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Modi 2.0: The big renewable energy push

Marrying energy security with environment friendliness is never easy due to the natural conflict involved. However, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has managed this conflict seamlessly.

Sanju Verma

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“Let us turn to the Sun, to power our future.”

—PM Narendra Modi, at the launch of International Solar Alliance in Paris

On 15 December 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of several development projects in Gujarat including a desalination plant, hybrid renewable energy park and a fully automated milk processing and packaging plant. The 30 GW proposed Hybrid Renewable Energy Park situated along the India-Pakistan border at Khavda, Kutch, is billed as the world’s largest Hybrid Renewable Energy Park. It will be the first of its kind with both wind and solar energy. The project is in line with the Modi government’s vision to install 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022. It will also play a major role in fulfilling PM Modi’s vision of generating 450 GW power by the year 2030.

The mammoth hybrid park in Kutch will have two zones—spread over 72, 600 hectare of land, the first will be a 49,600-hectare hybrid park zone, accommodating wind and solar power plants of 24,800 MW capacity and second will be an exclusive wind power zone spread over 23,000 hectares. Renewable energy push has been high on the Modi government’s agenda. India has energy deals with Vietnam and seeks additional ones with Indonesia and Australia, on this front. These are useful partners, because of their rising mistrust of China. The route to self-reliance is based on energy security and PM Modi knows that better than most. That being the case, the 750-megawatt Rewa Solar Power Plant in Madhya Pradesh, which was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Modi on 10 July 2020, consists of three solar power generating units that are located on a 500-hectare plot of land inside a 1,590 hectare solar park, making it amongst the largest single site solar plants and projects in India and worldwide, too.

The 2,245 MW Bhadla photovoltaic solar park at Jodhpur in Rajasthan and the 2,050 MW solar park at Pavagada in Karnataka are solar parks worth mentioning. Apart from a $440 million funding from the World Bank’s sister arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and its sheer size and scale, the Rewa solar plant is the first one to be coming up via the reverse bidding, auction route, testifying India’s self reliance model in the area of energy security.

In a recent Clean Energy Investment Ranking, India ranked in the top 3, from 114 countries. India, in fact, is the only “2C compatible” country, as per the Paris Climate Agreement, out of all the G20 nations, like the US, Brazil, Australia and several EU countries. The Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016, aims to strengthen “global response to the threat of climate change” through Nationally Determined Contributions, commonly known as NDCs. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep global warming in check—below a hard, upper ceiling of 2°C, while striving to limit it even further to 1.5°C.

The Climate Transparency Report of 2020 recently lauded India’s afforestation programme “designed to stimulate the rural and semi-urban economy while providing essential ecosystem benefits”. Moreover, the report also notes that renewable sources like solar, wind and modern biomass account for around 9.2% of India’s energy supply, while the G20 average is only 6.4%.

Given the burgeoning energy demand, the Modi government’s huge strides in developing renewable energy sources have been highly commendable. The installed capacity of renewable energy generation in the country has grown 72% from 80 GW to 138.9 GW during the past six years. Foreign direct investments of $6.1 billion flew into the Indian clean energy sector—including solar, wind, biomass, large hydro and nuclear—in the five year period between 2014 and 2019. Globally, India stands third in terms of renewable power, fourth in terms of wind power, and fifth in terms of solar power installed capacity. For the period 2014-2019, clean energy investments in India were about $75 billion. The renewable energy capacity in India is currently 136 GW, which is over 36% of our total capacity.

Of the renewable energy sources, installed capacity of solar energy capacity registered the highest growth. It grew from 2.6 GW in March 2014 to 37.63 GW in March 2020.An additional 62.4 GW clean energy capacity is currently under various stages of implementation and 34.07 GW is under various stages of bidding. Most of the clean energy projects, except nuclear power and some large hydro projects, are set-up in the country by the private sector, which bodes well for overall energy security, as there is a judicious mix between the public and private sectors.

The Modi government had an initial target of 20 GW solar capacity for 2022, which was achieved four years ahead of schedule. In 2015, the target was raised to 100 GW of solar capacity (including 40 GW from rooftop solar) by 2022, targeting an investment of $100 billion. The BJP-led NDA government has established nearly 42 solar parks to make land available to the promoters of solar plants. In the decade ending 31 March 2020, India expanded its installed solar power capacity by 233 times from 161 MW to 37,627 MW. And a large part of that phenomenal growth came in the last 6 years alone, under the visionary leadership of PM Modi. Solar products have increasingly helped to meet rural needs; by the end of 2015 just under one million solar lanterns were sold in the country, reducing the need for kerosene. That year, 118,700 solar home lighting systems were installed and 46,655 solar street lighting installations were provided under a national programme; well over 1.4 million solar cookers were distributed in India.

