Washington: The record of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government after completion of over two years in power has been “mixed” as despite doing its best to roll out a red carpet for investors it has preferred caution over boldness, an American expert on India has told lawmakers.
“So far, the Modi government’s record has been mixed. It has done its best to roll out a red carpet for investors, with the prime minister himself acting as India’s chief pitchman,” Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
“However, in terms of deep structural reform, the government has either been stymied by the opposition or has itself preferred caution to boldness,” Dhume said.
Despite a comfortable majority in the Lower House of Parliament, the Modi government has done nothing to reverse the previous government’s laws like an unpopular retroactive tax, said Dhume, also a Wall Street Journal columnist.
Dhume said, “instead of winding up the previous government’s flagship make-work programme, a notoriously leaky rural job guarantee that wasted billions of dollars, the Modi government has increased its funding to a record level.” At the same time, he said a lot has been achieved under the Modi-led government.
“Foreign investment norms have been eased in, among other areas, defence, insurance and food processing. Between May 2014 and December 2015, foreign direct investment in India rose 33 per cent to USD 64 billion compared to USD 48 billion in the 20 months before Modi’s election,” Dhume said.
“Several high profile firms, including Taiwan’s Foxconn and South Korea’s Posco have pledged billions of dollars of fresh investment in India. Large US investors include General Electric, General Motors, Uber and Oracle,” he told lawmakers. Dhume told lawmakers that Washington should continue to encourage the emergence of India as a prosperous and strong democracy that acts as a stabilising force in the region and beyond. “At the same time, the US needs to deepen trade ties with India with the strategic goal of remaining India’s largest single trading partner taking into account both goods and services,” he said. Meanwhile, Richard M Rossow, senior fellow, Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies Center for Strategic and International Studies and other commentators regularly lament that they expected more, deeper reforms by this point.
“But the Modi government’s track record is solid, if unspectacular,” Rossow said.
Rossow also said that Modi has surprised the American security community with his forward leaning views on Asian security which matches that of the US.
“We have also made progress on our long-stalled ‘Defense Technology and Trade Initiative’ programs for co-development and co-production of defence materiel, as well as renewing our defense framework agreement for another ten years,” he said. “India has become one of the largest markets for US defence exports, and a major partner for joint exercises,” he said.