencies of other comparable economies (for instance Brazil).
In addition to this, India continues to wield her soft-power on important international forums; not only is the country in a position to help other poorer countries, but also a lot of important economic pacts and memorandums are being signed. Here we enlist four such important developments:
- Super Freight Corridors: In spite of a strong opposition from the US, India has agreed in principle to be a party to two multi-nation transport corridors. These corridors would significantly reduce cargo transportation time between India, Central Asia, Turkey and Russia. To the discomfort of the US, Iran (and its Bandar Abbas port) will be key pivot to the corridor. First, with continuation to pursue Iranian oil and now, with this project, India has sent strong signals about its Independent foreign policy. It’s justified too, for there are no permanent allies or enemies in foreign relations, but permanent interests. What could otherwise explain the tilt of the US towards fostering strong relations with India, as against its earlier policy to appease Pakistan?
- It’s Not Just Gas: Turkmenistan, otherwise a landlocked country, has the fourth largest gas reserves in the world, and India, as we all know, is always energy hungry. India is now a party to the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI), which would help transport natural gas from Dauletabad/Lolotan gas fields in Turkmenistan to all the way to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Not only will it help normalize relations with our neighbours, if implemented successfully, it was also ensure an unbridled gas supply to India for the next two hundred years. The pipeline, to be constructed at $7.6 billion, is expected to be 1,735 kilometres long, and will pass from important cities of Herat and Kandahar (Afghanistan), Quetta and Multan (Pakistan), before terminating in the Indian town of Fazilka, near the border between Pakistan and India. Out of the initial capacity of 27 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year, two billion cubic metres will be provided to Afghanistan, rest will be shared equally between Indian and Pakistan.
- Drive All The Way To Thailand: India, Myanmar and Thailand have agreed for trilateral road connectivity, by 2016, which will make it possible to drive right up to Thailand from India via Myanmar. India would help repair 71 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa Friendship Road (which was built with India’s help), in addition to linking it with a place called Yargyi, which in turn will effectively link Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand. Officials believe that this highway will immensely help India with her Look East policy, and give us a better connectivity with ASEAN countries. Not only that, India and Thailand have also agreed to foster stronger maritime partnership, and are in talks to develop seaport at Dawei, a strategic location on the South-Western coast of Myanmar, in addition to developing port infrastructure in Chennai. Dawei will also serve as a strategic location for India to get access to Southeast Asian markets. India-Thailand trade grew from $1 billion to $7 billion in the last ten years, and can grow with similar multiple in the next ten years, if there are enough infrastructural facilitators. It assumes importance, given that China is attempting similar initiatives and has already helped develop various ports – Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka) and Kyauk Phyu (Myanmar). Once developed, Chennai-Dawei corridor will put all these projects into shade.
- Prosperous North East: North East as lagged development in rest of India, since the days of British rule. India is helping develop Sittwe Port in Myanmar; once developed, this port will serve as an important hub for direct and cheap transfer of goods to India’s North East states. The port will be constructed at an estimated cost of $120 million, and is situated at the mouth of the Kaladan River, which will also pave the way for waterway transit, up and close to India-Myanmar border. Right now, the only access to these seven states is through the Siliguri Corridor, a narrow strip of Indian territory sandwiched between China and Bangladesh, which often translates into transportation delays and cost overheads. Increased economic cooperation with Myanmar is in our interest, since it can always help us pressurize to keep a check on separatists in North East states; earlier, when were not cooperating with Myanmar to this extent, these separatists would successfully create disturbances, and go and hide in Myanmar. This has also led Myanmar to sell its natural gas to India; earlier, Myanmar had refused doing so – even selling its reserves to China at one-third the rates India was offering.
It should be clear why it is important to establish strong international relations. We must neither crib on the president’s foreign travels, nor on the loans/grants extended by India to underdeveloped countries. International relations are too complex to be analyzed in a unilateral way.
This was just a sample list. In addition to these projects, India is collaborating with various African nations for infrastructure development programs. As against similar efforts by China that insists on its own workers executing these projects, India is helping the local residents of these countries with skill development.
India has bought oil and gas, and iron deposit blocks in Afghanistan. It will not only ensure Afghanistan’s rebuilding efforts, but will also give us a strategic depth in a war-torn country, where the influence of Taliban continues. Such economic participation will prevent our immediate warring neighbour to use Taliban against us (remember the saying that says that no two countries with McDonald’s will ever go on war with each other?).There are various railway and hydroelectric power projects in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, which are being developed in joint-collaboration with India, and they hold potential economic and political benefits for India, too.
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