Also, the International Solar Alliance (ISA), proposed by India in 2015 as a founder member, headquartered in India, has clearly put forward the concept of “One Sun, One World, One Grid,” to harness abundant solar power on global scale. To cut a long story short, 56% of India’s commercial energy is met by coal and well over 60% of entire power generated in India is coal-based. The Modi government has set a target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. The government is promoting development of solar energy in the country by providing various fiscal and promotional incentives like 10-year tax exemptions. If we look at last decade, the growth rate of coal was roughly 6.5%, which is further expected to slow down to about 4% till 2030.

In other words, effectively speaking, India has a stated objective of achieving 40% of installed capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030. Coal power generation accounts for 38-40% of the additional power generation worldwide and about 27% of the global energy mix. While, clearly, despite the focus on non-fossil fuels, coal as a source of power is unlikely to become redundant any time soon, globally. Understanding this, the Modi government in the last two years has consistently been opening up the coal sector to private enterprise, to enhance economies of scale and competitiveness. Denationalisation of the coal sector, to end the monopoly of Coal India Ltd (CIL), which accounts for 83% of India’s coal production, 76% of thermal power capacity and over 50% of India’s total energy supply, has been a hugely brave and landmark decision by the Modi government.

Underscoring the need for a consistent and stable policy environment, as prolonged disputes can hamper the debt-servicing ability of projects, the Modi government has ensured an investor-friendly ecosystem. The Centre has been working with states to promote clean energy, given that it costs significantly less than conventional power.

Under a thoroughly incompetent Congress-led UPA regime that ruled India from 2004-2014, the renewable energy sector was always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Delays in payments from distribution companies (Discoms), execution delays on account of challenges in land acquisition and unavailability of evacuation infrastructure were the stumbling blocks. But more than anything else, an inept Congress lacked the political will to implement big bang reforms. In sharp contrast, PM Modi has used every adversity as an opportunity to unleash path-breaking reforms that have persistently moved away from restrictive stereotypes.

Be it Paris Climate Agreement, partnering BIMSTEC, issuing Green Bonds or helping countries ranging from those in the Indian Ocean region to those relatively farther away in North, East and Central Africa, PM Modi’s thrust on renewables, energy diplomacy and energy security has an inclusive appeal that transcends borders. The India-Bangladesh Power Corridor, with a reported transportation capacity of 6,000 MW of power from India’s Northeast through Bangladesh to Indian load centres, is a case in point. Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand brings together over 1.5 billion people—that is, over 21% of the world population.

In order to scale up environmentally sustainable investments, India joined the International Platform on Sustainable Finance (IPSF) in October 2019. IPSF can help finance the transition to a green, low carbon and climate resilient economy, by linking financing needs to the global sources of funding, showcasing how the Modi government is using global platforms to advance the cause of local issues in an exemplary tribute to “Vocal for Local”.

India has become the second-largest market globally, for “Green Bonds”, with $10.3 billion worth of transactions in the first half of 2019. Green bonds are debt securities issued by financial, non-financial or public entities where the proceeds are used to finance 100% green projects and assets. India now has the second-largest emerging green bond market, after China. The Modi government’s total estimated cost commitments to partner countries to strengthen energy infrastructure, including renewables in various projects, is estimated at a whopping Rs 75,469.5 crore in the last five years. Energy security and energy diplomacy are mirror images of each other and it is here that PM Modi, the quintessential statesman at all times and strongman when needed, has outscored and outwitted players like China.

Marrying energy security with environment friendliness is never easy due to the natural conflict involved. However, under PM Modi, India has managed this conflict seamlessly. Modi’s clarion call of ‘One World, One Sun, One Grid’, is redefining the very essence of how renewables will shape the destinies of many like-minded nations in the years ahead.

