India still reeling over US
deal By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI - Given more than a decade and a
half of coalition governments, both the national
parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) have learned that so-called allies are
a bigger headache than the opposition.
Unfortunately, they learned it the hard way.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress
President Sonia Gandhi have spent some time
assuaging partners in left parties, especially
over the unresolved Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and
economic reforms. The BJP made
similar assurances earlier with the mercurial
Jayalalitha from the south.
It does appear
now that the coalitions will remain as they stand
after the general elections that are scheduled for
2009, but could come sooner.
In terms of
the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the stalled
pact would never have occupied so much political
space had Manmohan not treated it like his own
Maybe then the left parties, too,
would not have made such a big song and dance
about it. The Indo-US nuclear deal does, however,
does have an important aspect: the arrival of the
US as India's most important business, strategic,
defense and diplomatic ally for the years head.
The role and socialist influence of Cold
War ally Russia has receded. For the first time,
an American warship forms part of India's defense
arsenal, with transport planes and more to follow.
If the civilian nuclear power deal goes through,
America will have significant stakes here too.
American cultural and capitalist icons are
part of Indian society: Domino's, McDonald's,
Google, Yahoo, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Harley
Davidson will soon motor into the Indian market
and one of India's main Bollywood actresses,
Aishwaria Rai, has chose Oprah Winfrey to promote
Ones to watch Narender
Modi and Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi's son, will
occupy some of India's political space in the
The Gandhi scion has been slowly
nudged up the ladder by mother Sonia, who
cautiously plots his progress. Rahul has been
appointed to a top party post, campaigned
(unsuccessfully, so far) for state elections, and
accompanies Manmohan on foreign trips as part his
coming-of-age training. He is generally seen as a
sensible young man, much like his father Rajiv.
While the Sonia and Manmohan will continue
to be the main party standard bearers for 2009, it
could be Rahul in the not-so-distant future.
If there is a challenge to his position,
it is from within his own family: his sister
Priyanka, who seems a bit ahead on the charisma
quotient. Given the emotionally fragile Indian
voter and its love-hate relationship with the
Gandhi name. Considering, the late Indira Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru, this can count considerably.
In a nation with deeply rooted beliefs
about re-incarnation and good Karma, many believe
Priyanka resembles her grandmother Indira. So far,
Sonia's daughter has remained at the periphery of
active politics, but in the future one never
Modi, of course, has understood the
emotional side of the Indian voter better than
most and has emerged as the most marketable leader
of the BJP. After L K Advani and Atal Bihari
Vajpayee, he appears to have the best ability to
Modi's tenure as chief
minister of Gujarat has seen the state make
remarkable economic progress. Gujarat has also
remained generally peaceful following the
disastrous anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002.
However, Modi has bared his fangs again -
with a distorted belief that all Indian Muslims
are Pakistanis and could be terrorists - in the
heat of events leading to the recent provincial
Modi is likely going be chief
minister again, and if Gujarat continues to
prosper under him, he could make the jump to
national politics. That is, if he manages to limit
his controversial rhetoric to a few words before
Modi's biggest enemy, apart
from himself, is his party. In the past they've
been keen to shut him out due to his stature,
arrogance and belief that "any electoral victory
is due to him and defeat due to the BJP.''
In any case, Modi's fortunes will be
list A few years back, a chief executive
officer fortunate enough to earn as much as
US$250,000 per year would be newsworthy. Today,
the head of a successful multinational or Indian
company, even if in his or her 30s, could make as
much, including stock options.
benchmarks for salaries have moved up
exponentially. Indians are obsessed with these
numbers, especially the rising number of national
billionaires, and surging salaries experiencing
roughly 10 % growth each year. The fascination
made spark optimism for their own prospects. After
all, everyone wants to be a millionaire.
Business barons Mukesh Ambani and Anil
Ambani of the Relaince Group are often spoken
about. Indians feel equally elated when steel
magnate Lakhsmi Mittal makes it big elsewhere.
Business model that works The
Public-Private-Participation (PPP) program is one
business mantra that has worked.
model is being successfully implemented in roads,
ports, airports, and public transport networks
such as railways. Unlike China, India's growth is
driven by the private sector. In the past, this
portion of the economy has not involved in crucial
infrastructure projects which have been managed
inefficiently by a lethargic bureaucracy.
For example, Indian roads continue to be
potholed and railway stations remain public
But, this is changing
courtesy the new dynamism of private enterprises
keen to invest in and oversee such public
projects, as well as similar interest from foreign
firms. Such business sectors as coal mining,
public utilities, telecommunications and banking
have been thrown wide open.
lighter note Shahrukh Khan, referred to as
the Badshah (King Khan) of Bollywood, lords
over India's massive Hindi movie industry.
He has starred in the two biggest hits of
2007, Chak de India and Om Shanti Om
(OSO). Women flocked to the movie halls just to
see him take off his shirt in OSO, and the fervor
has led to box office records.
OSO co-star Deepika Padukone is now rated as the
most-searched Indian actress on the Internet.
What makes the Shahrukh phenomena even
more potent, and his profit more significant, is
his recent transition from leading actor to top
producer. His first film was OSO and more are on
Many before him, including
India's former top male star, Amitabh Bachchan,
have failed in similar endeavors.
Meanwhile, the Indian sub-continent's most
passionate sport, cricket, has a new look called
20-20 cricket. The game has been fitted into a
shorter timeframe and includes some American-style
razzmatazz such as dancing, cheerleaders,
fireworks and more.
is the quick-paced, shortened and energized
version of the traditional sport. It's a far cry
from the slam-bang, daylong, 50-overs-a-side or
the five-day Test matches.
The change is
in keeping with dwindling spectator attention
spans spawned by some Indians' fast-paced
corporate lives. Twenty-Twenty gives that
adrenalin rush that only sports can provide.
Earlier this year, the first 20-20 world
championship proved its skeptics wrong and was a
resounding success. The highlight was a closely
fought India-Pakistan grand finale played in South
Africa that India won.
New heroes emerged
in cricketers M S Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, who now
look to overtake icons Rahul Dravid, Sachin
Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly. Looking ahead, 20-20
cricket will continue to thrill.
Siddharth Srivastava is a New