The author is an economist, national spokesperson for the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

POLITICAL ACTIVISTS SHOULD STOP ATTACKING THE APEX COURT

Pankaj Vohra

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Soon after a Division Bench of the Supreme Court virtually indicted suspended BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, for her remarks about the Prophet, right wing activists took to the social media to target the judiciary. This unfortunate attack on the Apex court and its two learned Judges, Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala was completely avoidable and in fact, lowers our belief in the rule of law. The honourable Judges had declined to entertain Nupur’s plea to club the FIRs registered against her in various parts of the country for her comments and observed that she had a “loose tongue’’, “is singlehandedly responsible for what is happening’’ and she should have apologised to the Nation. While the BJP did not take up the issue directly, many of its supporters took to twitter and other social media handles to question the Supreme Court. This is obviously a serious matter since the judiciary is an essential part of our democratic system and along with the Executive and the Legislature is assigned the role of upholding the Constitution. In a totally unrelated development, Chief Justice N.V.Ramana while speaking at a function in San Fransisco, accused politicians of trying to undermine the authority of the courts. He said that the ruling dispensation expects that every action should be endorsed by the courts. The judiciary is not bound by the dikats of any political party and is only responsible for upholding the Constitution. Strong words indeed. Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Kapil Sibal while speaking to a news agency stated that certain sections of the judiciary had let the people down and stated that after being on the bar for over 50 years, his head hangs in shame looking at the manner where certain courts turn a blind eye to gross violation of the rule of law. This fresh debate on the judiciary as long as it is done in the right spirit is fine but trolling judges for their comments, amounts to contempt of the majesty of our judicial system. Kapil has expressed his views in a particular context and so has the Chief Justice. But ordinary citizens may be entitled to their opinion, yet they should ensure that they do not exceed the Lakshman Rekha where the sanctity of the Highest Court gets compromised. Attempts to link Nupur Sharma’s remarks with what happened in Udaipur and Amrawati could be part of a natural reaction. However, it must be clearly understood that the terror act by the killers of Kanhaiya Lal is highly condemnable. Therefore, spokespersons and supporters of all parties must act in a responsible manner so as to contain this hatred which is being spread in our country by vested interests. The National Investigation Agency is probing the Udaipur incident and would certainly come out with its findings shortly. Such cases should be speedily tried in fast track courts to give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators so that others get this strong message. The independence of the judiciary must be preserved at all cost and no attempt should ever be made to undermined the authority and wisdom of the Courts. 

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Opinion

Modi at eight: The Varanasi model

The last few years have been momentous in the history of Varanasi. Not only has the city given India one of its most popular and powerful Prime Ministers ever, but it has also witnessed rapid development that only an MP of Narendra Modi’s stature can usher in.

Sanju Verma

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Taking forward the progressive journey of “Vikaswaad” in Varanasi,Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 15,2021,inaugurated and laid foundation stones of multiple development projects worth more than Rs 1500 crore at the IIT-BHU ground. He also inaugurated the International Cooperation and Convention Centre, ‘Rudrakash’, which was constructed with Japanese assistance later. Various public projects and works, including a 100-bed MCH wing in BHU, multi-level parking at Godauliya, Ro-Ro vessels for tourism development on river Ganga and a three-lane flyover bridge on the Varanasi-Ghazipur highway, were the defining projects, flagged off by the PM. Central Institute of Petrochemical Engineering and Technology (CIPET), 143 rural projects under Jal Jeevan Mission and a mango and vegetable integrated packhouse in Karkhiyaon, are alone, worth around Rs 839 crore.

On a visit to Varanasi on the occasion of “Good Governance Day”, in 2014,Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without any hesitation, picked up a broom and participated in a cleanliness drive at Jagannath Gali near Assi Ghat.Further, speaking on the occasion, the PM described the land of Kashi, as one which gave us “Shiksha Ki Sanskriti” (a culture of education). And indeed, within barely eight years, Varanasi today, which has transformed into a thriving medical hub of Purvanchal region, is known as the unique seat of holistic learning, with a humanist vision.

Varanasi is on the bucket list of virtually every international tourist who comes to India. In 2014, when PM Modi was elected as the MP of Varanasi, he remarked, “There’s a lot of work that god has put me on this earth for. A lot of it is dirty work, but I’m up to the task.”

Since then, from world class infrastructure to express trains, from underground cabling to waste treatment plants, from a cultural convention center to modern traffic control, from a multimodal terminal to a container depot for perishables, Varanasi has witnessed a transformative revolution in the last eight years, with Kashi Vishwanath Dham, showcasing Kashi’s vibrancy.

PM Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the Ring Road and Phase-1 was completed in November 2018 in record time, making traffic movement across the city much easier and helping decongestion of roads. Varanasi has a very busy airport, naturally due to the movement of pilgrims and tourists in and out of the city. The over 17 kilometre long airport road developed under the aegis of PM Modi, is called the Gateway of Varanasi today. The development of the first multimodal terminal on an inland waterway in Varanasi was a matter of pride for the city, with the PM receiving the first container vessel on the river Ganga, in 2018.

PM Narendra Modi laid the foundation of two dedicated cancer hospitals in Varanasi,a few years back. Also, IMS BHU was accorded AIIMS like status, which will further improve health facilities in the hospital. Kashi is called the city of Mahadev, as in Lord Shiva and,the development of Kashi Vishwanath Corridor is a boon to lakhs of devotees of Shiva, who are making use of the direct link, developed between the temple and Ganga Ghat. Kashi, a thriving and busy city, generates a lot of waste and sewage. PM Narendra Modi inaugurated a large sewage infrastructure project, sometime back. A 140 million litre per day (MLD) sewage treatment plant (STP) at Dinapur, set up in 2018,has made the city get rid of the large waste generated and would further curb river pollution.

The last few years have been momentous in the history of Kashi. Not only has the city given India one of its most popular and powerful Prime Ministers ever, but it has also witnessed rapid development that only an MP of Narendra Modi’s stature can usher in. PM Modi laid the foundation stone of trade facilitation Centre and Crafts Museum in 2017, for the benefit of many weavers, craftsmen and artisans of Varanasi and nearby areas. He had once remarked that India cannot become a Vishwa Guru without the development of Kashi. Development of Kashi is in turn, incomplete without bettering the lives of weavers.

Handicrafts of Kashi are spread in the form of cottage industries, with Banarasi silk saree, textile industry, carpet industries being some of the prominent ones. More than lakhs of handloom weavers are directly or indirectly related with these industries. Measures taken for the betterment of weavers and artisans have gone a long way in enhancing their incomes. For the retention of next generation of weavers, a carpet engineering program is being run in IICT Bhadohi. 75% of the fees of the students belonging to poor families of weavers is being taken care of by the Modi government. There is a provision for margin money of Rs. 10,000 in MUDRA scheme for weavers. Mega carpet clusters in Mirzapur and Bhadohi are being given modern looms. Also, they are being imparted skills under skill development programs. To realize this goal, a B.Tech. program in the carpet technology area, is being run in IICT Bhadohi. India currently occupies 35% share of the world’s carpet market. PM Modi has set a target to own 50% of the world’s carpet market.

Across India, after PM Modi took up the cause of promoting Khadi,sales of Khadi have been on an upswing. In Varanasi too, Khadi institutions and workers are being encouraged, with credit linked capital subsidy (CLCS). Under Kasuhal Vikas Yojana, thousands of youth are being skilled and empowered. The Coir Board also organises regular international vyapar melas.The commencement of expansion of Diesel Locomotive Works, also started thanks to PM Modi.

Not only is Kashi witnessing development on an unprecedented scale but people of this sacred city are also experiencing first hand, what it is to have a karmayogi PM as their MP. A “cheque bounce” law was scrapped, on the request of small businessmen from Varanasi,benefitting scores of small traders and proprietors. The ‘Jan Sampark’ office of PM Modi in Kashi is dedicated for the service of common people in the city and had done exemplary work, when floods hit the city, in 2020.

After selecting Jayapur, a tiny village in Varanasi, 7km from the Rajatalab railway station, for the ‘Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana’, PM Narendra Modi opined that it is not MPs who are taking guardianship of the village under this Yojana, but villagers who were taking MPs under their wing, through this scheme. “Can we decide that we will not allow Jayapur to become dirty; can we ensure children wash hands before eating”, the Prime Minister asked the large gathering at Jayapur, asserting that these things did not require government intervention. He said such positive social energy can help create a model village. Days after he met and addressed people of Jayapur, they reciprocated, by turning the birth of a girl child into a festive occasion and planting trees.

Varanasi is the only place from where the revered Ganga, is Uttar Vahini (flows towards North). It is here from where the powerful stream of the river Ganga turns directions. Thus, the start of the biggest sanitation drive also happened from Varanasi. Speaking of Covid, the moment it became clear that the second wave had hit India, PM sent his emissary, a long-time aide, AK Sharma to Varanasi with instructions to take proactive measures and make sure that damage was controlled. Sharma landed in Varanasi on April 13,2021 and immediately set in motion a 24/7 Command and Control room. With 20 dedicated phone lines and round-the-clock manpower, the “Kashi Covid Response Centre”, became the hub of coordination between various arms of administration, as also interface with the people, for a seamless management of the situation. Two Oxygen plants, hundreds of Oxygen cylinders and concentrators were ordered and a DRDO Covid hospital was also set up, to tide over the crisis. The positivity rate of the district came down from a high of over 30% to less than 13%,in a matter of days. The administration ramped up RT-PCR testing capacity of Kashi city from 5000 to 12000 per day, while making sure that the results were made available within 24 hours. Sharma arranged for two automatic RNA extractor machines from Assocham, that made the quicker testing possible. Of the four Oxygen plants in Varanasi supplying 12000 LPM Oxygen, one each was imported from the United States and Israel respectively, while two others were procured from Maharashtra and Gujarat each. Varanasi also had the highest supply of Remdesivir injections at about 700 vials a day. During the second wave in April and May 2021, over 9000 per day vaccination rate in Kashi, was also one of the highest for any city, in Uttar Pradesh.

Another far-sighted step taken on the instructions of PM Modi, was to make sure the rural areas were protected. The administration distributed 70,000 medical kits to contain the pandemic in rural hinterland of Varanasi and the healthcare staff at the primary and secondary dispensaries were trained on a war footing on use of Oxymeters and other testing paraphernalia. The result was heartening with distress calls from rural areas coming down from a peak of 800 per day, to about 100 at the Command and Control Centre, within days.

Amid worries of a possible third wave of Covid-19, which could have impacted children more, the inauguration of (MCH) unit at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) hospital, in Varanasi, by the PM, showcased how health has always been a top of the mind agenda for the Modi government. Considered to be the AIIMS of Purvanchal (East UP), adjoining Bihar and even Nepal, the Sir Sunderlal Hospital in BHU campus that got the MCH wing, has seen number of beds rise from 1500 to 2700,in just eight years, a rise of a solid 80%. “When the world is in crisis, we must pledge—a pledge which is bigger than the crisis itself. We must strive to make the 21st century, India’s century. And the path to do that is self-reliance”—this powerful quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sums up the ethos of the “Varanasi Model” in more ways than one. Indeed, the Varanasi model, blends the puritan with the modern and spirituality, with fast paced progress, reflective of an aspirational India, in the true sense of the term.

Varanasi is holy. Varanasi is mystical. Varanasi is enigmatic. Varanasi represents the timeless values of Hindu dharma.

For the first time a Member of Parliament from the city is the Prime Minister of India. If we look at the political history in India, a PM’s constituency is in the spotlight only for a brief period of time. In some cases, like in the case of “compulsive liar”, Rahul Gandhi, desperate to be the PM, for instance, his so called high profile visits to Amethi, used to happen only on the eve of elections, once every five years. No wonder the electorate of Amethi sent him packing as an MP, in 2019.

But PM Modi’s constituency has been the centre of attention for all the right reasons, with the PM visiting Varanasi well over two dozen times, in the last few years alone, despite his jam-packed schedule. PM Modi’s affection for the mystical city of Kashi, is well known.In his own words to the people of Kashi, Modi said, “Kashi owns me, I am imprisoned in its love”. In his many visits, apart from his interactive sessions with the people of Varanasi, PM Modi is seen inaugurating a hospital, or flagging off an express train, laying the foundation stone for a ring road or making Kashi the first multi modal hub on an inland water way. Be it unveiling the plaque of the Inter-University Centre, launching the Campus Connect wi-fi of Banaras Hindu University (BHU),or launching the Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission for teachers and the National Livelihood Mission for women, Narendra Modi has done pathbreaking work, both as the PM and as the MP, from Kashi. Turning ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ into a ‘Jan Andolan’, by helping spread the message that ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, has been a hugely rewarding journey for Modi and of course, for the nation. It would be apt to conclude with a powerful quote by none other than PM Modi, which captures the essence of his famous Varanasi model–”I make changes, not for people to notice; rather, because it is my mission”. And truly enough, the transformation of Varanasi, in the last eight years, has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Sanju Verma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘The Modi Gambit’.

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New global partnerships in making

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CHINA VS US

Last week in his address on 22 June at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and the next day, on 23 June at BRICS Summit in Beijing, the Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need to forge greater synergy amongst countries for greater international development and close the development gap, by pooling resources, platforms and networks of development partnerships. Noting that the international community is keen to achieve more equitable, sustainable and secure development, Xi said it is important to seize opportunities, meet challenges head-on, and work on the implementation of the ‘Global Development Initiative’ (GDI) to build a shared future of peace and prosperity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Joe Biden at the G-7 Summit, in Schloss Elmau, Germany, on Monday. (ANI/Arindam Bagchi Twitter)

Chinese President Xi Jinping at 12th BRICS virtual summit on 18 November. ANI

The Chinese president proposed the GDI in his speech to the 76th Session of the UNGA in September last year. The plan charts a course for international development. Meanwhile at the recent G7 Summit at SchlossElmau in the Bavarian Alps, Germany, President Biden on 26 June relaunched his initiative to provide infrastructure funds to poor and developing countries only a year after a largely similar scheme was unveiled at the G7 conference in Cornwall last July under the label ‘Build Back Better World’. The fund was relaunched at the start of the G7 in Germany on Sunday as the ‘Global Investment and Infrastructure Partnership’. The avowed aim of this initiative is to become an alternative to the Chinese belt and road initiative (BRI) that Beijing has used for more than a decade to expand its economic ties and influence with developing countries. The partnership aims to generate $600bn of private and public funds by 2027, with $200bn over the next five years coming from the US. Projects cited at the event include a secure sub-sea cable linking Europe and south-east Asia, an industrial MRNA vaccine plant in Senegal, solar projects in Angola, a modular nuclear reactor plant in Romania and a port linking Christmas Island with the rest of the world. INITIATIVES GALORE However, up until now, little has been heard of ‘Build Back Better World’ since last year, while in January the EU launched its own infrastructure fund for developing countries, called the ‘Global Gateway’, aiming to mobilise €300billion ($53 billion) in investments between 2021 and 2027. Initially, EU declared that this fund would work alongside ‘Build Back Better World’, and not be a rival. The UK, outside the EU, launched its own infrastructure project called the ‘Clean Green Initiative’. There are reports that Japan is planning to raise $65bn over the same period for regional connectivity, though this fund/project has not been christened, yet. All these various funds, though uniquely targeted against China have just created confusion for the common man. Realising this Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor in his speech on 26 June, implicitly acknowledged the confusion, saying there were advantages if the G7 countries showcased their offers under a common roof. It is reported that Biden, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, met in November at Cop26 in Glasgow to evaluate their differing projects, and whether by duplicating their efforts they were weakening what they were offering to poor countries. However, it does not appear from the statements that the funds are being fully merged into one funding stream, but instead are being more closely coordinated. The Guardian quoted Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser and an important member of the project, saying at an event hosted by the Centre for a New American Security last week that the US-initiated partnership will cover global infrastructure, physical health and digital infrastructure and will provide “an alternative to what the Chinese are offering”. “We intend for this to be one of the hallmarks of the Biden administration foreign policy over the remainder of his tenure,” he said. On its part China has criticised the initiative as based on a “zero-sum game approach.” The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said the relevant initiative from the US side ignores the desire of all countries for common development and win-win cooperation. G-7: NEXT STEPS Though the avowed aim of the G7 Summit was to discuss, among other issues, the war in Ukraine and ways to stabilise energy markets and lessen dependence on Russian gas and oil, the announcements made seems very little, apart from moral support to Ukraine. The G7 leaders heard the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised him more arms, four of the G7 nations moved to ban imports of Russian gold from 26 June onwards to tighten the sanction squeeze on Moscow and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine. However, metal analysts say this may not have a bearing on the international prices of gold, as they have held the same level since May last year. This follows reports that oil my move up again, and in this background the stalled Vienna talks might be resumed to ensure flow of Iranian oil in the market. INDIAN DIPLOMACY The common denominator at these two high-level summits was the presence of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This underlines the importance, which both China and the US attach to India currently.It is majorly due to its independent and realistic foreign policy, praised even by the Chinese foreign minister. India neither endorsed the Chinese president’s GPI nor has commented so far on Biden’s new initiative. It continues to pursue a completely independent international foreign and trade policy and due to its geo-political and economic importance, and its unwavering stand has endeared it to both the blocs, and both seem to be courting it seriously. Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi.

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KANHAIYA LAL’S BEHEADING HAS VERY WIDE AND WORRYING RAMIFICATIONS

Pankaj Vohra

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The gruesome and gory beheading of Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor by two Islamist fundamentalists in Udaipur has very wide, far reaching and worrying ramifications for the future of this country. While the National Investigation Agency probing the Terror act is yet to conclusively point towards the international dimensions of the incident, yet it is evident that the manner in which the tailor was beheaded, and the entire killing recorded on a cell phone, has similarities with the modus operandi of ISIS and some other banned organisations. The two suspects, who are already in the custody of the police would certainly provide greater clarity on the foreign angle though some reports suggest that the duo was indoctrinated by a Karachi based outfit. There are no words to express when one looks at the videos, posted on the social media justifying the slaying and simultaneously threatening the Prime Minister and former BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma of similar consequences. In this instance, the Rajasthan police too appears to have faltered since it did not take the apprehensions of the tailor seriously after he had been receiving threatening calls. The deceased was being accused of backing Nupur Sharma’s comments on the Prophet and thus had become a vulnerable target. Another reason, why he could have been singled out and attacked was because of his name. In the divisive politics that has come to stay in the country, certain vested interests including foreign powers are bound to take advantage of this growing distrust amongst communities. Nupur Sharma’s comments were condemned by most Islamic nations and New Delhi had to go on a diplomatic overdrive in order to keep things under check. Kanhaiya Lal, who did not even know how to operate a smart phone had to pay a very heavy price for what was perhaps not even his action. The BJP has made this into a major political issue while training its guns on the Rajasthan government, the Congress and the Gandhis. The main question being asked is why none of the Gandhis has so far not chosen to visit the family of the tailor to express their sympathy and support for them. The growing influence of ISIS and other outfits in this country would further widen the differences between various sections of society. Muslim clerics and scholars should not hesitate in condemning this most barbaric crime in order to lower the temperature which has been rising. The NIA must go into the depth of this incident and uncover all its dimensions. The culprits must be tried under the law after the probe is completed. They certainly need no sympathy. At the same time, right wing groups owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar or its ideology should show restraint. The RSS Chief has already stated that there should be no attempt to find a Shivling in every mosque, thereby implying that attempts to incite passions must be curbed. Kanhaiya Lal has suffered with his life and his family members shall have to face the repercussions of his death in order to sustain themselves economically. Spokespersons of political parties must be responsible and avoid making comments that can lead to such a ghastly incident. 

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G7 FOCUS ON CHINA A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR INDIA

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Even though the Ukraine invasion and sanctions on Russia dominated the deliberations at the G7 Summit in Germany, the leaders of the group of seven wealthiest nations of the world—the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan—focused on Beijing’s belligerence and human rights violations in China in what must have come as a shot in the arm for India.

That the G7 communique devoted quite a lot of space to China’s rights violations in Xinjiang and also to its strident claims over much of the South China Sea is a welcome move as far as New Delhi’s diplomatic campaign to garner global support against Beijing’s belligerence is concerned. The G7’s advice to China to respect fundamental freedoms is a clear message to Beijing that it should first see its own records on human rights violations before commenting on internal matters of other countries including India. In a stronger message to China, the world leaders stressed in the statement that the situation in Tibet, and in Xinjiang, where there is “forced labour”, “is of major concern to us”.

The G7 statement pledging to reduce “strategic dependencies” on China should be viewed as another setback to Beijing. It is an indication that the G-7 will toughen its stance against Beijing in days to come. With China looming large, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Germany that he was looking forward to fruitful discussions with world leaders on various topical issues implied how G7 was prepared to focus also on Beijing despite several engrossing issues such as Ukraine and global economy. A US official reportedly called the collective statement “unprecedented in the context of the G7” in acknowledging “the harms caused by China’s non-transparent, market distorting, industrial directives”. What the US official was referring to was the G7 leaders’ blistering attack on China while condemning its “non-transparent and market-distorting” international trade practices. Beijing’s increasingly strident claims over much of the South China Sea has also sparked alarm among the G7 countries over its military ambitions. What is believed is that China’s assertiveness in other geographies might have figured during PM Modi’s bilateral talks with various world leaders on the sidelines of the G7 Summit at Munich.

All the leaders voiced concern about human rights violations in China. They urged Beijing to respect fundamental freedoms. All this suggests that the global community, particularly the seven powerful countries, are keeping a close eye on all the developments in China. What is also suggested is that China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is also on the radar of the global community.

The G7’s project ‘Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment’ (PGII), a joint initiative to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries, is already being seen as the bloc’s counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pushing its debt-trap diplomacy across various economically weak nations, Beijing is said to be alarmed over the G7’s initiative to counter its BRI projects. Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Mohan Kwatra may have given a relatively lukewarm reception after the unveiling of this ambitious project by the G7, but New Delhi will be ready to be part of it after “examination of the details”.

India’s importance in the G7’s strategy to deal with China’s challenges in the Indo-Pacific is known to all the seven countries. Moreover, India is already working with two of the G7 nations—the US and Japan—in the Quad on the Indo-Pacific challenges. Its coordination with the remaining five countries is also quite smooth. As a result of all the equations and coordination, India is likely to be considered to be made a new addition to G-7. The Modi government is perhaps giving momentum to the diplomatic campaign to get into this elite group.

Undoubtedly, the United States has long cast a wary eye at China over its trade practices. The Biden administration also believes that China’s trade practices are designed to accord an unfair and undue advantage to Chinese companies over foreign firms. The G7 leaders have, therefore, signaled that they would seek to “extricate themselves from economic dependence” on China in what will be yet another jolt to it. So, the G7’s opinion about China that came up at the Summit in Germany is a breather for India.

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Inflation Drives Online Business Down

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Inflation rates are on the rise this week, and we are seeing repercussions from that across multiple online industries. Many companies are preparing to tighten their belt as consumers are spending less and driving down values for online products.

Crypto Industry Takes a Blow

One of the most notable ways we have seen the rising inflation rates affect online business and products is in the cryptocurrency industry. Inflation has hit major crypto tokens very hard, spurring a bearish trend, or falling rates, almost across the board. Major cryptocurrency coins, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana, are all down today, some as high as 9%, which is really astounding. This could signal the start of a market crash for the industry, which is coming on the heels of a recent crash that  sent the rates hurtling downward beyond where some of them have been in years.If the prices fall farther and stay down without any serious attempt at recovery, we could be seeing a new market low that would be tough to bounce back from. Many investors are already pulling out of the industry, selling off their crypto tokens or moving their tokens over to stablecoins that don’t see much in the way of price fluctuation.

There is a shift happening in the crypto industry, and it is due partly to inflation. If the economy doesn’t start to recover, some of those cryptos may never get back to where they were at the start of the year. What’s astounding is that this was the year that some analysts said Bitcoin would reach unprecedented heights, but those analysts failed to account for the possibility of rising inflation and what it would do to the industry.

Online Spending Is Down

We are also seeing many consumers buying less online, which is hurting retailers across the board. Just take a look at the gaming industry, which saw a shift toward older games all year long. The top played games of the year were almost all games from several years ago, including releases like Skyrim, Minecraft, Rocket League, and Grand Theft Auto V. Major new releases this year like Elden Ring are barely cracking the top 20 played games.

That’s a big deal in an industry that is always chasing the new thing, and game developers and publishers cannot sustain themselves on the scraps they get from players who are not as interested in buying new games and playing them continuously. The current gaming business model require players to stay online and keep buying upgrades, loot chests, downloadable content, and other digital items that help hugely expensive games recoup their budgets.

There has been a migration of gamers to free games or at least free-to-play games, and the online gambling and casino industry has benefited from that. This is why สล็อตเว็บตรง have proven to be very popular lately, as well as other online casino games and free multiplayer offerings. Some of the most played games on Steam right now are free-to-play games like Counterstrike: GO and other similar titles. Gamers are spending less money on games but spending more time playing, and the gaming industry is trying to figure to what to do abut that. We may see games operate on smaller budgets in the near future as a way to handle the rising costs of development and the more frugal spending of gamers.Online retailers are having a difficult time with the inflation as well, as their costs have increased but consumer spending has decreased in most areas of online retail. The major retailers will likely be fine, but it is the little guys that will suffer and potentially have to go out of business. That is, unless they adapt to the changing consumer spending habits and find new ways to open up revenue streams and entice customers.

As inflation increases with no end in sight, we could be entering another recession soon. It is too early to call it yet, but that’s where things look to be headed unless major world governments issue stopgap measures to keep inflation from getting too out of hand. Until then, expect the online industries to keep trying to adapt.

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